We all talk about “balance” but what does that mean? In a world where we are connected 24 hours a day, information is immediately available, and almost as quickly as it is presented it becomes obsolete. Things move fast, and so do we. Is it possible to have down time amidst this frenetic backdrop? Is it something we should strive for?
The answer is simply, yes. When we take time to care for ourselves we are happier, healthier and (here’s the important one to all those over achievers) more productive. Research shows that happier employees equal more productivity and greater profits.
Here are a few basic themes that thought leaders agree are important to balancing your career with your personal life.
4 Simple Steps to Achieving Work Life Balance
Set and maintain your boundaries at work. This means if you need to leave on time, leave on time. If you have a day off don’t respond to work emails. Creating good habits for yourself is like training a puppy. Consistency is key. Keep yourself accountable for maintaining good boundaries and you will find that after a while you’re able to use your down time to disconnect and recharge.
What do you value most in your life? Chances are it extends beyond productivity or reaching professional goals. Surely your values also include family, friends, health or overall wellbeing. Make a list of what’s most important to you and see if your life reflects that. Be as intentional about your personal life as you are about your next meeting.
Your time is important. Prioritize what you need to accomplish for the best outcomes. This will require some analysis and organization at the beginning and end of each day. Make a list, use an app, or text a friend your agenda. When you organize and hold yourself accountable to your set tasks, you will accomplish more. Seems easy right? As easy as it seems, it is as easy to forget to do when you are grinding through your daily routine. Dedicate 10-15 minutes at the beginning and end of your day to planning your next moves.
Communicate your needs when it comes to work and life. Is it excruciating to drag yourself out of bed in order to get to the office by 9 but you have no problem staying until 8 or 9 at night? Check with your boss about adjusting your schedule. It will alleviate that “I’m late again” anxiety and will release the resentment that follows, knowing you are putting in more than 40 hours per week. Do you need to leave early on Thursdays to catch that spin class? Let the people in on what you need in order to be a more productive employee and they will respect you for it. In turn you will feel a sense of respect for yourself and higher ups.
It is also important to be honest about what you can give your loved ones. If it is difficult for you to make a 7 pm dinner, ask to push it back to a time that is more convenient for you. In an ideal world we could keep every commitment and appease every colleague, friend, and family member, but that’s not realistic. Try communicating your needs with your family or partners about work. If it’s a tough week ask for some extra support. Make plans to do something special when things lighten up and then stick to those plans. If people in your life understand what is going on for you they are far more apt to give you what you need.
Sacrifices is part of achieving greatness, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of your well-being.
About the Author: Jennifer Byxbee is a therapist and creative arts therapies supervisor in New York City. She has worked as an art therapist for over 10 years in a variety of settings. Art Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the creative process in order to promote self awareness, esteem and insight.