Creating a harmony between professional and personal commitments is arguably one of the most significant challenges facing each and every one of us in our working lives. The work/life balance is a much discussed topic, and deservedly so, but how good are we at getting the balance right, and how can we take steps to improve the quality of both our personal and working lives? Below are some tips on how to achieve a better work/life balance.
Keep a diary
For many of us, there is an overwhelming sensation that we simply do not have enough time at our disposal to fulfil all our commitments. In this scenario, it can be very useful to start detailing exactly what it is that takes up so much of your time in an average week. Keep a diary and try logging all the things you do, and the time you spend doing them. It’s only when you have a clear view of how your time and energies are split that you will be able to make adjustments for the better.
Keep your communications in check
With the advent of mobile phones, PDA’s and Blackberrys, we have entered an age where we are virtually always on call. This only adds to the sensation of a poor work/life balance, because the two are merging, and your ability to receive phone calls, texts and emails at all hours can have a detrimental effect on your quality of life. Setting up email filters, and even turning off your phone or PDA at certain times during the week can have a tremendously liberating effect, and reminds you that there is a division between work and life.
Always estimate upwards
One of the big problems for time-deprived professionals is that they can get locked in a situation where they risk over-promising and under-delivering in both their personal and professional lives. If you’ve been keeping a diary for a week, you’ll know how long certain tasks take, and so you can start to take control of this time by building contingency into every task you perform, so it doesn’t feel like it’s being undertaken at breakneck speed.
Invest in your down time
One of the strongest contributing factors to a sensation of a poor work/life balance is the lack of eventfulness in your personal life. Perhaps you feel you are too tired from working to do anything apart from rest, but a bit of investment in your personal life greatly adjusts the work/life balance in your favour. Take your partner out for a surprise romantic date, start a new hobby or get a bit more exercise: you’ll be amazed how your priorities can shift and the feeling of greater balance can be restored.
Focus on outcomes, not challenges
In theory at least, everything that you do in your personal and professional life is undertaken because you are choosing to do it. Working for a company is a choice you have made because of the economic social and professional benefits that it offers, for example. By looking at your ultimate, overall ambitions in life (such as getting promoted, raising a family or working more flexible hours), you will understand how far you have travelled towards them, and how far you still need to go. In this way, you can stop yourself getting bogged down in the day-to-day trivia that can lead to the perception of a poor work/life balance.
Find a New Job
For whatever reason, you might find that the stress involved within your current job is having a sustained negative impact on your life and stress levels. This can often happen if professionals have been working in the same role for an extended period. Remember that there are a great many opportunities out there for you to work in companies that may use an approach that is more suitable for you. If this sounds like you, why not have an informal chat with a Regan & Dean Consultant about what other opportunities exist within your chosen field?
Find a New Career
The plain truth is that there are some professions that are more innately stressful and time consuming than others. If you think that your work/life balance is being upset by the career that you’ve chosen rather than the specific job you’re in then perhaps it’s time to look at branching out into a different, perhaps related field.
Perfection is fundamentally flawed
It is a practical impossibility to enjoy a perfect work life/balance at all times. Whilst you can take many measures to improve your own quality of life, it’s important to remember that the work/life balance is exactly that: a balancing act that requires regular attention if you are to get the mix right and enjoy the best of both worlds. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t feel like they’re going your way, but instead focus on a few small changes at a time, and you’ll soon find out that they add up to a happier life.