Striking a healthy work-life balance is a difficult challenge even in the best of times, but it is all the more daunting and necessary during times of economic stagnation and uncertainty. The Great Recession, with its subsequent cutbacks and layoffs, has left many employees putting in longer hours and working harder than ever.
Worried for their jobs, workers are intent on proving they are an indispensable part of the team. Vice President, Collabera India Business, Shibani Patel adds “Gen-Next felicitated with portable devices has enforced 24 hours, responsive TAT within companies. They now can deliver on projects adhering global timelines. Today, be it at office or home – employees are available to discuss work all stakeholders around the clock.”
The coupling of increased workloads with technology that keeps us constantly connected to our jobs finds an increasing number of workers feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and depleted. In contrast, numerous studies have shown the most productive employees are well-rounded professionals with full and well-balanced lives — both in and out of the workplace.
Likewise, the most successful companies are those that foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity. Today work-life balance ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes — second only to compensation, and workers who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than employees who feel overworked.
Steps to a Work-Life Balance
Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires managing our professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep our energy flowing, our minds and bodies healthy and our whole selves happy and content. It means giving due attention to all of the things that enrich and fulfill us including work and career, health and fitness, family and relationships, spirituality, community service, hobbies and passions, intellectual stimulation, rest and recreation.
1. Track Your Time
Analyzing your present situation is the beginning step in achieving a balanced life. Keep a time log of everything you do for one week, including work-related and personal activities. This data will serve as an eye-opener, helping you understand how you are using — and where you are losing — your time.
2. Determine Your Priorities
Spend some time seriously reflecting on what is most important to you, and make a list of your top priorities at work and at home. Then analyze your time audit by asking yourself these key questions: What do I need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?
3. Set Specific Goals
Take your list of priorities and turn them into concrete and measurable goals. Block time into your schedule for activities just like you would for an important meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
4. Schedule Scrupulously
Successful people plan their work and then work their plan. You have one life, so have one time planner. Whether paper or electronic, this is the vehicle by which you turn your priorities and goals into reality. Set aside 10 to 20 minutes at the beginning of each day (or the night before) to plan your tasks and activities for the day and evening ahead.
5. Establish Boundaries
Set fair and realistic limits on what you
will and will not do both at work and at home.
Clearly communicate these boundaries to your supervisor, coworkers, partner and family. For instance, you might commit to not working late on certain days unless there is a crisis. Additionally, set aside a time at home during which you will not check or respond to work-related emails or voice mails.
6. Take Care of Your Health
Your health should always be your No. 1 priority. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work life and your personal life will suffer. Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals (especially breakfast), exercise at least three times per week and sleep a minimum of seven hours per night.
While you may not think you have time to add exercise and extra sleep to your jam-packed schedule, these practices relieve stress, raise your energy level, increase your stamina, improve your mental clarity, boost your immune system, and make you a happier, more engaged, and more productive person. Additionally, refrain from the excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to relieve stress. These substances only tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause even more problems.
7. Nurture Your Family/Relationships
Relationships with family, friends, and loved ones are, by far, the greatest source of inner satisfaction. If your job or career is damaging your personal relationships, both areas will ultimately suffer. Sure there will be days when you will need to work overtime. The issue becomes problematic when these days become the rule, not the exception. Top CXO’s and Billionaires have noticed – by making your relationships a priority, your productivity and effectiveness on the job will actually increase.
8. Work Smarter Not Harder
Using time more efficiently is an important skill that everyone from the receptionist to the CEO can learn. Adopting the right combination of time-management practices can cut stress and save you up to an hour a day. This can include the use of technology to become more organized, grouping emails and voice messages, avoiding procrastination and learning to say “No”.
Try as we all may, work-life balance isn’t an exact science. Each person must find his or her own way of combining career, relationships, and personal care into an integrated whole. What is right for you now will likely change as new circumstances arise, so periodically review your situation and adjust accordingly.
Don’t get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes all at once. Even if you implement only a few of the above strategies, they will have a positive and measurable impact in your life. Start with one clear goal — then add another, and another. The process of achieving a healthy work-life balance is like becoming a professional recruiter or training for a triathlon. It takes a concerted effort to get in shape and a continued effort to stay that way. But those who commit themselves to this quest reap enormous health and quality-of-life benefits. It is possible to have a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Take control and be proactive with your time.