Pressure at work can have a tendency to take over our lives, and though we know that there’s more to life than work, we can get so caught up in hours spent behind a computer screen that these facts may be easily forgotten. Family, friends, hobbies, and sports are unintentionally neglected as we fill our time with more and more work.
If you’re finding it hard to balance the different aspects of life and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, you’re not alone. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 58% of Canadians report “overload” associated with their many roles – work, home and family, friends, physical health, and community service commitments.
Happiness and productivity are two very important things we need to balance in order to change this. If you feel a lack of balance in your life, read these tips on how to take control of your own happiness and productivity inside and out of the workplace.
1. Create a buffer between work and home
Reclaim control over your life by creating a division between work or study and your home. Don’t allow work to invade your personal life and similarly, don’t allow your personal life to invade work. This balance can be hard to achieve; although most companies talk about work-life balance, this value can fall to the wayside in busy periods. Conversely, if you have a lot going on in your personal life, it can be hard to put those feelings aside in the workplace. The best way to create separation between home and work is to decompress after a long day by going for a walk or writing down your feelings about the day’s events. Setting limits, tracking and managing your time, making to-do lists, and taking care of yourself means you have time for activities and relationships you enjoy.
2. Eat breakfast
Set aside enough time to have a full breakfast in a morning and aim to start the day without rushing. Fuelling your body means you’ll be dynamic and productive until lunchtime. Early mornings can help you adjust back into the workplace and mentally prepare for work, rather than rushing just to make it there on time. Try not to check and reply to emails yet, but give yourself a little brain break between waking up and working. Make the most of this time to ensure you can be happy and productive for the rest of the day.
One of the best ways to be productive but happy is to work smarter, not longer. Allocate time for each task that needs doing and try not to get caught up with other things, like social media, which often leads to procrastination. Write down 3 important tasks to accomplish each day. This helps you to be productive and face the things you have to do. At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
4. Make the most of your lunch break
Taking your lunch break is not only a legislated right, but it’s the best way to regroup in the middle of your day. To get out of a work headspace, try to keep the food you eat healthy and go for a walk if possible. Don’t forget that this is a “break” and should stay that way, you should therefore avoid working through your lunch hour. Drink water. Stretch. Check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. Then you can return to the day with a fresh mind.
5. Talk about it
It’s really important to speak up when you’re stressed. Chances are, you’re not the only one who’s had too much on their plate before. When you’re exhausted, talk it out, with family, friends, co-workers, your boss, or your teacher. Get the support of your employer by being clear on what it is you need to ensure work-life balance. Often companies have policies and benefits available, such as flexible hours, telecommuting, and job sharing. Talk more and you may be rewarded with a more manageable work/life balance.
6. Learn to say no
Try not to take on all the work that comes your way. Speak up when your workload or expectations get too much. If you take everything on, you will be unable to finish your current workload, or will finish the task at a poor level. Learn to say no with a smile. Boost your support system by, at work, joining forces with co-workers who can cover for you, and vice versa, when family conflicts or health problems arise. At home, have trusted loved ones to help out with home responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel.
7. Shut off at night
Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life by managing both time and space. Protect your private time by turning off all work related, electronic communications, such as emails and LinkedIn. Don’t be available 24/7. Set specific times of the day for answering emails, outside of your leisure time. If you do have to work in the evening, secure a space at home to separate work and leisure.
8. Know how to de-stress
After work, take a brief walk, listen to some music or do something you enjoy before beginning your evening’s routine. Knowing how to de-stress is really important for shutting off your work life at home. Choose what household errands and chores are critical and which can be let go. Exercise. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed. Make time for fun and relaxation. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as yoga, reading or playing football.
9. Manage home tasks
Organize household tasks efficiently, such as running errands in sets, grocery shopping or doing a load of laundry every day; don’t save all the laundry for your day off. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go. Put family/friend events on a weekly calendar, and have a home plan to help you to maintain focus and strengthen the divide between your work/home life.
We all have mental health, and, just like our physical health, we need to take care of it. Use these tips to define your work-life border. Make an important step towards caring for your mental health by bringing all aspects of your life into balance.