Is your work/life balance looking more like a constant cycle of eat, sleep, work, repeat? If so, you’re not alone. A study conducted by The Mental Health Foundation found that more than 40% of UK workers feel as though they are neglecting other aspects of their lives because of work. They suggest that the increasing demand of work culture in the UK is “perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”.
Having a good work/life balance is so important, not just for mental health reasons but also productivity in the workplace. A recent government report suggested that work-related stress accounted for nearly half of all working days lost due to ill health. Both employers and employees are now taking an interest into improving work/life balance as a way of combating these issues.
We’ve put together a list of tips to help manage work/life balance. While you might not feel the benefits instantly, it’s the first step in achieving harmony between your work and home life.
Take time to make time
The first step to improving your work life balance is sitting down and analysing your day-to-day life. Are you working overtime pretty much every day? Assess how much time you spend working and how much time you take for yourself. If you prefer writing things down on paper, purchase a planner, if not you can just use an online tool, there are loads of free resources online. From here set yourself personal hours and work hours and stick to them. Try and make sure the last 20 minutes of your workday are blocked out as a “wrap up” for you to send any emails and finish up any tasks you have remaining before leaving.
Prioritise your tasks
Now that you’ve mapped out your day, it’s time to start prioritising and organising your schedule. Start by writing down all of your tasks and grouping them into:
1. Urgent and important
2. Important but not urgent
3. Urgent but not important
4. Neither urgent nor important
This way you will be able to complete the important tasks on time and not have anything pressing looming over you when you’re finishing for the day. Sometimes it can be easier to make a table to visualise your daily tasks. Give it a try and your worries will start to feel a little more manageable.
Optimise your working day
You’re now ready to organise your day. To do this you need to understand your peaks and your troughs. Are you more of a morning person? Or do you work better after a hearty lunch? Understanding how you work best will help you optimally structure your day. If you tend to work best first thing in the morning, organise your day to include your urgent and important tasks before lunch. Everybody is different so shuffle your daily to-dos to fit in with you as an individual.
Imagine your perfect day. Consider some of the highlights. What do you really enjoy doing? Why not try and incorporate this into your working day? If you love being active, try answering emails on the treadmill. If you’re an outdoorsy kind of person, take your calls outside on a walk or in your local park.
Free time ≠ available time
When you finish work and are heading home, force yourself to disconnect and turn off any work notifications. A recent study found that as weekly work hours increase, so do feeling of unhappiness. Be honest with yourself, do you reply to work emails while lounging on the sofa at home watching TV? That doesn’t count as me time! Leave it for tomorrow. Don’t try and get ahead on work expense of essential downtime – it’s important to take breaks.
Finally, remember that free time does not mean available time. You can say NO. Just because Thursday night is empty on your calendar, it doesn't mean that you must accept when someone invites you out that evening. It also doesn’t mean that you should use the time to catch up on work. “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest” – Alan Cohen. It’s easy to feel obliged to fill your free time with anything and everything, but it’s important to remember that you can turn invitations down just because you want time to yourself. Your free time can be exactly that — free.