First thing’s first: That thing in your pocket, or on the table next to you, or maybe charging just a few feet away…your smartphone. I’m guessing you’ve got one? About 77% of Americans do.
Smart devices can be fantastic tools. You’ve got the answer to almost any question at your fingertips, you can reach anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world, and best of all, your phone acts like a million tools in one, thanks to smart applications.
Unfortunately, our technology makes us accessible to our employers (and employees alike) around the clock, and because most of us are glued to our phones anyway, it can be difficult to draw boundaries between work life and personal life
The compounding stress from these never-ending days is hurting us. It’s hurting our relationships with loved ones, it’s harming our health, and is most definitely affecting our overall happiness.
Studies have shown that stress at work can be just as dangerous as second-hand smoke and that high job demands increase the odds of having a doctor-diagnosed illness by 35 percent!
Research has also shown us that long work hours increase the chances of early death by 20 percent. Also, long-term overworking can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, and a weakened immune system.
Compromising your health is not worth ANY job! Below are a few top five ways I recommend to help you Master the Art of Work-Life Balance.
1.Let Go of Perfectionism
When you’re in school and your whole life revolves around getting homework done and projects completed, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on your work. If you’re the type of person who spent a lot of time and energy focusing on school, those perfectionist habits likely followed you into adulthood.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, our responsibilities become broader. Instead of spending our free time studying for a test, we have to balance relationships, errands, and even children. At this point, the idea of achieving “perfection” becomes out of reach, and the first step to achieving work-life balance is accepting that.
Do you notice any similarities of your current work ethic to how you treated your education?
2. Strive for Excellence
Instead of striving for perfection, strive for excellence.
Not that long ago, it was a badge of honor to work a 7-day week and a 12-hour day. Thankfully, that work-hard, the play-hard mentality is falling to the wayside as we, as a society, begin to realize the harm that comes with trying to “have it all.”
We’re beginning to understand that personal wellness is important and that mental health should take priority. Achieving that level of wellness often means letting go of trying to be “perfect” in every aspect of your life, and just shooting for your own personal meaning of “excellent.”
How do you define “excellent” for yourself?
3. Letting Go of Tech
The next step to achieving work-life balance is learning when to unplug. For example, deleting your work email off of your phone so that you’re not tempted to respond during off-hours is one great way to establish a clear boundary.
Of course, this might mean giving your colleagues a heads up first.
Understand that there are times when you just have to turn off your phone and enjoy the moment. Those pesky notifications not only interrupt your time off, but send deeper signals to your psyche, alerting your mind off things unfinished (notifications unchecked), and send stress hormones coursing through your system. By not reacting to notifications, you’ll develop stronger habits of resilience, and resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives in general.
4. Exercise. You knew it was coming
This isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to hear, but as we all know, exercise is a great way to keep your body AND mind in tip-top shape.
When we’re busy, we let things slip. Maybe we skip meals, maybe we don’t make enough time for sleep, but that’s a huge problem! One thing that can throw a wrench into this unhealthy cycle and force you to eat and sleep is exercise.
Download an app and make time for a few minutes of Pilates every day. Maybe even take a few minutes to practice your plank and work your core. Do something that challenges you just enough to make you feel as though you’ve completed something that you can feel good about.
How do you squeeze exercise into your day? Share your tips in the comments.
5. Learn to Say NO
The most difficult part of work-life balance is learning to say “no.”
Saying “no” is key to cutting back on wasted time and making the most of the time you DO have. If you find yourself engulfed in conversations with the secretary at work every day when you have work to do, politely excuse yourself. If your coworkers ask you out to drinks when you’re tired, you’re allowed to say no and spend a quiet night in. Focus on the things that are most rewarding to you and often that means putting yourself first.
So if you’re in the position to do so at your current job, sit down, and set expectations with your boss and coworkers. It is your right to negotiate because your time is precious!
Here are some tips on Saying NO
For many of us, saying ‘no’ can be difficult. For good reason! We want people to like us! It’s only human and you’re not alone in feeling this way.
Even people who write and strategize for a living can have a difficult time typing out the word ‘no’ when we’re being asked for a favor by someone we care about. But let me tell you right now: It’s okay to say no. More importantly, you SHOULD say no every once in a while, especially if you have other things that you need to tend to, even if that other thing that you have to tend to is your own self-care.
Even if it’s a little bit awkward, say no. You can even use this template, written by strategist, Alexandra Franzen, for The Muse:
Thanks for your note.
I’m so proud of you for —and I’m flattered that you’d like to bring my brain into the mix.
I need to say “no,” because .
But I would love to support you in a different way. [Offer an alternative form of support here]
Thank you for being such a wonderful . I am honored to be part of your world. [A few closing words of encouragement, if you’d like]
[Your name here]
Work-life balance means something different to everyone. Perhaps for you, balance isn’t the right word. Maybe you own your own business and you’re living solo and loving it, which is fantastic! In this case, maybe the phrase ‘work-life harmony’ or ‘work-life blend’ sounds more fluid and doable for you.
What IS important is for you to practice self-care. Make time for your mental and physical health, because in the end, the highest thing that should be on your ‘to-do’ list, is YOU!
New Year’s resolutions are rarely achieved. The strictest of diets are broken just days after they begin. Why? Because we’re trying to push ourselves too quickly! Trying to make room for work-life balance can end in the same way if we don’t think carefully about what is actually achievable. Baby steps are okay!
If you’d like to spend more time with your family, don’t start by vowing to be home every night, start out with once or twice a week.
Keep your goals realistic and sustainable. I hope you feel a little more optimistic about the potential of work-life balance working for you. Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. Are you an employer? Do you need help persuading your boss about the importance of a work-life balance? I can help. Click here to learn more and don’t forget to sign up for the email series below!