As the New Year approaches, it’s time to reflect on your work/life balance and what the last year looked like. It’s even more important if next year holds more office time than 2021.
With rapid technology advancements and COVID-19 induced connectiveness, you can literally be plugged in around the clock. With 24/7 access to the internet, work apps on our phones, and remote connections to the office, we’re no longer only working 9am-5pm each weekday.
This blurred line between work and home life has become one of the main contributing factors towards a poor work-life balance, which can result in unhealthy levels of stress, unhappiness, and reduced productivity.
As the end of the year quickly approaches it’s a good time to think about how you’ll reset your work-life balance, or improve it, for the year ahead.
Remote working does not mean ‘always working’
Many employees have found that working remotely during the pandemic has allowed a work/life balance that was more conducive to good mental health and lower stress. However, with many workplaces returning to in-office positions, this may need resetting. It may be quite a shock at first and you need some strategies to deal with it.
Even if you’re continuing to work remotely, many find that you’ve developed bad habits like messaging your team during dinner, checking emails when on the couch with your family, or putting out fires when your workday should be done.
So whether you’re back in the office cubicle, or still in the spare room, what’s to be done?
1) Always order your priorities
Think of your top five work priorities. Ask yourself, “If I could only focus on the most important task at work, what would it be?” – this is your top priority. Then think about what you would focus on next – this becomes your second priority and so on.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how few people genuinely do this.
2) Actually document your time
For one week track how much time you spend performing your priority tasks and how much you spend on the things that don’t align with these priorities.
For example, perhaps you wanted to spend time on a specific project but when you started tracking your activity you find you’re are spending too much time just responding to email requests or in unnecessary meetings. How can you eliminate these things from your day?
This is another technique that seems almost pedestrian, but ask yourself – have you ever actually done this’?
3) Respect your own time
Sometimes we forget the value of our own time. An emergency would most likely have to come up before you rescheduled an important work meeting. Give your own time the same respect.
When you are spending time with your family or friends, focus solely on them. When you are at lunch with friends or your child’s sports game, turn off your mobile phone, tablet and laptop and don’t think about work.
In a post pandemic world, it’s so easy to be ever-connected but studies show you’ll perform better and enjoy activities more if you give them all of your focus.
4) Do something you look forward to everyday
Whether it is playing tennis with a friend, walking the dog, kicking a ball with the kids, reading a book, or cooking up a storm, make sure you take time to do it every day. It doesn’t have to be a long time, start off with just half an hour.
Having small pleasures within reach can do wonders for your sense of purpose. This is why you work.
5) Get out of here!
In Australia we a receive four weeks of annual leave per year, so use them! You don’t have to go far. In fact, with current travel restrictions in place, you don’t have to go anywhere at all.
Go camping with the family, hire a van and go for a regional tour, go for a day trip to a national park, go to the movies or head to the beach. It’s important.
The purpose of a holiday is to reset. If you don’t reset your year, you may find one bleeds into the next and you can lose sight of where you start and work ends.
6) Ask for help
Many companies are encouraging employees to achieve a work-life balance. Tell your boss and colleagues you are seeking a better work-life balance and what your plans are to achieve it and ask them to respect it. They may surprise you. By being upfront about your needs, while respecting the expectations of your role, you’ll be met with equal respect.
The worst thing you can do is stay silent and burn yourself out. Nobody wins in that scenario.
7) Learn how to say “no”
You don’t have to say yes to every request that comes your way. You may feel you do, but you don’t’. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule or align with your priorities, don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on more. This is what a true work/life balance is all about.