These days there’s a lot of pressure on people to work harder, earn more money, get promoted – and even have a successful side hustle at the same time. While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, it’s important to make sure that you’re also taking care of your wellbeing as you do so. One of the key aspects of this is ensuring that you have a good work-life balance.
A healthy work-life balance helps to reduce the risk of you burning out, as well as lowering feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s also good for your career because it can actually make you more productive and increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goals.
This post goes into more detail about the warning signs of a poor work-life balance and discusses some top tips on how to improve yours.
What are the signs of an unhealthy work-life balance?
It’s not always easy to tell if your work-life balance is unhealthy. This is especially true in today’s digital world, where it can be difficult to completely switch off from work, even when you’re out or at home. In addition, some employers normalize damaging work practices, making it harder for you to know that they’re not okay.
Here are some of the key warning signs to be aware of:
- Consistently working overtime
- Regularly checking work emails outside of office hours
- Constant fatigue and trouble sleeping
- Problems in your personal relationships
- Feeling irritable, stressed and angry
- Never taking days off
- Finding it hard to stop thinking about work
- Not having time for exercise, hobbies, socializing, household chores, and other activities
- Physical pain, such as headaches and backache
- Physical symptoms such as high blood pressure or a lowered immune system
- Having panic attacks or feeling severe dread before going to work
- Missing key life events (such as your partner’s birthday or your child’s school play) due to work
If you notice even just a few of these, it may well be time to reconsider your work-life balance and proactively take steps to improve it.
Top tips for improving your work-life balance
The good news is that there are several ways in which you can create a healthier work-life balance for yourself, many of which can have an almost immediate impact on your mental and physical health. Here are some of the most effective:
Work smarter, not longer
One reason that people struggle to improve their work-life balance is that they think it will cause problems for them professionally. However, the truth is that by increasing your productivity, you can actually decrease the number of hours that you need to work – thereby boosting your wellbeing without your work suffering. For example, you could:
- Use apps to block you from using social media during work hours
- Break intimidating tasks down into smaller ones, so it’s easier to get started on them
- Allocate specific hours of the day for tasks such as email so they don’t continually suck up your time and attention
- Optimize your desk space by clearing it of clutter and setting your computer up ergonomically
- Write a detailed to-do list every day so you know exactly what to work on and when
- Wear noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions in a noisy office
- Ask for help when you need it rather than struggling through difficult tasks in an unproductive way
- Test out productivity hacks like the Pomodoro Technique, where you set a timer (e.g., for 25 minutes) and work solidly until it goes off and then allow yourself a short break before doing it again
Set aside specific time for self-care
Everyone knows that self-care is important, but many people find it hard to actually make the time for it. One way to solve this issue is by literally putting a self-care time slot into your calendar every day. It could be a five-minute meditation before you start work in the morning, a 30-minute walk on your lunch break or 45 minutes to grab food with a friend in the middle of the day.
This isn’t just for workdays, either. Make sure that you set aside time on the weekends just for yourself. For example, you could book an appointment for Botox Chicago and indulge in a spot of pampering or arrange a short trip away with your partner. Anything to help you forget about work for a while and focus on your wellbeing.
Draw a clear line between work and your personal life
Having a clear boundary between your work life and your home life is more important now than ever, thanks to the rise of remote working. You need to be strict with yourself about not working overtime (unless absolutely necessary and you’re being paid for it) and not checking your work emails after hours. There’s no reason to feel guilty about unplugging for the evening and spending time with your family or on your hobbies.
If possible, try to have a separate computer and/or phone that you use only for work, and then switch it off when the clock hits 5 pm. In fact, having an end-of-work ritual can be a great way to signal that it’s time to relax.
Make the most of your vacation time
Taking vacations is crucial for a healthy work-life balance, and yet far too many Americans fail to use their paid time off. Try and make it a goal to use up as much of your vacation time as possible – even if it’s just for a staycation, to meet up with friends and family, or to have some time to yourself at home. You’ll notice that you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated and more productive when you get back to work.
Feel confident saying no
Unfortunately, lots of people feel under pressure to say yes to every request from their boss or colleagues. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to say no. Before accepting a new project or task, think carefully about your existing workload and your priorities. Your manager should understand if you simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on more work outside of your job description. Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask for some flexibility when it comes to work hours or remote working if that would be helpful to you. There’s sure to be a compromise that will suit everyone.