Summary: In our fourth article of this series, I will share 20 ideas for how to achieve work life balance. These are realistic, helpful and simple ideas to improve balance and live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.
In part one of our Achieving Work Life Balance series, I provided tips on how to decrease and manage stress, both at work and home. Also discussed is the impact of work life balance on your mental and physical health.
While some of these ideas may seem obvious, it’s easy to lose sight of priorities and balance during the daily hustle of life. I hope you will not only leave with some new ideas but also a renewed dedication to the things that matter the most to us.
20 Ideas For How to Achieve Work Life Balance
Before I jump into these 20 ideas for achieving work life balance, take a moment to evaluate yourself. Write down all of your obligations, responsibilities, demands, interests, etc. Anything that you spend time consistently doing. This should give you a good idea of how you’re spending your time and maybe explain why your work and life feel out of balance.
Next, apply the ideas suggested below to re-evaluate yourself and decide where you could improve and achieve a more balanced and low-stress life.
1. Learn Your Employers Policies
One of the most under-utilized resources that employees don’t take advantage of are benefits offered by employers. There’s a growing number of companies who offer benefits or perks to encourage work life balance. Perks can vary from the option to work remotely a couple days a week, or as needed. Or paid paternity leave, more vacation and sick days, free childcare, etc.
Employers are learning how important it is for their employees to have balance. After all, it increases productivity and overall workplace happiness.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
I don’t know about you, but one of my worst habits is living inside my head. What I mean by that is keeping all of my worries, stress, and goals to myself. All this does is cause more stress, worry and loss of sleep over a brain I can’t turn off.
Ironically, my bachelor’s degree is in Communications. And while I’ve learned that I’m an internal processor, I’m still learning how to communicate and ask for help. Or to verbalize your goals to your partner and friends so that you’re held accountable and have a support system cheering you on.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
I know a lot of people like to talk about how bad cell phones are and how we’re addicted to our screens. While that may be true to a point, there’s also ways to utilize your cell phone and technology to make your life easier.
There are so many different apps to help with organization, reminders, finance, budgeting, investing, you name it. We use technology in the workplace to improve efficiency, communication and organization, so why wouldn’t we use it in our personal lives as well?
A few apps I use and like are:
- For budgeting: EveryDollar, Mint, Acorns
- For productivity: EverNote, Wunderlust,
- For travel: TripIt
- For fitness: MyFitnessPal, Jefit, ClassPass
- For time management: Toggl, Workflow, Shift, Timely
4. Work From Home
If your job offers the option to work remotely, take advantage of it! If you’re not sure if they do, it can’t hurt to ask. Consider asking to work a day or two a week from home, or every other Friday. If you’re a trusted, hard-working employee, chances are your bosses would be open to the idea. At the very least, it can’t hurt to ask. Creating some freedom and flexibility with your schedule will make a huge difference in your pursuit of work life balance.
5. Don’t Strive for Perfection
Trying to achieve work life balance as a perfectionist is impossible. It’s basically setting yourself up to fail. If you have a tendency to spend a ton of time on a single project in an attempt for perfection, it’s going to be very difficult to establish any sort of balance. Sometimes it’s better to say, “good enough” and move on than to work toward an unattainable goal. Perfection is perceived, not defined, so let it go and make your life easier.
6. Take Charge of Your Private Time
You’re never going to “find time” for yourself. The trick here is to make your private or personal time non-negotiable. Making time for yourself is one of the best things you can do to create balance in your life. Time for yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a priority. By scheduling that time and sticking to it, you’ll likely be more productive and less stressed across the board.
7. Use Your Strengths (and Outsource the Rest)
It’s okay to admit that we can’t do it all. We each have different strengths and differences. Play to your strengths and recognize where you’re falling short. Even if you prefer to do everything yourself, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to or should.
If you’re finding it hard to keep up with household chores or tidying up clutter in general, it might be time to consider some extra help If you can afford it, outsource a cleaning service once or twice a month and cross that task off your never-ending to-do list.
Or maybe you’re like me and stress over doing your taxes every year. A couple years ago, I decided it wasn’t worth the stress and was referred to a CPA. It has been one of the best financial and personal decisions I’ve ever made. Now all I have to do is send my tax documents over and, for a small fee, take that added stress and worry off my plate. Plus, I save so much time that it’s worth every penny.
8. Prioritize Prioritize Prioritize
I’ve found that people like to throw around the term ‘prioritize’ but aren’t actually very good at it themselves. One strategy that’s helped me learn to prioritize well is putting everything on your to-do list into four categories.
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
By creating these four buckets, you can easily dump each task into a category and get to work on the most urgent and important to-do’s first. I know I have a tendency to start on easier tasks first and then tackle the more difficult ones later. This strategy helps me prioritize without much thought and take care of the important stuff first. I think you’ll find that crossing off important tasks first will give you momentum to work through everything else on your list.
9. Know Your Peaks and Valleys
I am not a morning person. I’ll be the first to admit it. The problem is, I actually love mornings. When I can get up early and get an hour of work in before heading to the gym, my entire day looks and feels differently. I’m more productive and efficient and working out actually improves my ability to focus for longer periods of time.
I also know that right around 3PM, my energy, drive and brain power start to nosedive. Because I know that afternoons are my least productive time of the day, I make an effort to take a break around that time and do something mindless or go for a walk outside. Then I can go back to work and be twice as productive.
10. Set Work Hours (and Stick to Them)
Do you ever feel like your work is never done? The truth is, “work” will never really be done. Of course, it’s important to finish the urgent and important tasks. However, if you’re consistently finding yourself working overtime or staying late, it’s time to set a cut off point.
Having a flexible schedule is great. Working remotely can be great too. Having said that, it’s still important to set your working hours and stick to them. Working longer, doesn’t always mean working harder. Instead, be efficient with your time during work hours and leave lower priority items for tomorrow.
11. Tailor Your Workspace to You
Did you know that clutter affects our brain and our work? According to Harvard Business Review, research has shown that, “…our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”
Additionally, a study found, “Individuals who felt overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in their homes were more likely to procrastinate.”
12. Make Exercise Non-Negotiable
For me, making time to exercise every day is a non-negotiable. Not only for my physical health but for my mental health as well. If you’re not into going to the gym, find other ways to be active. Go for a walk or run outside. Go biking with friends. Play a sport or do an activity you enjoy. Exercise doesn’t have to be something that you dread. Find something you like nd make the time for it.
13. Fight the Time Suck
We all get lost in “time-sucking” activities and projects. But with time as precious as it is, we can’t afford to lose track of how we’re spending our time. Start by tracking your time doing different tasks. Then you’ll be able to look back and see how you’re spending your time and where you can readjust for higher priorities. A great time tracking app is Toggl (link above).
14. Get Out
For those of us who work in front of a screen all day, it’s even more important to get out! When I say, “get out” I’m talking about meeting up with friends after work for a hike or walk in the park. Or going out with someone for a drink. Or taking yourself out to a movie. Whatever your definition of “get out” is, make time for it and achieve that work life balance.
15. Manage Your Mind
One result that stress can bring is the inability to manage your mind. Feeling overwhelmed by the stressors of life causes many of us to shut down and procrastinate. It’s difficult to think clearly and logically when things are building up and seem impossible to get a handle on.
Managing your mind and keeping your thoughts in check will help you stay organized and on top of both work and life. Negative thoughts lead to negativity and pessimism. Positive thoughts lead to positivity and optimism. We can’t control everything, but we can absolutely control our mind. It just takes a little practice.
16. Set Boundaries and Respect Boundaries
Achieving work life balance is hard. It’s even harder if you’re a “yes person”. While everyone likes someone who says yes all the time, chances are it’s coming at a cost to that individual. If you only take one thought away from reading this article, I hope it’s this: learn to say no.
17. Engage Instead of Multi-Tasking
Research shows that the brain is actually not very good and doing multiple tasks at one time. Multiple researchers actually say that multitasking reduces productivity by up to 40 percent.
An article about multitasking by VeryWellMind says, “It might seem like you are getting multiple things done at the same time, but what you are really doing is shifting your attention and focus from one thing to the next. Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow you down.”
Forget multitasking. Instead, engage in your work and personal relationships with your full attention.
18. Schedule Something to Look Forward to Everyday
This one has been a game changer for me. Have you ever heard of the “Sunday night blues”? If not, it’s basically getting bummed out on Sunday night, looking down the barrel of another work week.
Sometimes, the mundane day-to-day tasks can get to you. Life shouldn’t feel like GroundHog’s Day. Put something on the calendar that you can look forward to every single day. Even if it’s just 20 minutes of reading a book, watching an episode of your favorite TV show, or dinner with an old friend, schedule it.
I remember when I worked at a job that required me to be there at 5AM. If you’re a morning person, 5AM might not sound like no big deal. But to me, it felt like a struggle every. single. morning. But, to keep my sanity when my 4:15AM alarm went off and I stumbled out of bed, I knew I had something to look forward to later that day… a nap!
19. Take That Vacation!
Coming from a person who loves to travel, it’s still hard for me to fathom why people don’t use all of their vacation days. A nickname for the U.S. is, “no vacation nation”. And in a recent study by Kimble, almost half of American employees did not use all of their vacation days last year.
It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money to take that vacation. It could even be a simple weekend camping trip up the canyon. Or try a staycation and explore new places in your own city. The point is, take a vacation from your life. Break up the mundane and get out there.
Finally, as with any work in progress, it’s important to re-evaluate along the way. Make sure you are not letting certain areas of your life slip. It’s easy to fall back into old habits or tendencies, forget our boundaries and mix up our priorities. Keep yourself on track and in check to keep that balancing act going.
Hopefully, you’ve gathered some ideas on how to achieve work life balance. Congrats! You’ve completed the first step. Now it’s time to take these ideas and apply them to your own life. You’re already well on your way to a more balanced life. Our time is valuable. Make sure you’re using it on things that are valuable to you.