These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Phones make you accessible around the clock and seems like more days and longer hours is the norm. In fact, a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual. To me balance comes in the form of making time. When I’m out of sync it’s caused by inability to release. The release for me is carefree physicality, the blend of fitness and play within my day. When the balance is upset by business it tends to disrupt all parts of my life. Far too many people seem to have no control over their time. They just do what they must…
So let’s list 5 steps to help you regain some balance:
Step 1: Track your time
For one week, track how you spend your time. How much time do you spend doing things that don’t matter to you? Or that don’t align with your priorities? Eliminate these things from your life, or delegate them.
Step 2: Get moving.
It’s hard to make time for exercise when you have a jam-packed schedule, but it may ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate.
Research shows exercise can help you to be more alert. Samantha Harris, a lawyer who works for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, goes to her gym 2 or 3 mornings a week before her family wakes up. “It’s been a real boost in terms of the way I feel for the rest of the day,” she says. “I feel like my head is clearer and I’ve had a little time to myself.”
Step 3: Unplug
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end. “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life. Brooks says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family.”
Step 4: Learn to Say “No.”
Remember that you can respectfully decline offers to run the PTA or serve on an extra committee at work. When you stop doing things out of guilt, you’ll find more time to focus on the activities that truly bring you joy.
Step 5: Schedule one thing you look forward to each day
Book some time to play tennis with a friend, go to an art museum, or have a massage. The activity doesn’t have to be time-consuming, complicated, or expensive.
Put aside an hour on your schedule to read a book, take a walk, or just to be alone.
Here’s a Quiz I found to determine your balance
Take Connell’s quiz below to find out if you’re living with a healthy work-life balance, or if your job (or your personal life) is taking over. Just answer “true” or “false” to the following questions, and use Connell’s scoring guide below to see where you stand.
__________ my life and work demands often interfere with each other.
__________ someone else has control over my work schedule.
__________ it’s a struggle to get time off from work when I need to.
__________ I spend a lot of time responding to personal emails and phone calls when I am at work.
__________ I don’t have time to exercise at least three times a week.
__________ I have had to give up most of my hobbies.
__________ I sleep less than 8 hours per night on a regular basis.
__________ I have frequent headaches and/or stomach aches.
__________ I catch myself making mistakes on the job increasingly often.
__________ it is important to check my phone and email when I leave work.
__________ it is hard to shift my focus of attention to the issue at hand.
__________ I find myself worrying a lot about how I’ll get everything done.
__________ I work more than 40 hours a week.
__________ it’s hard not to be irritable and lose my temper.
__________ I don’t have enough time to relax.
__________ I frequently have to deal with work emergencies when I am not there.
__________ I am tired all the time.
__________ my family and friends are routinely upset at me for not being available to them.
__________ I am often needed outside of work during work hours.
__________ I drink more than 3 cups or shots of caffeinated drinks per day.
If you answered…
Mostly true: You are in serious danger of incurring a stress-related illness or injury, having a major personal problem, or getting fired. You’re taking on too much and need to get more support either at work or at home, or both. You need to pay attention to this, because even if you can sustain highly stressful situations for a period of time, over the long term, you could incur irreversible damage to your body, such as a heart attack, hypertension, ulcer, endometriosis or other stress-related conditions.
Equally true and false: You may be at risk of burning the candle at both ends. You might want to examine your commitments, responsibilities and level of control over your life. There may be one or two simple tweaks you can make to ease up on your work/life conflicts, or it might be that a more extensive change is necessary. In either case, you should consider ways to take care of yourself better to maintain your resilience and get through tough times.
Mostly false: You have a good fit for work and life demands. You take care of yourself. You’re at low risk of burnout and are a good role model of work-life balance for others.