How can I maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Is work a rewarding and fulfilling part of your life, or is it something that has grown to take up so much of your time and energy that you resent, rather than enjoy it?
We all have times when we're especially busy and need to put in extra hours. But, for a healthy work-life balance, that situation needs to be the exception rather than the norm. Modern technology means we're almost always contactable, which can make it very difficult to switch off from work. Rather than making you more efficient, by not giving your brain a chance to recharge you're going to gradually become less productive.
So what are the warning signs you need to look out for to check you balance isn't tipping in the wrong direction?
- You're regularly working more than 10 hours a day
- you barely make a dent in your workload, however hard you work
- You increase your caffeine or nicotine intake to get you through each day
- You regularly feel physically and emotionally drained during and after work
- You take work home with you in the evening or at weekends
- You suffer from weekly ‘Sunday-night blues'
- You get a reputation for letting down friends at the last minute
Your work should interest you, energise you and give you a buzz. But it should also leave you time to enjoy the other aspects of your life – your friends and family, your hobbies and other interests. We work best when our lives are in balance.
So if you've allowed yourself to get into the situation where work is ruling your life and your nearest and dearest have almost forgotten what you look like, how do you get out of the rut?
You don't have to be the first person in or the last person out every day to be effective. In fact, people who work ridiculously long hours are simply demonstrating that they aren't able to cope with their job. If you feel like you're being given too much work, the first thing to do is tell your manager. They are likely to be busy themselves and unless you let them know, they won't know about you being overworked. You'll be surprised about how accommodating some bosses can be, as they would prefer to help you rather than have you resign or take time off for stress.
In most cases, 80% of a task can be completed with 20% of the overall effort, but getting that last 20% completed can take a disproportionate amount of time. If you're continually pushed for time, use your judgement to decide when you can tick off a task rather than getting every last detail perfect. This shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy work, but it's important to be able to distinguish between situations where perfection is required and where it isn't.
Sometimes knowing a place to stop working is an issue, in which case you should look to divide big tasks or projects up into smaller chunks and tackle these one by one.
It's always good to have something to look forward to. Whether it's a night out or a two-week holiday, make sure your calendar has something in it that all your efforts at work are focussed towards.
If you regularly take time to recharge your batteries, you'll cope much better when things are unavoidably busy or stressful at work. An important part of good time management is to take some time off - spending less time at work will make you perform much better when you are there!