There are no one-size-fits-all rules for finding a work-life balance because different people understand its concept in different ways. And yet, this problem is all-embracing for entrepreneurs, office workers, and freelancers.
Here comes the to-do list for those willing to know how to organize a better work-life balance and being on schedule with everything.
- Draw the Line
You can’t find a balanced work-life if you don’t know where the former ends and the latter starts. To understand that, draw the line. Or, in other words, set some boundaries between home and work.
Co-founder of Women Returners, Julianne Miles suggests changing out of office clothes once you come home to leave work behind. If you work from home, zone your apartment to determine a workspace and a break area.
Find something that helps you change modes. It can be a book you read on your way home, a walk with your dog when you don’t think of work, or a habit of pausing and doing nothing for a minute after the working day is over. Add it to your to-do list for a better work-life balance.
Sometimes it happens that you have to bring work home, but it’s still possible to draw the line here. Choose the exact time when you don’t do anything (days off, a couple of hours before going to bed) and hold on tight to this schedule. That won’t be easy at first, but steady rules and operation do wonders.
A balanced work-life can’t be effective without prioritizing. Don’t let work come home with you (and vice versa). Be honest: all people have different goals, so don’t lead from the expectations of your surrounding. Keep your priorities in mind: is it more important for you to take kids from school or visit evening courses? Do you want to visit a dentist in the afternoon or go to a swimming pool in the morning? Settle your to-do list accordingly.
Employers are often ready to make concessions. Just don’t be afraid to ask.
Community manager at ArtGrad, Ryan Kavanagh confesses that his love for painting doesn’t allow to pick the wheat from the chaff and find a work-life balance: illustrations, charts, and design follow him out of the office. His decision was to write a separate to-do list that would prioritize non-painting activities and help to change perspectives.
With a chance to abstract from design at a given time, Ryan was able to reach a balance at its best.
- Learn to Say No
It’s only you who knows your saturation point, so you better tell straight if you can’t do anything. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you can’t complete some tasks on time: at long last, multitasking and crazy job stream don’t help your work-life balance; so it would be better to prevent the situation.
It will be easier to do more in less time if you learn how to say no to secondary tasks overloading you.
Life coach Melanie Allen suggests not answering them straight away. “Say you’ll get back to the person asking, then use that time to think clearly about whether to say yes or no. If you want to say yes, fine. But if you want to say no, say no and keep saying it. Don’t justify your actions or give excuses. There’s no need to be nasty or rude.”
- Defeat Notifications
Smartphones and laptops let you stay in touch 24/7, which is two sides of the same coin. Emails and messengers may put to trouble: when chatting with friends at home, you continue grappling with work issues; also, it’s tempting to reply a friend’s message at work.
Compared to other communication forms such as phone calls, for example, no distinct limits are set with online notifications. They come at 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. alike, so it’s you who have to set the limits here.
How to win the battle with notifications?
# Turn them off when at home.
# Adjust automatic replies.
# Turn off the sound when at work.
Yes, sometimes it happens that you should reply asap. But don’t make it a rule to check every email once you’ve got it.
- Work Smart, Not Long
To not get stuck in a rut, follow these tips:
# Prioritize tasks.
# Set a particular time limit for each task.
# Don’t multitask.
# Don’t let trivia distract you (forget about emails and social media for a while).
- Defeat Your Inner Perfectionist
You get more tasks and duties through the years, and it becomes difficult to do everything to a fare-thee-well.
But should you?
Sometimes the best decision would be to let the situation go and be ready to sacrifice something. If you are tired and have no energy to cook dinner after work, don’t blame yourself for eating pizza instead.
Don’t struggle for ideals in both work and personal life. It’s enough to try and perform your duties well.
- Change the Schedule
If it’s your variant, don’t be afraid to discuss the issue with your boss. If you are more productive on late evenings after your kids are in bed, there is no point to try completing all tasks till 5 p.m. Change the schedule accordingly, but remember about setting boundaries (see #1). Otherwise, you risk to lose a balanced work-life double-quick.
- Delegate Tasks
Let’s face it: how often do you try to do it all alone because you believe no one can control the process better? But such an approach will hardly help your work-life balance.
So, what to do?
Focus on activities you specialize in and value most. Delegate or outsource everything else. Stewart Freidman, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, recommends defining “key stakeholders” in your life (colleagues, partners, friends, and others) and delegating some tasks to these people.
“Find out what you can do to let go in ways that benefit other people by giving them opportunities to grow,” he says. It would be a win-win situation: with more free time, you may concentrate on your priorities.
- Listen to Your Inner Self
The Mental Health Foundation suggests watching out for the cumulative effect of working long hours. Keep track on your tiredness over weeks and months, taking into account the time you spend on thinking about work. It’s a good indicator of work-life unbalance, and it will allow you to control your condition.
The last but not least:
Don’t expect instant results. Changes demand a willpower; and the more ambitious goal you set, the more chances are that you fail it. Start small, decide if your work-life balance is at risk, and remember that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”