Work-life balance might feel like it only exists in the movies or for those that don’t actually work. Having a good work-life balance does not come magically, it takes work and consistent effort. In order to have a good work-life balance you have to know when to say no and set boundaries. Easier said than done, and we have 15 realistic steps you can take to create the best possible work-life balance for you.
1. Learn to say no: Setting boundaries is imperative to having a good work-life balance. Learning to say no, is a huge part of that, saying no does not mean, not doing your job. Moreso it means knowing what you can and can’t take on, to just be the hero. Sure you can say yes, but if it means working late all week or having to bust out your laptop while at home or on the weekends that is not going to be good for your work-life balance. If you have always been the employee that says yes, take baby steps to say no and push back when you truly can not take anymore.
2. Don’t overwork to prove a point: There is a difference between striving to get to that promotion or taking on bigger projects to get to where you want to be and coming in early and staying late to show how much you are working. Or doing busy work that is not even your responsibility to work more is not conducive long term. Sure taking on extra projects, that you can get done in your normal workday can be great to further your career, but once it starts to creep into your private time there is a problem.
3. Set time frames to check email: It is so easy to wake up, grab your phone and check emails the second you wake up. Honestly, that is not the best way to start your day and achieve a good work-life balance. If you have to, set times to check your email when you are not at your office, it can be helpful to comb through emails before you sit down to start your workday but that doesn’t mean you need to be checking them for hours before your official day starts.
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4. Use your vacation time: Work life balance means having a life outside of work, working to live not living to work. U.S. Travel Association found that a record number of 768 million vacation days went unused in 2019. Often employees feel bad or obligated to not take their vacation time, yet it is there for a reason and you should use it! Even if you don’t want to take a lavish vacation, use it to have some downtime, catch up on the stuff you don’t have time for during the normal workweek, or even a spa day occasionally.
5. Set personal boundaries: Work-life balance is not only about how much and when you work, it also means having boundaries for your personal life as well, not oversharing or inviting everyone in your office to all your parties. Or telling everyone in the office about everything in your personal life. Sure you might make some good friends at the workplace, but at the end of the day, most colleagues won’t be around as much, if at all after you are no longer working there.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others: Everyone has different work styles, capacities, and lives outside of work. You may be the early bird and more productive in the morning, while others may stroll in a bit later, but stay after you have to leave to go pick up the kids. Having a good work-life balance means learning to let go of a lot of things that do not help you at home or in the office.
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7. Take lunch breaks: There is a reason why there are laws to protect employees with mandatory breaks. Even if you don’t eat lunch, it is important to take a break and step away from your computer. Whether you take a walk and take a break to catch up with a friend or family member or run a few errands. Not being in front of your computer for that time will not only rejuvenate you, but it is also important for your work-life balance to have a little bit more “you time” during the weekday.
8. Use your holidays wisely: Most companies give 7-8 paid holidays off each year. You know these dates in advance and instead of spending precious PTO cleaning your garage or tackling that never-ending to-do list. Make an effort to do what feeds your soul and not work. Maybe you spend half the day being productive and getting things done that you really need to. Then spend the second of the day doing nothing or something that you truly love and is downtime for you, from reading a book to gardening or spending time with loved ones.
9. Avoid bringing work home and vice versa: There will be times that work will have to come home with you, it happens. However, try to avoid it at all costs, whether that means staying a little later at the office or skipping the office chit-chat that eats up more time than you care to admit. At the same time, don’t bring your personal life to work, the less grey area there is between work and your personal life the easier it is to have boundaries and create the work-life balance you need and want in your life.
10. Calendar hobbies that you enjoy: As important to not bringing work home, is having hobbies, activities, and a life outside of work. If your whole world is your work then it is easier to work more than you may want to. Have hobbies and plans that you look forward to outside of work that will not allow you to overwork. Go to your favorite spin class that starts at 5:30, forcing you to leave work on time, or join a book club, so you have a book to read in your downtime, creating something to look forward to instead of just working late hours.
11. Get fresh air during the work day: Step away from your desk! Studies say that you should look away from your computer every 20 minutes. Which, sounds like a lot, but how often do you actually look away? Refresh your water, get a cup of tea, or pop in to say a quick hi to your favorite coworker, something to give your eyes and brain a break.
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12. Say yes to outside activities: In order to have a proper work-life balance, you need to actually have a life outside of work. It is easy to get caught up in working a ton and not saying yes to extracurricular activities because you are too tired or worn out from working too much. On the flip-side, when you say yes to happy hour, a hike with a friend, or that mani/Pedi, you are giving yourself time to refill your cup. That is what will not only make you more productive at work but also give you the work-life balance you strive for.
13. Make sure your home office can be out of sight/out of mind: These days everyone has a home “office” but not everyone has the space for an actual stand-alone office. Which can cause major distributions to have a solid work-life balance when you can always see your work. Even if you have to have your set up in your room, get a room divider to hide your work away or tuck your desk in a corner of your living room, however, you can create a better out of sight/out of mind mindset.
14. Take advantage of company benefits: When you were job searching benefits were most likely something that you not only made sure to ask about but might have weighed on your decision to take a job or not. The better a company benefits the better retention and longevity of employees. However, a lot of people don’t even take advantage of these benefits-from gym passes to 401(k)’s to a generous vacation package. Use the benefits that you would otherwise lose!
15. Work to live don’t live to work: Having a satisfying career can definitely create a more satisfying life. However, that does not mean that you need to live your life to work. Your job will be filled by someone else and will keep going when you are gone. Really really dig down and look at what your job is giving you and what you are giving it. Work-life balance can only start with you first.
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Work-life balance does not have to be something that you wish you had, it is attainable. At the same time, it definitely takes effort and work. Finding your own work-life balance might be some trial and error and will not happen overnight. All of the little steps that you take, boundaries you set up will get you right where you need to be regardless of where that is!
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