10 ways to create work-life balance
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, is a notable proverb dating back to the 1650s, and also made famous by movies including "Bridge over the River Kwai" and "The Shining". It's even featured in the "The Simpsons." There's no doubt work can be overwhelming at times. For some people, being busy comes in waves, giving them time to relax before the next peak, while for others it's busy all the time. So achieving a work-life balance has a range of challenges for different people.
The most recent growing issue is the advent of mobile, 24/7 communication. A few years ago this was talked about as enabling anytime, anywhere flexibility, implying everyone had more control over their work. Unfortunately, for many this has evolved into all the time, everywhere, meaning we are never away from work or taking a break from questions, emails and texts. In many situations being available wherever you are is a good thing, such as when chasing a deadline or managing an urgent matter. However, it can have an impact if it becomes a constant presence and there's no opportunity to switch off.
Having time away from work is essential for people of any age, and older people may have methods of switching off, learned when the Internet and mobile communications weren't around 24/7. If you are in this age bracket you will probably also understand the importance of maintaining a balance in your life. But it's becoming more difficult, so how do you draw a practical line between work and play?
Deciding how much work you want is the first thing to do. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to work full-time, however part-time allows you to work less to leave time for other activities. You need to look at your priorities and set parameters. If you find this difficult to do by yourself, talk to a friend, a colleague or your family. For those who want more of a life balance it's probably more about putting your personal life first, and fitting work around it - a life-work balance!
Work will always have deadlines but you also need to give yourself breaks from the routine to refresh - call it a sanity check. Be creative about how you achieve this whether it's a daily commitment like a walk over your lunch break, or deciding on an arrival and leaving time each day, and sticking to it. Staying fit with regular exercise may not sound very creative but it's one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy balance that's often forgotten. It will also help restore your energy levels and make you feel better overall.
Learn when to say no
While work must be done, it’s equally important to realise when to say no. This can be difficult because people always want to please and show enthusiasm and commitment. But there's no point in saying yes and then not being able to do what's needed. There is also the "half-no", which means saying you can't do the task until a certain time or date. Not only does this manage people’s expectations, but it allows you to prioritise your workload and remain in control of what you are doing, without sacrificing essential “down-time.” Saying no to a task or managing the scheduling better isn’t a disservice to yourself, your team or organisation: it’s taking care of all their interests.
Stay in touch with your friends
Starting a new job is all-encompassing - new work, new environment and new faces will demand most of your attention for the early weeks. But as time goes by and you settle in, remember to stay in touch with your longer-term friends. Meet up with them, chat on the phone and keep them up to date with what you are doing. It's easier than ever to keep in touch using Facebook, email, instant messaging, as well as of course, going out for coffee or having an after work drink.
Make new friends at work
As a candidate, you would have made a lot of friends during your career and worked with many people. It can still be a challenge at times, but try to make connections where possible with your new colleagues, help out when there's an opportunity and show your experience. These interactions can bring opportunities for light-heartedness and fun, which is all part of creating a good work environment. Be confident; you've been employed because you have a lot to offer.
Keep up with your interests
Giving work its own time and place is important and if you let it encroach upon your home life it will eat into what you like doing most, whether a hobby, sport or simply spending time with family and friends. Remember: unless stated, you are not being paid for work you do outside of work hours. If this happens occasionally, it won't make a lot of difference but if it becomes a habit it will have an impact. Learning when to stop working is essential for your peace of mind.
Manage your living space
Another factor in managing your work-life balance is how your living space is arranged. If your home looks, functions, and feels like home, it’s easier for you to unwind and relax after a day at work. It will be easier to remember the distinction between your job and your personal life if your surroundings reflect this difference; therefore, it’s important for you to manage it accordingly. If you have a home office, decide on a place for it, such as either a desk in the living area or in another room. If possible try not to use the kitchen table or bench as you will never get away from it!
Manage your time at work
Work-life balance goes both ways and it's equally important to ensure your personal life doesn't blend too far into work. From personal emails to calls and social media, it's really easy to let this happen. Managing your time at work, so you get the job done, is equally important. Any employer will let you manage essential personal matters at work but keeping it to a minimum will mean you maximise your working time so you can leave it behind at the end of the day.
Set goals to relax
It may be as simple as arranging to meet friends or more significant such as a holiday but its important to have things to look forward to that you enjoy and most importantly, they are booked in your calendar. Setting up these escapes regularly during a working year helps break it up, especially during the winter months where there are no public holidays from Queen's Birthday in June, to Labour Day in October.
Remember to have fun!
Having fun is not really a suggestion, it’s more of a requirement. Different people will have fun in different ways but make sure you give time to the things you enjoy. At work it could be going out for lunch with a few colleagues at the end of the week, while at home having fun is very personal - just remember it's important. And if you aren't having fun you need to ask why?
With digital communication, it's becoming an increasing issue, in all work situations. Different people will have different ways to cope with it, but the key is to set your boundaries early and stick to them. Being organised and knowing exactly when to start and stop, working and playing, will mean you can achieve the balance you want.