Here’s a familiar scenario: You left work late, rushed to pick up the kids — at the height of rush hour, no less — and finally made it home, only to stash away your belongings and start preparing for dinner. And, right when you’re smack dab in the middle of preparing tonight’s meatloaf, your phone blows up with work emails.
Do you pick it up and respond, or do you keep cooking?
If you chose the first, you’re not alone. More than half of adults in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey said monitoring emails outside of their regular work schedule was normal, and it’s even more so in younger professionals.
A separate survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that some 11 percent of employees in the United States reported working very long hours, or more than 50 hours a week on average. The group also learned that, while the nation’s percentage was lower than the average of all the countries surveyed, the U.S. ranked below average in work-life balance.
Balancing work and life has always been a bit tricky, and it seems harder than ever with all the technology we have at hand. With a smartphone, you can easily receive a notification about your home life when you’re at work, and, conversely, you can get work emails or tasks while you’re at home.
So, what’s at stake? A work and life imbalance can you leave you feeling drained and showing signs of burnout, like fatigue, irritability and general disengagement. It can leave you more stressed and can even seep down into your lifestyle habits, like the amount of sleep you need and your food intake.
Achieving work-life balance, on the other hand, can improve your overall health and well-being and can help you become more engaged in your daily activities, research has shown.
So, how do you get there? Here are a few work-life balance tips from our Kinetic by Windstream team:
1. Set your priorities
Let’s face it. There are a limited number of hours in a day. And, once you allocate how many hours you’ll work and how many you’ll devote for your home life — and you actually adhere to them — those hours are even more precious.
How can you manage the stress of it all? Setting priorities.
Identify what’s most important to you in both your home and work lives. If, for instance, you cannot miss little Jimmy’s baseball game Tuesday evening, you can then set your other time so as to give it your full and undivided attention.
While this may seem like a menial daily or weekly task, it’s the best one to get on the path to achieving the right work-life balance, as it will ultimately give you more structure, an action plan and, eventually, a list of achievements.
And, it should reach well beyond the day or week to your long-term goals! Where do you see yourself in five years? Making partner at your law firm? Having baby No. 2? Map out how you intend to reach those goals, and know that this can affect your day-to-day activities.
Need some help prioritizing? Try some of these productivity apps.
2. Know your limits
Our first work-life balance tip will help you set some boundaries — like whether you’ll be physically present at that baseball game but working, too, or whether your family can contact you about your personal life while you’re at work.
Prioritizing will also make you more attuned to what your limits are. How much additional work can you actually handle? How many more responsibilities can you take on at home?
When you’ve hit a limit, don’t be afraid to say “no,” and don’t feel guilty about doing so. Be sure that when you decline, you do so respectfully and effectively.
3. Restructure based on your limits
This may seem like a given, but once you know what’s important to you and what your limits are, change accordingly.
Take this real-life example as an executive coach told Forbes: a female executive had cooked dinner for her husband every single night for the two decades they’d been married. She was the breadwinner with a demanding job, and with the role, she grew more stressed by these nightly dinners — the planning, the grocery trips, the execution.
The client could more easily manage her stress by assigning the task to her husband or someone else in the household, or breaking up the to-dos into pieces that either of them could accomplish. Letting go of something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re relinquishing all control, but it can help you focus on those higher priority tasks.
4. Plan for personal time
Set aside some time each day for self-care and family activities. Be sure, though, to carve out something specifically for you.
Dig in to some of your hobbies, or find a new one! It doesn’t have to be expensive or big, like a day at the spa. It can be just as simple as taking a walk after dinner, nestling in with a good book, watching your favorite sports team or binge-watching all the shows with your Kinetic Internet.
It’s really easy to push off exercise because you’re too busy trying to achieve that work-life balance. But exercise in any form — cardio, aerobics, yoga, etc. — can act as the biggest stress reliever, as it will help pump up those feel-good endorphins and improve your mood. You’ll find, too, that exercise will help clear your mind and give you more energy to accomplish your other tasks.
Even if you aren’t active now, you can gradually build up your body’s tolerance to a more grueling workout.
It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of the Internet. Every now and then, it’s great though to take a step away from all that technology — and all the chatter on those social media sites — and just unwind. You’ll find yourself less anxious and less stressed.
7. Build A Strong Support System
Remember your limits? See where you feel you need the most help and build a strong support system around those areas. If, for example, you’d like an extra hand with child care, try a spouse, a parent or even those friends that you’ve made since you put down your phone at Jimmy’s baseball game. At work, find someone you really jibe with and separate assignments as necessary.
Delegating isn’t the whole of it, either. Have someone you can talk to when you’re feeling bogged down. Whether it’s a personal coach, a best friend or your spouse, these people in your support system can be your biggest cheerleaders and motivate you through whatever finish line.