Perfecting your work-life balance seems impossible, and quite frankly it is. There is no perfect balance because life often throws things at us which are unexpected. Causes of imbalance can also be down to societal expectations, extreme ambition or a perfectionist mind-set. However, there are ways you can improve the balance to enrich your life and help you get the best out of it. There is no 'one size fits all' and everyone is different, so try some methods then review a couple of weeks later. If it doesn't help, discard it - the aim is to prioritise your health and happiness, so use this as a goal to work towards a better work-life balance that is tailored to you!
Just say no.
It's important to have the confidence to say no. After all, you are your own person. This doesn’t mean you have to be nasty or rude to a colleague or your boss, but it's important to be bold. If you're available to your boss 24/7, you'll not only be expected to work outside of your normal working hours, but you'll also find it difficult to switch off properly. If colleagues ask for your help too much, perhaps take some time to think whether to say yes or no. Always saying yes can sometimes lead to a lack of respect from co-workers, so if you feel they are asking too much of you, own it with an 'N.O'!
Work smarter not harder.
Many people think that to be productive and get everything finished, they have to sacrifice sleep. Wrong! 9 times out of 10, people can be more productive, which means getting more done in less time and leaves you with more time to sleep! But how can you work smarter? Prioritise tasks and allow yourself a certain amount of time per task. It's easy to spend hours on a task that, if you put your mind to it, you could do in just one. Another tip is to avoid getting caught up in less productive activities, like long, unproductive meetings. Do at least 10 minutes prep before a meeting to understand what questions you need to ask, topics to discuss and what you want the outcome to be. Also, make sure you get a word in to move the conversation along and avoid diverging from the subject of the meeting. Do this by speaking loudly and confidently but never deviate from the main objective to earn respect and be efficient.
Leave work at work
This is a tough one. It's hard to properly switch off from work, especially if you care a lot about it or you have a high pressured role. One way to do this might be to write a to-do list of outstanding tasks just before you leave the office. This will help to put those tasks in a mental box, so you're not fretting about 'all the things' you need to do. Instead you know exactly what you have to do when you're next at work. This way, you can focus on other activities and down time outside of work.
Look for change
Even once you have increased your productivity or become better at saying no, don’t make the assumption that there is no room for improvement, especially if you feel stressed. What changes can you make to improve your work-life balance even more? Can you do a food shop online to save you spending an hour in the supermarket? There are probably a myriad of tweaks to be made to improve that balance, but it's important to sit back every once in a while and think about what they are and how they can be implemented.
Exercise is key.
Stress is fun for no-one: your friends, family, and especially you. Exercise is the best way to de-stress. It triggers the release of endorphins which make you happy and relieve stress. If you're already a busy person, it might seem like scheduling in 30mins to 1 hour of exercise a day is impossible. However, you'd be surprised. You're already superwoman with your schedule, so 1 hour a day won't be that difficult, especially as you're being more productive in your working hours. Working out can have a number of different benefits besides endorphins. You may find that it energises you, allowing you to work more efficiently, or if you exercise at the end of the day, it could help you wind down ready for your evening.
Add short and long breaks to your working day. Make sure you take 5 minute breaks every couple of hours at work, preferably in some fresh air. This helps you reset your mind and focus on the tasks ahead of you. Staring at a screen for hours on end makes you tired and less productive. Adding in short breaks could be the tiniest tweak to your day that makes it much more productive. Remember also to plan holidays or long weekends to restore and rejuvenate!
Be stern with yourself on this tip. It's easy to reply to emails or give time to a colleague when you're in the middle of a task. But this can increase stress and reduce your outcomes. Be strict and focus only on one tasks at a time. Reply to emails in between tasks and politely ask a colleague if it's urgent. Use these tactics at home, too. If you're having dinner, give your family or friends your attention and switch off emails for the hour. If you're in a meeting, don't read emails but focus on the discussion at hand. If you mind is constantly wandering, you'll feel stressed and will be less productive!
1 hour a day…
…to love yourself. Set aside an hour a day for some 'me' time. Either early in the morning when the world is peaceful, or late at night before bed. Late at night might give you something to look forward to throughout the day! Use the time as your daily down time to do something you enjoy that will help you to recharge and restore balance after a busy day.
Choose 'good enough' over 'perfect'.
When you're driven or passionate about your job, it's easy to be a perfectionist. It's great to be detailed and do work well, but when it starts making you unproductive, it's not a positive attribute. If you struggle with perfection, consider delegating the task to be perfected by someone else. Does it have to be done your way and by you? Some tasks, yes, but others can be given to colleagues to complete. Delegation is crucial to moving away from the perfectionist mindset and restoring balance to your lifestyle.
Keep a weekend free.
Keep one weekend free every 4-6 weeks. This means no commitments, plans, work, activities, or anything else that is usually planned in advance. Spend the time with your family, or partner or at home pottering. It's good to have time which is unstructured to catch up on sleep, chores or some much deserved pampering you haven't done in a while!