8 Tips for a Work/Life Balance


It is a Saturday teatime - Having just walked my dog, I am thinking a great opportunity to write my blog page on the importance of having a work life balance.  I immediately felt a twinge of guilt because My work plan for next week hasnt been done yet.  I didnt do it at the end of Friday due to being on a telecon.  I resisted against my perfectiionist nature with the opinion that nothing is going to change between now and Monday morning, so Monday morning will have to be fine.

Where is the line between conscientious and obsessive?  I have learnt how important it is to know where that line is.  would it be true to say "the harder you work, the more you will acheive"?  of course it would - its not rocket science.  The harder you work the more you will acheive - very true.   However, it can be counterproductive if you allow yourself to become exhausted and burnt out.  It is so important, especially the pressures we are under at the moment, to maintain a work life balance.   Lets be realistic here - the majority of us unfortunate souls need to work to pay the bills, give us the lifestyle we desire and give us a sense of purpose. In the current economic climate compared to years gone by,  work pressures are continuing to increase.  Every job from cleaning to air traffic control has targets to meet.

The degree of work life balance is different from one person to the next.  This depends on age,priorities etc.  Research suggests that a younger person's priorities are building a life for their family - increasing pressure by climbing the corporate ladder.  Whereas older people in their 50s and 60s are more about doing something meaningful with their lives.  Another factor is the type of work you do and where your base is.  In my job (a therapy specialist for a pharmaceutical company) my base is at home.  Therefore a work\life balance is something I have to work at and it is difficult which is why I wanted to research it.  Having home as your base makes it difficult to switch off and shift from work to personal.  It is not always about physically working in personal time, it is struggling to switch off mentally.  Constantly thinking  about what needs to be done and not having that switch off mentality.  I have a switch off time of 5.30 when My laptop and ipad are put on charge and left until the morning.  There are times when I succumb to the pressures and open my laptop but try my best not to.

It is essential with the pressures of today you allow time to unwind and switch off or eventually you will be at risk of a breakdown, causing yourself physical, emotional and financial problems.  It is extremely crucial employers recognise this and build work/life balance into their visions and values.  A happy workforce results in increased productivity.  Fact.

Here are some tips which have helped me - they may help you find a balance that is right for you.

  1. Let go of Perfectionism - Perfectionism at home I like! I am a visual person so I like things to look neat and I have a place for everything.  I can handle that but I have found being a perfectionist at work is exhausting - it drains the fuck out of me!  I have learnt too much perfectionism at work will give you a breakdown but just the right amount will lead to success.  A perfectionist at work has extremely high standards and has a continuous drive for success.  Maintaining this high standard has a tendancy to burn a person out so draw a line in the sand between obsessive and conscientious.  You are highly unlikely to be finished for a spelling mistake here and there.  The good thing about a perfectionist is that they are super organised so it is not all bad.  In terms of work life management - spend less time on making everything perfect and more time concentrating on priorities - in terms of deadlines, complete the task and do not leave it until the last minute, prioritise and keep it simple.
  2. Time Management -  Time management is so important to making sure your work life balance is something you expereince on a day to day basis.  It starts in the evening planning your early rise in the morning.  It is crucial to make sure you use your time efficiently.  Dont let work spill into your personal time and vice versa.  Become effective at planning.  Plan your day - week - month.  Plan when work finishes and home starts. Prioritise your time with a list of urgent and non urgent tasks. Know what time of the day you work more effectively and plan to do your most tiresome projects at that time.  There are plenty of online tools to help you plan - it depends on what degree of planning you need. Take time to make time ! but make time for something you love 
  3. Play to your strengths - Dont try to be the best at everything.  Focus on your strengths and outsource what you are not so good at.  For instance if your strengths are analytical then offer to do the sales figures in exchange for some one else taking over something you are not so go at.
  4. Get better at emails - Lets face it emails are a pain in the arse but the worst thing you can do is make your emails the last thing you do.  I have done this and because it is the last thing you are doing before slipping into home life, you rush through them, skipping what you think are unimportant, missing crucial information leading to missing deadlines, just wanting to get to the end.  Allocate some time in your day and dedicate it to emails.  Check through in the morning to make sure there is nothing urgent then take an hour a day to go through in detail, dealing with each one as you come to it.  Have folders on your desktop for important information. Being a perfectionist, I have to see the bottom of my emails at all times - if I let them build up, I feel overwhelmed which forces me to do them at stupid o'clock in the evening.  
  5. Take time for yourself - Give yourself a break - plan to do something in your personal time that you enjoy which will encourage you to finish up what work you need to get completed in work time.  You need to wind down after being in a pressured environment by doing something that has a calming influence over you. Whether it is playing sport, socialising with friends, family time or curling up on the sofa watching TV. Your choice and dont feel guilty for it.  This will put you in an ideal state of mind the next working day.
  6. Dont procrastinate - Stop trying to put off doing something because you cant be bothered or your not sure how to do it or for fear of failure.  Tackle it head on - if you are not sure what to do, ask someone.  Dont fear failure.  False Evidence Appearing Real. Failure is a learning experience.  The more you procrastinate - the pressure will build as you become overwhelmed with looming deadlines and evenings become dedicated to catching up in a resentful state of mind, producing substandard work. 
  7. Learn how to say no  -  Dont say yes to everything.  If you are asked to do something, think about it realistically.  When are you able to do this.  If you are set a deadline dont be afraid to push back if it is not realistic.  Dont refuse to do it but suggest a more realistic timeframe with a genuine reason why.
  8. Eat and sleep healthy - It goes without saying that when we are eating healthy our energy levels are in a more productive state.  This would give you the stamina and motivation to keep going through the day, completing what you need to get done and preventing work time spilling into personal time.  Retire to bed at a reasonable time so you can rise early.  There is nothing worse than oversleeping and getting off to a bad start.  You will spend the day chasing your tail.  

Hope these simple tips have been some help to you.  It really is not complicated and genuinely they are changes that I have made myself and it is working.  The best advice I can give is do not, if possible, allow yourself to get behind with emails and admin.  These are the killers for forcing you to work in the evening.  A friend of mine, a mother of 3 school children and a manager at an insurance company told me yesterday, she had been in meetings for the past 3 days and her emails were in the 100s.  She explained to her boss how she needed to fit some time in the next day to deal with them.  I was shocked when she told me that her boss advised her to have her tea and spend from 8pm to 10pm doing the emails.  My friend replied "would you allow me to bring my children into work for 2 hours?"  "absolutely not" was the reply.