For most of us, work is an essential part of life. It puts a roof over our heads and food on our tables. It shouldn’t be our whole life, though. Work-life balance is about spending time at work and on your life, without one taking over.
No matter how much time and energy you spend at work, it’s important to spend time with your friends and family and doing hobbies to stay physically and mentally healthy. This balance is different for everyone, so it probably won’t be a 50/50 mix of work and life.
Bryan Dyson, former President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, explained the work-life balance during a Georgia Tech commencement speech:
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
Finding the perfect work-life balance is difficult, but try these 11 tips to keep all five of your balls in the air:
Go Home on Time
When you work for a small business, you have a lot on your plate and can take on multiple roles during a single day. It is incredibly easy to work late. Staying late every day, however, is an easy way to burn out.
There will be times you have to stay late, but try to leave work on time as often as possible. If you have a hard time following through, tell your coworkers what time you’re leaving work. If you tell your coworkers you’re leaving at 5 PM, but you’re still there at 5:15 PM, someone will say, “Hey, weren’t you supposed to leave 15 minutes ago?”
Schedule Blocks of Time
When you’re planning your week, decide what your most important tasks are. Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time to work on those. Make it clear to your coworkers that you shouldn’t be bothered during those times and turn off your phone’s notifications during them.
Because you won’t be interrupted, you’ll be able to focus 100% on those tasks. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can knock them out.
Schedule Your Downtime
When you’re scheduling your week, go ahead and put downtime on your calendar. You’ll be more likely to follow through if you schedule for it. The downtime will give you time to recharge and will be something to look forward to.
It might be difficult to take time off work and get away, but vacations are good for your mental health. They give you a chance to recharge, so you’ll come back refreshed and with new solutions to old problems.
If you can’t commit to taking a full week off work, take a day off occasionally. Even just one day to relax can give you a whole new perspective and give you time to focus on your life outside work.
Be Open About Your Needs
Be honest with yourself about what you need to better balance work and life. Do you have to leave work at 5 PM to have dinner with your family or meet your friends for happy hour? Would it be better to come to work a few minutes later so you can take your kids to school?
After you’re honest with yourself, be open with your boss. Tell your boss what you need in your personal life to be the most productive at work. They might not always be able to accommodate you, but you won’t know until you ask.
Set Boundaries (and Stick to Them)
Set boundaries about when and where you’ll work. Maybe you won’t even look at your email between 6 PM and 7 AM. Or, maybe you won’t answer any work-related calls after 8 PM.
Whatever your boundaries are, share them with your coworkers and stick to them. Once you cross a boundary, it will be easier to cross it again and again.
Do What You’re Passionate About
Find what you’re passionate about, whether it’s cooking, hiking, or spending time with friends, then make sure you take time to focus on that passion. By taking time every week to do what you’re passionate about, you’ll be happier in life, which will make you happier at work.
You can hope to have the perfect work-life balance every day, but that’s just not possible. Some days, you’ll have to focus more on work, while other days will be more about your life outside of work.
Be flexible and try to be focused on what you’re doing in that moment. If you’re at work, focus on work; if you’re with your family, focus on your family, without worrying about work.
Try to Overlap Things
You can’t always fit everything into your day or week, so try to overlap things. If you want to spend time with a friend, but you also have errands to run, ask the friend to run those errands with you. If you want to start a new hobby, but don’t have time because of your kids, start the hobby with your kids.
Just because you have a night free, doesn’t mean you have to say, “yes” when someone asks you to do something. It’s okay to say, “no” because you need time to yourself.
Don’t Try to Be Perfect
If you try to be perfect at everything you do, you’ll get burned out and exhausted. Don’t spend too much time trying to be perfect, and remember that sometimes, “done is better than perfect.”