Most of us need to work. Quite a lot of us want to work. We enjoy providing for our families and having a sense of financial independence. Having a job means that you can pay the bills, feed your family and enjoy life’s little luxuries. Even a relatively low paid job can be the difference between struggling each week and being a little more comfortable and secure. But work should be more than that. It’s a big part of your life. Many of us work for 40+ hours a week, 47 weeks of the year. If you take away the time that you spend commuting and sleeping, it doesn’t leave much leftover. You spend a great deal of your adult life at work, and it should be more than something that you have to do.
Work can also be a chance to socialise and make friends. It gives you an opportunity to challenge your brain and learn new things. Most of our jobs give us a chance to help other people in one way or another. You might have bad days, that’s only natural, but generally speaking, most of us aim to find a job that we enjoy. That brings more to our life than just the financial benefits of having a regular income.
What is Work-Life Balance?
But, it can only really be these things if you get the balance right. You might have heard people say that you should work to live, not live to work, but for most of us, the ideal solution and spread of our time and happiness is actually somewhere in the middle. You shouldn’t just be working so that you can have a life outside of work. This implies that your work life doesn’t count towards your happiness, and it does. You’ll never entirely be happy at home if you are worried about work, stressed out about work issues, or dreading going in the next day.
But, nor should you be that obsessed by your work that you forget how to live, or fail to give yourself time to live. Even the most ambitious people, would hate to look back on their life and see only work. Working too much means that you don’t give time to your relationships and you always feel under pressure. It can affect your mental health, and you might find yourself feeling lonely. You’d certainly struggle to find happiness in retirement. It can also mean that you don’t take the time to look after your physical health or get enough exercise. Ultimately, working too much can lead to you wearing yourself out. You’ll burn-out, get sick and lose motivation. Working too much and too hard, over time won’t just affect your home life; it can have a negative impact on your work performance.
So, we can see that balance is critical. You want to work enough to earn well and enjoy your job. You might also have goals and ambitions that you want to hit, which is fine. But, working too much and neglecting your home life can lead to illness, stress, burnout and a collapse of relationships. Give some of yourself to work, yes, but create a balance that allows you to enjoy life outside of work, get plenty of sleep and live your life free of stress. Here are some tips to help you to get that often elusive balance in your life.
Let Yourself Be Ill
One of the most significant downsides of a poor work-life balance is that we never have the time to be ill. In a world where most employees feel as though they can’t take time off sick, or phone in when they are sick, most of us are working through all kinds of bugs, which inevitably over time get worse and spread.
If you are struggling, but don’t have time to see a doctor, at least get telemedicine advice to help you to manage your symptoms. But, if they persist, take time off, you are allowed to be ill, and there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
Take Days Off
When was the last time you took a proper day off? A day when you didn’t check your work emails, or check in with the workplace WhatsApp group? If you run your own business, chances are it’s been weeks, months or even years since you had a full day in which you didn’t even think about work. As an employee, you might still struggle to go a day without checking emails and replying to work messages.
Take a day off, at least once a week. A day where you avoid all work calls and messages. You could even leave your phone at home and go out for the day. Most of us are guilty of thinking that we have to be reachable all of the time, and many managers are guilty of contacting employees during their downtime. Get out of this habit and give your real life your full attention. It’s not really a balanced life if work always has some of your focus.
Always Have a Holiday Booked
Having something booked is great. It gives you something to look forward to and means that you always know how long until your next break. This can help you to stay motivated at work, but it also means that you are more likely to actually take the time away from the business. When you get back from one break, start planning the next, even if it’s just a cheap long weekend in the same country.
Set Realistic Work Goals
One reason that so many of us struggle to find a work-life balance that is healthy and works for us is setting ourselves massive work targets. We’ve got five-year plans, and in those five years, we want to achieve more, earn more and gain promotions. We set our goals so high that the only way to achieve them is by working much harder, and much more than we need to. Ask yourself if you’d really mind if it took a little longer to achieve these targets if it also meant that you had a happy home life, good health and that you managed to reach some more personal milestones too? Set realistic goals that leave room for some fun.
Watch Those Side Hustles
Although we work much longer hours than we should, up to 40% of us either have or are looking for a side hustle. When money is tight, it can feel as though we need to make as much as we can, and sometimes it’s not possible through employment.
But, these side hustles are only a good idea if they are fun, and don’t feel like work, or they are genuinely worth our time. If your side hustle takes two hours every day but only earns £20 a week, ask yourself if you’d be willing to work for that wage at your job. Value your time, and make sure any work that you do is worth it, either financially or in terms of the joy it brings you.
Expect Ups and Downs
Balance today, won’t be balance next week. Things change. If there’s an illness at home, your family might need more of your time. During a crucial period at work or sudden growth of your own business, you might have to work long hours. Expect periods of ups and downs at work and home, and reorder your time accordingly.
Learn How to Switch Off
If you’ve got used to working all of the time or at least thinking about work all of the time, you might find it hard to switch off. Even if you commit to working set hours every day, you might find that you’re are still thinking about work long after you’ve technically clocked off.
You need to learn how to switch off, which isn’t the same for everyone. Try going for a run, or walking home from work to give yourself a chance to burn off energy and unwind. Perhaps try giving yourself half an hour when you get home to talk about your day before leaving it behind. A bath could work or reading a book on your commute.
As you can see, there’s no fast and easy solution. It’s rarely as simple as deciding to work less and spend more time at home. That in itself isn’t always possible. It’s more of a case of finding smaller ways to save time and change your thought processes, making small changes to your work habits and lifestyle for more significant effects. It’s also important to remember that things change. Getting your work-life balance right is a long-term commitment. What works this week, might not work next year. As your work, and life changes, rethink and restructure to maintain the balance. But, the good news is, once you’ve got used to living a life of balance, where you are free to enjoy work, without it taking over, you’ll be keen to keep it going.
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