Let’s face it: 83% of US workers say they suffer from work-related stress. This is a staggering number – making the need for work-life balance strategies essential in this day and age.
There’s no easy way around it – stress is a major killer, and a seriously underappreciated factor in why more Americans are struggling with heart-related illnesses, strokes, and more. Rather than simply attribute the recent rise in burnouts to a new generation unable or unwilling to work, it’s important to recognize that times have indeed gotten tougher.
- Despite rising costs, wages are stagnant.
- The job market is as competitive as ever, with more people turning towards second jobs and extra gigs to make a little more on the side.
Work-Life Balance Strategies to Work Towards
Churning out all you can, as often as you can, is not a sustainable plan. For many, the idea of maintaining a better work-life balance seemingly isn’t in the cards. But while some of the problems with work-related stress can be blamed on poor management or a tough economy, it’s important to recognize that, ultimately, the best way to work on preventing burnout is to take the matter into your own hands, and examine how you spend your time.
Work-life strategies rely on training yourself to be more efficient with the hours you have and the work you’re given, while still making time for R&R, and your own wellbeing. Below are five crucial strategies that can drastically improve your work-life balance, and even help you get more work done in a shorter period.
1. Prioritize Your Daily Tasks
One of the best ways to achieve healthier work-life balance strategies is being more efficient with your time. While it might sound like time management is a skill that largely focuses on productivity, there’s a direct carryover to having more time for yourself.
Part of the reason people struggle to manage their work-life balance effectively is because they do not have a concrete idea of where and how they’re spending their time. Ideally, we should strive to strike a balance between how much time we spend on personal activities, and how much time we spend on work related tasks.
Whenever you’re about to set out for the day, keep in mind what you’ve got planned for the next 24 hours, and try to follow that plan. We can’t always dictate what direction life seems to take, so we have less capacity to plan for each and every day. Yet with a little time and effort, you can easily keep an overview of just how much time you’re spending on each of your daily tasks, and then you can determine what changes need to be made.
Consider what you should do less of and what you should do more of. Consider what changes you might make in order to better do the things you want to do. If you struggle to get a workout in, consider a different gym, or train somewhere much closer. Audit your time.
2. Set Regular Goals
Goals are critical for growth. When we stop having goals, we begin to stagnate, and that feeling becomes palpable very quickly. Not only does it feel bad to stagnate and feel like you aren’t going anywhere, but without a goal in mind, you will have a much harder time motivating yourself to get anything done.
Through simple, yet achievable and exciting goals, you can create a framework to help you get through all of your daily tasks with your goals in mind. Change the way you approach the day by framing it within the context of your current goal, whatever it may be.
3. Set Up and Use a Planner
You might already have a to-do list, and chances are that you’ve got a calendar with a few highlighted dates – but a planner is yet another step beyond both, providing you with the means to more accurately detail what you need to get done each and every day, and giving you a simple way to keep track of your tasks by itemizing and check listing them day after day.
Not only does this improve efficiency, but it’s crucial in your self-audit, especially if you want to identify where you could be improving on your work-life balance. It’s not as tedious as it sounds – a simple planner is quite easy to use, and it just takes a few minutes to sit down and consider what you’ll need to get done throughout the following next few days.
4. Create Strict Boundaries and Rules of Engagement
To create balance, there needs to be a significant difference between work and ‘life’. That means creating clear lines of separation between your work and the rest of your personal needs and assigning strict times when you are not to be contacted for anything work-related.
- Consider taking a break from any work-related emails, posts, and notes throughout the weekend.
- Make a rule of not being reachable past a certain hour mark in the day (unless it’s an emergency).
Set strict boundaries that allow you to rely on having a reliable down time every day, and create moments throughout the day where you allow yourself to focus entirely on your needs without a care for what you’ve got going on at the office (be it through an hour of yoga, your daily cooking rituals, or anything else that you might use to go into yourself and take a little break away from the world).
5. Learn What it Means to Work Smarter
While this is arguably the most open-ended and vague tip, the gist of it is that when most of us go to work, we leave a lot of time on the table. Try to follow the Pareto principle, and figure out which fifth of your day contributes to the bulk of your work – then maximize what you’re doing in that 20%.
Focusing on what you’re doing to maximize your efficiency in the most efficient part of your day can help you translate that progress into other parts of your work. If you write for a living, you might notice that on certain days, it becomes easy to sit down and write a basic blog post of about 1,000 words in about half an hour, while at other times, it might take you upwards of four hours to write a post with the same quality. This isn’t the difference between an off-the-cuff blog post and a well-researched article, but two similar tasks performed with vastly different rates of efficiency.
- Where’s the hang-up?
- What did you do differently?
- What stimulates you the most when you set up to work?
Learning to trim the fat and work smarter begins with analyzing yourself. Gather data on your own performance and try to observe what factors seem to influence you the most – then experiment. Do you do better work in bursts? Do you do better work during certain times of day? If you drink coffee, how many minutes does it take for the effects of the caffeine to help you with your tasks?
It might take some time to realize the fruits of this last point, but it’s inarguably the most important. Learning to analyze your own behavior and improve how you work can not only be incredibly fulfilling, but it allows you to hone in on the moments when you feel the most anxious. It also helps you figure out what it is that keeps you from being your best self in those vital moments.
Finally, an extra tip: always seek help from others. Whether it’s your family, your friends, your coworkers, your employers, your partner, or your therapist, don’t rely entirely on yourself for solutions and remember that you have others around you who can listen and help you with any problems you might have. Nurture those relationships and recognize when you truly need a hand.