Work is something almost everyone has to do, but we also have to live our lives. Here’s how to find time for both work and pleasure.
Our modern work lives grow more demanding every day, which is why it’s important to push for time to relax, workout, and enjoy your non-work life. Not only will it boost your happiness levels, but it just might make you a better employee, too.
The phrase “work-life balance” is getting a lot of buzz these days, and no wonder—we’re spending more and more time at the workplace thanks to a range of economic and other factors. Rampant layoffs mean staffs are leaner, and the people who don’t get let go are often performing the work of those who were laid off (in addition to their own duties).
A highly competitive job market makes us feel as though we have to work five times harder than ever, not only if we want to get promoted or receive a raise, but also if we just want to keep our jobs. Thanks to office-issued laptops and smart phones, even when we leave our jobs physically, we’re still working.
All of this adds up to our lives feeling out of whack. Suddenly, the majority of our time is spent dealing with all things work-related. It can feel like an elephantine amount of effort has to be exerted just to find time for our family, friends, and significant others, and that’s a major problem. That’s why it’s so important to figure out a way to better balance your work time with your personal time.
Prioritize Your Life
The first and perhaps most important key to better balancing your work life with your non-work life is that you must learn how to prioritize. That means being able to look at what’s on your plate at work and decide what is truly urgent and what can wait.
We’re often told that you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, but if trying to get everything on your work to-do list accomplished today means staying in the office until 10:00 PM, you might need to put some stuff off until later. You also need to prioritize on-the-job break time with actually doing work.
Minimize Work Distractions
The internet is an amazing distraction. On busy work days, putting up an away message or turning off your instant messaging and staying off of time-wasters like Facebook and your personal email can help you slog through that heavy workload quicker. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take any breaks—taking brief breaks every hour or so can help you stay fresh and energized enough to get your work done more efficiently.
It just means that, instead of spending thirty minutes reading blogs and news articles online, you should spend ten minutes using the restroom, going to the kitchen to get yourself something to drink, and/or taking a quick walk around the block. In other words, spend those quick breaks being away from your desk or work station and up on your feet while giving your eyes a break from your computer screen. If you dedicate all of your other time to working hard with minimal distraction, you might be surprised to find yourself leaving the office at a more normal hour.
That means you got a lot of work done AND you’ll get more free time to enjoy your evening. We have a misconception that working longer hours makes us better employees, but long hours in the office or working at home are meaningless if you’re not being efficient and productive. That’s important to keep in mind.
It’s also important to set goals for yourself on non-work time. Take up a hobby and make some time for projects that are important to you and have nothing to do with your job. Make sure that you fit in time for a workout before work, during your lunch break (if you’re lucky enough to get one), or in the evening when you get home.
Even if it’s just for thirty minutes every other day, you’ll find it’s a great way to work through stress and take your mind off of work. Get your spouse or a friend to be your workout buddy, and you’ll double your benefits by fitting in regular time with someone you care about. Never answer your phone or email mid-workout.
Use Your Vacation!
Unless you’re a doctor on call, there’s likely nothing work-related that can’t wait until you’re done. Another important goal to set for your self is to actually use all of your vacation time each year. Sadly, not all of us are lucky enough to get vacation time, as there’s no law in the U.S. guaranteeing it. What’s shocking is that those of us who do get vacation time rarely utilize all of our allotted days.
Even if you can’t take a full week at a time, make use of your vacation days! You don’t even have to go anywhere. Think of how relaxing it will be to have a few more three or four day weekends peppered throughout your year. You can finally get some projects accomplished at home, or just spend a whole day lounging around in your pajamas doing absolutely nothing.
Plus, when you get back to work after your vacation, you’ll be feeling refreshed and ready to go. This is the most important thing to remember—if you’re happy in your personal life and finding time to combat stress with relaxation, the quality of your work will improve. That’s one of the best things about finding true work-life balance; all the areas of your life will benefit.