Work/Life Balance: How Do You Achieve It?
Work/Life Balance: How Do You Achieve It?
03/5/15 James Winston
Maintaining a work/life balance sounds great, but how do you achieve it? Where do you start?
Determine Your Priorities
First, take some time to reflect on what is most important to you. This could include family, friends, civic involvement, spirituality, exercise/health, sleep, finances, job, hobbies, household, recreation/entertainment, or other goals or areas of importance. After reflecting on what is most important in both your personal and professional life, write down the list of priorities that you have determined in order of importance.
Track Your Time
Second, create a picture of how you currently allocate your time to activities. One way to do this is to keep a time log for a week and track how much time you spend on each activity. Tracking your time could include some of the items of importance you noted, but could also include other areas that consume your time such as watching TV, social media, commuting, reading, chores, or other time takers or responsibilities. Understanding how you use your time or lose your time will be important to finding opportunities for a better work/life balance.
Get a Reality Check
Next, take your time log and figure out what percent of your time is spent on each activity. Then compare these percentages with your list of priorities. Are you allocating your time to correspond with your priorities? If not, start asking yourself what you would like to do differently. For example, you might notice that your health is at the top of your priority list, but you are allocating more time to watching TV than to exercise. To implement change, it is important to set goals related to integrating more exercise into your life.
Set New Goals
To start the change process, take your list of proposed changes and set concrete, measurable goals. For example, if you are setting a goal to exercise more, you might cut out one hour of TV a day and replace it with exercise. Or, you might hop on your treadmill while watching your favorite shows. You might set a goal of going to the gym for one hour after work to log 5 hours of exercise a week. Treat your activities like you would do a work meeting – schedule a block of time in your calendar for each activity. Do this exercise for other areas of your life that you want to allocate more time to because it is a priority and it is important to your overall well-being.
Take Care of You
People who tend to struggle with work/life balance feel overwhelmed and stressed. Determining what drains you and what refuels you can be a simple way of figuring out what you need less of and what you need more of. Eating the right foods, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep is essential for one’s health, energy level, concentration, mood, and productivity. Learning stress management will help you identify when stress has moved from productive (adequate levels of stress) to destructive (chronic levels of stress). When stress becomes unproductive and results in negative physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral effects (know your stress symptoms), it is important to take a time out and breathe, take a walk, do relaxation exercises, meditate, utilize your support network, or do something that gives you joy and can give you relief from the harmful effects of stress.
- Set aside 10-15 minutes at the beginning of each day (or the night before) to plan your daily activities that support your priorities and goals.
- Set boundaries to keep your goals. This might be informing those at work or at home that you will be assigning time to a certain activity. Having clear boundaries between work and home will be important to functioning well at both.
- Continue to review your time management skills to ensure that you are allocating the time you need to activities that are important to you. There are many apps you can download to help you with planning your activities.
When to Seek Help
If you are struggling to find a work/life balance, experiencing chronic stress, or are not functioning at home or at work like you would like, contact your EAP to provide assistance.