With the increase in connectivity (smartphones, social media, email) trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance has become an epic struggle. It's all too easy for a call from work to interrupt a family dinner, or for an email to drag us away from some much-needed downtime. These seemingly small disruptions may seem minor, but as they add up, the negatives outweigh the positives, and quality of life suffers.
Out of Balance
Without proper breaks, work quality and productivity can decrease, causing you to work longer hours to make up for it -- the start of a vicious cycle. Relationships and personal interests suffer when you're working all the time, causing strife within families, the loss of friends, and a simple lack of enjoyment in life. The invasion of work in our personal lives causes some people to feel guilty when they aren't checking in, even during their time off; this is a slippery slope that may lead to increased stress, anxiety attacks, depressive mood disorders, and an addiction known as workaholism.
Taking Back Control of Your Life
It takes effort, but there are many ways to help maintain a good work-life balance. These suggestions require discipline and a willingness to push work aside, but if you can manage even some of them, you'll be on your way to regaining control over how you spend your time:
- Prioritize. First off, take some time to evaluate your life. Are you happy with how things are? What have you been sacrificing in order to do your work? Can you afford to hand off tasks, cut back your hours, or switch jobs entirely so you have more time for the things you enjoy? Obviously that last action isn't an easy decision, but knowing what you want can make it easier to devise a game plan for better work-life balance.
- Practice time management. Being organized, managing your time well, and maximizing how much work you can get done will all help you find the time you need to enjoy yourself. If you have poor time-management skills, consider seeking help from someone you know who's good at getting things done, or try searching the web: There are thousands of tutorials and tips from people who have faced the same dilemma.
- Schedule time for yourself and your loved ones. Similar to how you would schedule time for a doctor's visit, try to schedule specific times to simply be with your family or do something for yourself. It can be taking an hour or two every day for a hobby you enjoy, a series of date nights with your partner, or a weekly game night with the kids. Carving out sacred, undisturbed time for you and the people in your life can really make a difference.
- Be mindful of your limits. There's only so much time in a day to get things done. Be mindful of how much you've put on your plate, be it work assignments or personal plans. Sometimes you just have to work, and other times it's OK to pass tasks on to others. Having a calendar with entries for both your work and your personal life can be helpful in providing a visual aid of where your time is being allocated.
Be kind to yourself, and understand that it's OK to struggle. The balancing game isn't easy, and sometimes you're going to wind up disappointing yourself or others. Just take a deep breath, and try again tomorrow. You've got this!