How to improve your work life balance

jon-flobrant-1362Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Today’s generation is struggling with a healthy work and life balance. We often work crazy hours and come home to quickly do the laundry, prepare dinner and watch some TV. On an early night, we might be lucky enough to squeeze in a phone conversation with our parents who we haven’t heard from since weeks.

It seems like we have no time to ourselves! When can we read a book or go for a stroll in the park enjoying nature? When can we recharge our batteries?

We all know there are better ways to do things, such as planning ahead, scheduling breaks into our work day, mindfulness, sticking to a morning routine, etcetera. And yet, most of us are unable to find a healthy balance of work and life.

Why is that? Most articles I researched suggest that our work consumes too many hours of the day – and surely that is true for some. However, I stumbled upon an article from the Harvard Business Review, which calculated that we have 23 hours each week that are not allocated to any work and household related tasks. Now this got me thinking!

Here is a summary of the calculation:

We have 168 hours per week, of which we should allocate 49 hours for sleep. We need to allow for 56 hours for an ambitious job, either spread over 7 days or squeezing in longer hours during the workweek. Then account for about 20 hours of commuting and regular household duties, leaving us with 43 hours. Cooking and other stuff might take up another 20 hours, leaving us with 23 hours of spare time.

To me, this seems like a reasonable calculation of a normal week. And it strikes me that we are clearly not taking enough responsibility for creating a balanced lifestyle, as lack of time does not seem to be the problem.

Work life balance benefits

 A healthy work life balance has tons of benefits, both for us personally but also for our immediate relationships and wider networks. When we are balanced, it has a ripple effect on other people too.

  • Feeling more in control
  • More targeted allocation of our time
  • Increased productivity, focus, and motivation
  • Improved active lifestyle, health and well-being
  • More positive attitude towards work
  • Improved self confidence
  • More time for things we enjoy
  • Less stress and related negative emotions

Work life balance ideas

To find more balance in life, I recommend to begin by creating a very own definition of working smarter, not harder. The phrase is widely known, however there are many different interpretations about it and a customised version seems appealing when considering our individual lifestyle.

Invest in self-awareness

Before adjusting your lifestyle, it pays out to do some research about yourself. You need to understand when you are at your best, when you are most focused, when you stick with habits, and when you use your willpower wisely, so that you can apply this knowledge when managing your work life.

In my recent article How to close the gap between wasting time and productivity, I provided some top tips to be more productive. But how do we make sure that, whatever we prioritise as our tasks, doesn’t end up taking up all of our day? In order to identify the priorities based on realistic information you need to get more self-awareness and pinpoint how much time you spend on a particular type of task. So it is wise to start tracking time and use that intel when scheduling your day and tasks.

Equally, it really helps to know your peaks and troughs. When in the day are you most productive? Do you usually get most done in the morning or do you tend to leave things to the evening and really get into the groove when no one else is left in the office?

The more we know about ourselves, the more targeted we can create a healthy balanced lifestyle.

Make yourself the priority

When we are stressed, most of us tend to skip the gym or cancel on a friend last minute. And we have incredibly good reasons, such as our client requested information urgently or we have a deadline to meet. However, just doing more without the right amount of attention dedicated to the task drains our energy very quickly and this results in the same task taking the double amount of time.

Productivity and efficiency comes from willpower and focus, which we can only sustain when we give our brain enough time to recharge. In order to do that, we do need to stick with doing our workout, meeting our friends and enjoying leisure activities.

Leave work at work

Smartphones, emails and so on were a great innovation, but we tend to put ourselves under a lot more pressure to be available 24/7 as a result. How often do you quickly check your emails to answer a question that your colleague had or to respond to a client after you already had dinner with your loved ones?

There is always more that we can do or another email to reply to. Without closure from work, or just limits around social media and communication, we cannot achieve a healthy work life balance. We need to establish our own boundaries, learn to respect them and develop a routine around them.

In a nutshell

Despite a busy work schedule, there is enough time in the week for leisure activities, family and personal ‘me-time’ to recharge our batteries. And yet, most of us seem to struggle with a good balance of stress and healthy living.

The key to success is increased self-awareness. This knowledge can help us to plan the work life most productively and avoid distractions that drain our energy. Following our personal work smarter, not harder recipe frees up time that we can then invest in doing the things that not only we enjoy most, but that also recharge our batteries.

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