Achieving balance between your work and personal life can feel like an impossible task. If you’re like many young professionals today, it can seem like there's always a way to be more productive, answer that email just a hair faster, be just that much shinier to snag the promotion. The issue with this mentality is that work then threatens to take over your life.
Do you feel like you spend all your time either at work or at home stressing about work? Does spending quality time with friends take the back seat on your schedule? Have you decided not to work out because you “just don’t have the time”? Then it’s time to reclaim your free time and establish some work/life balance with these 10 easy tips.
01. Develop a Morning Routine
If your morning routine begins with hitting the snooze button and ends with rushing out the door, granola bar in hand, you're missing out on what could be your favorite part of the day. Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, looked at the habits of highly successful executives. She found that the majority had a productive morning routine. It included some form of self-care (exercising, journaling, working on a side project, etc.). Map out what your ideal morning looks like. Does it include 30 minutes of exercise? How about a leisurely breakfast while reading a new book? Set goals for making your morning routine a success—and something to look forward to each day. Pack your work bag and lunch the night before. Set your alarm an hour early. And be sure to get enough sleep!
02. Set Work Boundaries and Stick to Them
Always being “on call” is a big contributor to work-related stress because you never truly stop working. Decide how and when you will be reachable after office hours. Will you check your email three times a night, not at all, or somewhere between? Schedule specific time slots during work hours to check email throughout the day. It keeps you focused on the task at hand and not distracted by the latest email in your inbox. There’s no right answer, but discussing this with your boss will help you establish a workable solution. Remember, being available at all hours sends the message that you never stop working. And always being on call can lead to burnout.
03. Take Your Paid Time Off
Seventy-five percent of American workers don’t use all their paid vacation days, according to a Glassdoor survey. In some workplaces, the underlying assumption is that taking a vacation means you are replaceable. So instead of taking the time to invest in your well-being, you feel expected to work long hours and eschew vacation days. But the benefit of vacation days is well-documented and is a great way to reduce stress. Entrepreneur Seth Bannon explains the problem with not taking those hard-earned vacation days:
“Professional runners take long breaks between marathons. They make no excuses for this, and no one judges them for it, because everyone knows that rest and recuperation is an essential part of being a pro athlete. The same is true for entrepreneurs (and everyone, really)...It’s time we stopped making excuses for rest and relaxation.”
04. Take Up a Hobby
Life isn’t all about work. Consider taking up a hobby, whether that's a sport or something creative like photography. Sign up for classes, join a club, or partner with a friend for the goal of learning something new. One of the best ways to prevent burnout and keep stress at bay is to have a rewarding personal life. Hobbies are an essential ingredient.
05. Add Some Exercise to Your Day
Fitting exercise into your day can be a challenge, but you can start out slowly and increase the amount you exercise over time. Taking group classes, joining a running or biking club, enlisting the help of a workout buddy, or using commitment apps like Gym-Pact will help keep you motivated. Adding exercise to your day will reduce stress and provide countless other health benefits.
06. Eat Right
Skipping breakfast, snacking on a bag of chips for lunch, and nibbling on cupcakes from the break room is not a recipe for success. Studies have shown the importance of eating a protein-rich breakfast. Start off your morning with protein-rich foods like eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, and whole grains. You’ll stay full longer and be more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day. There are lots of greatrecipes out there but try these 4 easy swaps to a healthier breakfast for starters.
07. Connect With Friends
This sounds obvious, but how many times do we go two or three weeks without seeing our favorite people? Quality time with friends reduces stress. But too often it falls by the wayside when life gets busy. Schedule time to meet with friends monthly. Develop a ritual, get pedis, meet for drinks, or go on a long walk and explore your neighborhood.
08. Communicate With Your Boss and Coworkers
Feeling overwhelmed at work can be a significant contributor to stress. It’s important to talk to your boss when you're exhausted so that you can work toward a solution together. Check out these helpful tips for when you need to tell your boss you’re overloaded.
09. Sleep Right
We all know lack of sleep throws off work/life balance. New studies suggest that seven hours is the ideal amount of sleep per night. A nighttime routine can ensure you get the amount of sleep you need to feel energized and refreshed for the next day. Experts suggest going to bed at the same time every night and keeping your room in total darkness. Avoid screen time—that means no scrolling through Pinterest right before you close your eyes! Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” or leave it in another room and use an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up. A lavender-scented candle and reading before bed are relaxing additions to winding down for the night.
10. Stop Burnout Before It Happens
Burnout builds over time. Recognize the signs of burnout so that you will know when to put on the brakes. Irritability, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, a loss of appetite, decreased productiveness, and lack of motivation can all signal burnout. Prevent it by maintaing a healthy work/life balance. And if that means letting the laundry go for a couple days or having your groceries delivered to your door, then so be it. Your well-being is well worth it.
Incorporating even just one of these above tips will help you begin to reclaim balance and gain a healthier perspective on life.