Do you work to live or live to work? Much has been written about the elusive work-life balance, but let’s be honest: how many of us are actually managing to achieve it?
Recent HSE figures show that stress, anxiety and depression account for over 1/3 of all work related illnesses. What’s more, there’s a proven correlation between overwork and serious physical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke etc. Neglecting your personal life can make you vulnerable to mental and physical health problems. It may not be an easy thing to do but if you have a demanding job, management responsibility or are running your own business, it is essential that you find ways to balance your work life with your home life.
Unsurprisingly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – we all have to figure out a way that works for us individually. If you’re keen to find a happy middle ground between workaholism and burnout on the one hand, and not taking your career responsibilities seriously enough on the other, here are 5 tips to help you achieve a better work-life balance.
1. Learn to manage your time
You may be surprised to hear that long hours spent at the office won’t necessarily give you the best results, and that multitasking may not be the best way to get everything done efficiently. Rather than working harder, the trick is to work smarter and find ways to increase your productivity to get the most out of each day.
Once you’ve made a concerted effort to eliminate all the obvious distractions and interruptions from your working day, why not give tried and tested time management tricks such as the Pomodoro Technique, the 80/20 principle and the good old-fashioned To Do list a try?
2. Delegate and empower your staff
No doubt you’ve heard the saying ‘if you want something done properly, do it yourself’? Unfortunately, your refusal to delegate tasks to other team members and your inability to trust them to do a good job is likely to backfire on your own workload and stress levels.
It’s important to let your staff take on more responsibilities and to empower your team as a whole. As a business manager, it is not only your job to recruit the most competent people for your team, you also need to give them the tools and the training to ensure they’re able to perform at their best and can add value to your business.
3. Set and respect your personal boundaries
When you’re busy at work and under pressure, it’s all too easy to let personal boundaries slide. While this is unavoidable now and again in exceptional circumstances, say in the run-up to an important deadline or at the end of the financial year, it’s not OK for work to take over on a routine basis.
Assess and address the main culprits that are stopping you from leaving your job where it belongs: at work. Reinstate your daily lunch break, leave the office at a sensible time and make it a personal policy not to look at work emails or phone calls until the next morning.
4. Practice self-care every day
In terms of priorities, it’s tempting to put the needs of the business above your own, but neglecting your own personal requirements for self-care on an ongoing basis can leave you with an empty tank and mental exhaustion, unable to perform. Remember the old adage ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’.
Whatever your individual needs may be – 8 hours’ sleep per night, bathtime with the kids, healthy food, trip to the gym, regular dog walking, daily meditation time – recognise these as a top priority and accommodate self-care in your working week.
5. Take time out
In addition to recognising the importance of mentally switching off after a hard day’s work, don’t forget to take longer breaks too. From family activities and weekend outing to longer holidays, planned time away from the office will help you unwind from the pressures of the job and give you something to look forward to.
Ideally, you should be aiming to unplug from the workplace completely to allow you to really recharge your batteries and regain perspective of what’s important in your life.