For many, attaining that seemingly elusive balance between their job or career and personal lives seems like, at best, borrowing a miracle off on the horizon. Kids get sick.
Those complicated presentations? Well, they’re due tomorrow morning. The spouse or significant other is griping about you never having enough time for them. Seems like it’s an unmerciful, perpetual cycle, no?
According to a recent study of U.S. workers, approximately two-fifths of employees claim that their jobs are exhausting and stressful—a.k.a., life-sucking. People (particularly women) in high-stress positions are statistically around three times more likely than others to experience stress-related medical conditions, and even quit their jobs twice as much.
Common results from work-life deficiencies include:
- Weakened immune system
- Cardiovascular disease
- Sexual health issues
- Headaches and backaches
- Irritability, exhaustion (even chronic fatigue), and/or depression/anxiety
- Formation of unhealthy habits, e.g. smoking, drinking, or overeating
The good news is that, well, for most people, it doesn’t have to be like this, at least not all of the time.
1. Dump time- or energy-sucking activities.
You’d be surprised at how many hours and how much energy folks plunder on wasteful activities or other people every day. These useless activities and people (e.g. listening to others bitch about their problems), often formed habits, add nothing of value to your life. Take the time to recognize anything and everything in your daily life that’s not somehow life- or career-fulfilling and terminate it.
2. Find Time to Relax.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you just scoffed at this idea—“like, okay when and where?!”, you’re thinking. I get it. 24 hours a day just doesn’t seem to cut it. And after years of these super busy, carbon copy-like days, people tend to get burned the hell out. Hence, one of two (or both) things suffer: work or personal/family time. Avoid this life-sucking problem by proactively planning out your days. Integrate fun and fulfilling activities into your schedule; allot time for family or friends every day or, at minimum, a few times a week.
Bottom line: Regularly give yourself incentives to complete your daily tasks. For example, “Every other day I’ll spend time playing with kids” or “I’ll make it a priority to go to the movies or out to eat with a couple of good friends every Friday.”
3. Explore Your Work Options and, For God’s Sakes, Leave Work at Work, Already.
A firm, set work schedule is inevitable to many, if not most, people. What most people don’t consider, though, is at least trying to ease their workload and/or work hours. Propose to your boss stress-lifting ideas like task sharing and compressing work hours (i.e. work harder and faster to spend less time at work if you’re on a salary). Use that awesome organ atop your head, get creative.
Regarding work, stick to this m/o whenever possible—what happens at work, stays at work, and what happens at home, well, don’t let it be job-related, damn it. With technology allowing virtually unlimited communication, many people can’t tell where work ends and home life, well, begins. Separate work time from personal or family time whenever and wherever possible. When out with friends, for example, put the laptop out of sight and completely away.
4. Take Care of Your Body
This one should be immediately obvious but sadly, it isn’t to your average workaholic. We tend to get so tied up in our jobs or careers that, at the end of every day, we resort to unproductive and especially unhealthy things. Common habits brought about or augmented by work-related stress include pigging-out, being excessively lazy, smoking, boozing and so forth. If any of that’s you, it’s got to change.
Start eating healthy. Or for the “it’s easier said than done” crowd, eat healthier. Include a minimum amount of physical activity into every day. Go for a brisk walk at dawn before work or unwind after work by doing laps in the pool for thirty minutes. Whatever it is that you do, make sure it’s something that you’ll (at least) somewhat enjoy doing and that can be done every day or every other day. Otherwise, you’re only setting yourself up for likely burnout.
5. Make “YOU” Time
It’s exactly what it sounds like: make time at least once a week to spend by your merry self, preferably away from all the usual distractions—i.e. cell phone, laptop, TV and so forth. Choose a quiet, serene place, pick up a book of interest and get lost in it. Take in a sunset from a grassy knoll. Do whatever it takes to ‘be at one’ with yourself, to recharge and to assess (or reassess) your life and the priorities within it.
6. Find a Mentor and/or Life Coach
Know someone that’s at the top of their game in life? Yes? Awesome! No? Find one. Seek his or her mentoring to sort of absorb how the awesome’s done. And maybe better yet, look into hiring a life coach (a quick search of Google or your local Craigslist page can help locating one). These individuals are (or should be) experienced in evaluating the work-life balance of clients and making recommendations as to how they can optimize their work lives and home lives or take steps to correct any imbalances of, therein.
7. Putting in Extra Work Hours Won’t Affect Your Success
Never assume that the more hours you slave at work, the more successful you’ll be. Working tons of extra hours makes your paycheck fatter, but it’s generally meaningless as a determiner of your career success. What matters is how you spend the time that you do work—how you maximize your regular hours in pursuit of achieving greater success in the long run. And yes, the cliche must be mentioned: Work smarter, not harder.
8. Leave Work at Work and Home at Home
Similar to the rule in No. 3, use your daily trip to work to your advantage—mentally switch between “home life” and “work life. En route to the job, leave any worries or stresses at home at, well, home. Get in the “I’m about to go optimize the hell out of my work day today” frame of mind and then go do it. On the return trip home, gradually slide back into “home mode”. Granted, it’s not always as easy as that–especially when work ‘follows’ you home. At the very least, though, finish your work at home first, then drop it. Just pack it up and save work for the next day.
The rule of thumb: make a clear distinction among your work life, your home life, and your ‘you’ time.