You hear it all the time; we need more work-life balance. Having a balanced work and leisure life is important to our overall health and wellbeing. Whether you are a busy-bee due to anxiety or some other underlying issue or maybe you have trouble with boundaries, that’s preventing you from having this balance, this blog post is for you!
First of all, getting to the bottom of the issue could be a good start. If you have issues with boundaries in the workplace, you may not even know it. Do you answer a text after hours? Similarly, do you hop on the computer to edit something at 10 p.m. because your supervisor sends you a panicked email? These are boundary issues. In today’s world, some industries expect responses 24 hours a day, which isn’t healthy.
Setting Boundaries for Balance
As we noted in our post about boundaries. Setting boundaries on your emotional bandwidth, your time, your money, or ability to “always say yes” are important. As a trauma response, we often see folks turn into “people pleasers” or “fawns” who always say yes to avoid conflict. This is unhealthy and can lead to resentment down the line — especially if the tone is set for your boundaries to constantly be pushed.
It’s time to say “no” once in a while and take care of yourself! As a result, your brain will thank you because you will be:
- Less stressed and tired
- More in control of your time
- Better able to make decisions and meet commitments
- More Healthy
- Available for your family, friends and “enjoyable” activities
How to Fix Your Work-Life Balance
So, you’ve discovered that your work-life balance is lacking. How do you fix it? How do you make the time for self-care, your friends, your family or above all, doing things that you enjoy without having to justify them? Here are some tips!
Shut It Down
We are addicted to our cell phones, computers, and tablets. Consequently, it’s hard to turn them off when we are in the midst of a 24/7 news cycle and dealing with FOMO (fear of missing out) due to social media. But this technology addiction is changing our brains. Hence, people have trouble sitting with boredom. This zaps creativity, according to Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee, who was recently on Jonathan van Ness’ podcast Getting Curious with JVN.
She also discusses micro-cyber-terrorism: “I see it as the small ways in which we are fed digitally altered images of bodies or filters on Instagram. The “highlight reel” effect hurts us in the long-run because of how we compare ourselves. Comparison is absolutely a thief of joy. Shut it down. Put your phone away while you are out with friends or family. Don’t text during your child’s baseball game. Give yourself some much-needed unplugged time and appreciate the people and things around you!
If you’d like to read more about what technology is doing to our brains, I highly recommend Dr. Doreen’s book Deviced!
Schedule Out Activities in Advance
Some people need to schedule coffee with a friend or take a trip to the gym. Therefore, if you keep a calendar for work, you can keep a calendar for free-time and make sure you are scheduling in plenty of it. Even more if you are a freelancer who is juggling multiple clients, or a single parent juggling children and work, this can be incredibly helpful.
When you are working for yourself, people often think you don’t get to have a set 9-5. This is wrong! You can set whatever “office hours” you need, to hold boundaries on your time and give yourself free time for that work-life balance.
Similarly, for parents who are working full time and caretaking full time, this can become even more like a balancing act. So, if you have a good idea of what your schedule looks like in advance, then you can ensure you have time for you, as well as your work and your family.
What does self-care look like for you? Going to walk dogs at the local shelter? Making sure you get to therapy? Playing a game with your child? These are all important things that should go on your calendar!
Even if it’s only for five minutes a day, meditation can greatly improve your stress and anxiety. It’s also an ideal way to take a step away from technology and work for a moment. There are plenty of apps that can help lead meditations for you like Simple Habit, Calm, and Head Space. Furthermore, meditation is proven to change the grey space in our brain, which can help with anxiety and depression — especially if said anxiety or depression is caused from not having a work-life balance!
Change your brain, change your life. According to Bryan Robinson, author of the book Chained to the Desk, the more you meditate, the more you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, meditation “calms everything down, (and) not just in the moment. Over time you start to notice that in your life, your parasympathetic nervous system will start to trump your sympathetic nervous system.”
If you’d like a place to help start outside of apps, PopSugar recently published a list of chill or meditative mixes on YouTube. Use them to sleep or meditate or as background for reading a book — anything to get you out of that technology loop.
For more information on an introduction to meditation, check out my blog post! It discusses exactly how meditation can and will make you happier.
Use SMART Goals
Now, we have gone over some advice already, but none of it will be useful without SMART goals. Even more, to make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time-bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitve).
This is to say: Do not plan 60 minutes of meditation your first go-around. Likewise, don’t plan to become a Crossfit expert if you haven’t exercised consistently in a while. These things will almost absolutely lead to failure. However, if you begin with “I will meditate for five minutes three times this week” or “I will exercise for 30 minutes twice a week for six months,” those are SMART goals.
People often fail their New Year’s Resolutions for the very reason that they don’t set attainable or realistic goals for themselves. Make sure you can achieve the goals you set at first, because if you set yourself up for failure, you will most likely rebound back into work or technology — the things that you are trying to balance out.
Stop Comparing Yourself
As noted earlier: comparison is the thief of joy. So, if you see other people working around the clock, that does not mean you are required to do so. You need to do what is right and healthy for you. Besides, not everything is how it seems on social media, which is more of a highlight reel. Most people generally won’t document when they are stressed to the brim or meditating or dealing with a child’s temper tantrum or taking an actual break from work. As a result, all you see is the hustle or what they want you to see. In this day and age, the perception has become reality and we need to squash that idea.
Try to post things on your social media without caring about how many likes you get. See how that makes you feel.
Don’t try for someone else’s “beach body.” Even more, don’t try to get the number of someone else’s likes on Instagram. Most importantly, don’t create competition for the sake of it. Create your art or exercise because it’s good for your health; remind yourself that numbers do not matter.
Be honest. How many browser tabs do you have open right now? Multitasking makes you think you’re getting more done, but research from the American Psychological Association has shown it reduces productivity by as much as 40%. That isn’t just a little. Because the rise of social media, technology, and other distractions that mask as efficiency, most of us aren’t being as task-oriented as we could be.
Instead, break each project into time-bound tasks and spend focused amounts of time completing each element. Make lists if you need to! If you need help, click here to learn how to better prioritize the tasks that you have daily or need collaboration on from others. Streamlining things will help you be more efficient and give you more balance!
Now close those 15 tabs in your browser and slowly back away from the computer…
Having a Balanced Work-Life is Worth It
Creating work-life balance and ensuring you have time for yourself, your hobbies, your family and friends is not easy. However, if you take it day by day, one SMART goal at a time, you will get there and be better off for it. Think of it this way: if you don’t have good or steady mental health coping mechanisms to separate work from life, how can you possibly do your best while working? Above all, time off is crucial for everything in your life. Good luck and be strong!