The phrase “work-life balance” has found its way into countless employee handbooks and recruitment brochures, yet few people ever master the skill of balancing work with play.
If you find yourself cancelling social outings because you have to work, checking your work email at your kid’s soccer game or calling your boss from your beach vacation, you may be suffering from a lack of work-life balance.
How to Balance Work and Your Personal Life
As an entrepreneur, I have learned the importance of maintaining a personal life outside of work. While it can be difficult to achieve the right balance of work and personal time, especially as you advance in your career, it is possible.
Here is some of my favorite advice for being able to balance work and your personal life, and live your life outside of the office.
1) Stop Being Available 24/7
Getting into the habit of answering emails and phone calls outside of work hours can make colleagues expect immediate responses from you. It sends the impression you are always “on call,” which makes people continue to contact you after work hours.
This also gets you in the habit of checking your phone and email all of the time, which takes your focus away from that thing called your personal life.
While it may sound impossible at first, try to unplug at night and/or on weekends. For example, make it a rule to stop checking email after 8 p.m. every night. Be sure to let your coworkers and boss know how to get ahold of you in the event of a true work emergency.
Chances are your colleagues will respect your new contact rules, but if you are still getting bombarded with emails and calls outside of work hours, it may be time to have a chat with your manager or HR.
2) Don’t Bring Work Home with You
Some common advice given to people who have a hard time falling asleep is to stop watching TV or using their computer while in bed.
The thought behind this is that you need to train your body to associate your bed with sleep. By having too many “screens” in your bed, you are keeping your mind off of sleep.
The same concept can be applied to work. By keeping work out of your house, you will stop associating your home with work. Create a distinct separation between work and your personal life by leaving work behind at the office.
This may require taking your work email off of your phone, or at least turning off notifications once you leave the office each day.
It is unavoidable to burn the midnight oil from time to time. But if you need to work late, it may be better to stay in the office late than working at home until the wee hours of the morning.
3) Cultivate New Interests and Hobbies
The best way to create a better work-life balance is to actually have a life outside of work. This requires putting time and effort into interests other than your career and job industry – something which is surprisingly uncommon for workaholics.
Many people leave behind their hobbies once they enter the workforce. Finding time for your interests when you work all week can be difficult, but it’s important to make time for this.
Whether you want to learn how to play the guitar or take a woodworking class, think of what you could realistically commit to on a weekly or monthly basis. Then once you sign up, add it to your calendar…
4) Schedule Personal Activities on Your Calendar
Treat your personal time with the same respect as your work time by scheduling it on your calendar. Recurring “me time,” such as your morning workout or a Sunday golf game, is worthy of some calendar space.
This allows you to avoid filling up your work calendar and having zero time for yourself.
You don’t need to limit this practice to yourself, either.
Include important events for family and friends on your calendar. Schedule a recurring date night with your spouse to ensure you are making enough time for your relationship.
If you have kids, putting their extracurricular activities or sports practice on your calendar lets you plan your work schedule around their most important events.
5) Use All of Your Vacation Time
Many people view never taking any time off as a badge of honor and sign of their superior work ethic. But, vacation time is essential for avoiding burn out. Believe it or not, in some countries it is a requirement for managers to use all of their vacation time.
The idea behind this is that disconnecting from work for a few weeks allows you to return refreshed and focused.
When you do take a vacation, really disconnect from work:
- Leave your work laptop and phone at home.
- Turn on your “out of office” notification on your email.
- Let coworkers know which dates you are unavailable.
Hopefully, you will return to the office not only with a great tan, but also a fresh perspective and the energy to implement your new ideas.
Put Yourself First
If you take any advice from this post, it should be this: always put your health and personal relationships before your job. Work will always be there, but you can’t get back the time you didn’t spend on yourself and the people you care about.
How do you balance work and your personal life? Leave a comment below.