Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for our overall well-being. Achieving harmony between our professional and personal lives can enhance our productivity, happiness, and relationships.
But we know that it’s easier said than done!
Let's explore seven practical ways to improve your work-life balance to reduce stress levels, ensure you're always present for your loved ones, and lead a more fulfilling life.
1. Set clear boundaries
Establishing clear boundaries between your professional and personal life is vital for keeping a healthy balance. While initiatives like working from home have helped to bring balance to many people's lives, for others, they have blurred the lines and led to people feeling like they must be "always on."
The only way to deal with this is to set clear boundaries between your work and personal life. You can do several things to achieve this, such as:
- Defining specific working hours for yourself – and diligently sticking to them.
- Communicating your boundaries to colleagues, clients, or anyone else you come into contact with at work.
- Creating a designated workspace at home. If you must have your desk in a bedroom or living space, consider using a screen to create separation between your work and personal time.
On top of that, do what you can to avoid checking emails and messages during non-working hours. Do you really need the Slack or Microsoft Teams apps on your smartphone?
Allow yourself to disconnect and focus on your personal life, hobbies, and self-care. And set aside time where you can avoid interruptions and distractions for family, friends, and exercise, which can significantly improve your work-life balance.
2. Prioritise and delegate if you can
If you're in a leadership position, prioritising and delegating are excellent ways to reduce workplace stress, manage your working hours, and enhance your work-life balance.
To delegate effectively, you should:
- Identify the highest priority tasks on your list of regular duties.
- Decide which ones only you can do, and ensure you dedicate most of your time and focus to these.
- Delegate or outsource other tasks.
Not only does trusting others to do tasks make your job easier and enable you to get everything done without impacting your personal life, but it also motivates them and feeds their professional growth.
3. Become a time management master
Improving your time management skills can significantly enhance your work-life balance. As well as prioritising effectively, you should also assign time blocks for different tasks and aim to focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking sounds like a helpful quality, but it reduces your efficiency and raises your stress levels.
Other things you can do to use your time more effectively include:
- Minimising your time spent on social media. Even if you use social media for your job, it’s easy to end up scrolling and doing the things you’d usually do in your spare time.
- Saying no to meetings, especially if they have no agenda or if a discussion can happen via email or a WhatsApp message.
- Use apps like Freedom to minimise other distractions.
- Try out things like the Pomodoro Technique to maximise your focus and downtime during the day. This is great for managing your work-life balance while at work and ensuring you minimise the risk of burnout by always being "100% on."
Finally, consider using apps and tools to automate specific tasks. Even relatively simple things like responding to meeting requests can take a significant amount of time throughout your week, but your calendar app can do this for you.
4. Make self-care a priority
Taking care of yourself is crucial for achieving work-life balance.
You must prioritise self-care activities that promote your physical and mental well-being, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, spending time with loved ones, and optimising your sleep habits.
Remember that it’s okay to have downtime and times when you’re doing next to nothing, too. If reading, listening to music, watching TV or playing video games help you relax, then make time to do it.
If you're finding work particularly stressful or difficult, consider speaking to your line manager or human resources department or using your Employee Assistance Programme if you have access to one.
5. Spend time on building relationships
Having a strong and active social circle is one of the best ways to keep your diary full and ensure you can 100% switch off from work outside of office hours.
If you’ve recently relocated abroad and your only social connections are workmates, consider what you can do to find fellow expats in your new location or build your social circle in other ways. And if you spend time with people you work with, have a rule that you don't "talk shop" when having dinner or enjoying a walk in nature.
6. If you have the discipline to set boundaries, embrace flexibility
Can you set and stick to boundaries between your professional and personal life? Is your employer consistently respectful of these? If so, embracing opportunities for flexible working, be that different working hours, working from home, or working a four-day week, is an excellent way to improve your work-life balance.
Thinking about how much time you spend commuting to and from work every year is a great way to understand how much value you could achieve from embracing flexibility and setting boundaries. For example, if your commute takes two hours of your day, imagine what you could do with another two hours to exercise or spend time with your family.
7. Regularly reassess and adjust
Achieving a healthy and optimal work-life balance isn't a "one-and-done" thing. You must constantly reassess and adjust your habits, boundaries, and priorities to ensure all are in line with the balance you want to achieve.
Our lives and circumstances are constantly changing, so you must be ready to embrace this and make changes yourself when necessary. Schedule some time at least once every three months to sit down and assess your work-life balance and to determine anything you need to adjust.
Improving your work-life balance
Your work-life balance is a vital part of your well-being. However, achieving an optimal balance for yourself won't just happen; it requires conscious effort and commitment.
Using these seven strategies, you can take significant steps towards enhancing your work-life balance and being healthier and happier in your professional and personal life.