I have a tendency to travel through life from the front seat of a very expensive sports car: too fast and strict tunnel vision on the road ahead. While fast and focused can be great qualities to have when the occasion calls for it, it sometimes means missing everything else going on in the periphery. Success in my career has always been a top priority of mine. But unfortunately, it has too often become THE priority of mine, causing my personal life to suffer. Recently I took a position that requires me to be away from home for long hours (and sometimes days) at a time. After a few weeks of my new routine, I knew that a change was needed in order to prevent burn out in both my career and home life. My new approach has helped me obtain a work life balance that I previously never thought possible. If you can relate to the constant daily grind that I refer to, than perhaps these tips can also help you achieve a more balanced lifestyle.
First it is important to understand where this feeling of “burn out” comes from. Usually, our lives are too consumed with work. You wake up, go to work, return home, go to sleep, and do it all over again. It sounds more like a shampoo routine than a way of life: apply, rinse, and repeat for desired results. I am well aware that at times, this routine is necessary. But it is also all too easy to get stuck in this toxic cycle, resulting in a disruption of your work life balance. We also live in a tech-charged world, constantly surrounded by digital stimulation that makes it difficult to turn our minds off. As a result, our friends, family and self often take a backseat to our career.
So what can we do to change it? Honestly, a lot. With only 4 small changes in my routine, I have been able to achieve a better work life balance. What I’ve found to work:
- Out-of-office. When I leave the office on Friday, I activate my out-of-office reply until Monday at 8am. This simple change takes only a minute, but will save you much more when you do not feel the need to respond to each and every message that floods your inbox throughout the weekend. It will also give you more time to focus on the “urgent” emails that may still pop up from time to time, if needed. I have also noticed that by doing this, you can “train” those sending you messages on the weekend that you are off, and will respond to all non-emergent matters when the work week resumes. Over time, this can drastically cut down on the number of emails you receive during your “off” times.
- Schedule personal time. Just as you fill your planner with meetings and work events, do the same for your personal stuff. Setup dates with your significant other, friends and family ahead of time to ensure that both you and they get this much needed time. Consider setting up a standing appointment for “girl time”, date night, or yoga class once a week. By simply penciling in these events in my calendar, I’ve been able to guarantee that these important people in my life get the time they deserve.
- Plan your vacations in advance. Similar to your personal time, scheduling your time off in advance will prevent you from missing the R&R you need to be productive. It feels like it’s never a “good” time to take time away, so blocking out the weeks in advance will ensure that you take them. I went almost two years without taking a vacation. I now have my getaways planned for the next 8 months, giving me something to look forward to.
- Unplug from technology. On Sundays between 9am and 5pm, I leave my iPhone on my nightstand, turn off the news channel, and forbid myself to check my email and social media accounts. I’ll admit it was not easy at first. But now, I look forward to these tech-free hours. Instead of spending countless hours glued to my phone, I now reach for a book or take the dogs to the park. There is an amazing feeling of freedom that comes from having the digital shackles removed, if only for a few hours.
Achieving work life balance can be difficult, but not impossible. It may feel unnatural at the beginning, but like everything else, you will settle in to a routine over time. My career is still incredibly important to me, but now I just have a better handle on it. Being burnt out will require you to spend much more time on otherwise simple tasks, and bring with it a whole slew of anxiety. Make sure you are taking the time for YOU, and the people/things that you value. The work will still be there on Monday morning, but now, you will be more refreshed to tackle it.
Do you struggle with maintaining a healthy work life balance? What methods do you use to achieve it?