Live to work? Or work to live?
Most of us fall somewhere in between this paradox. But when you’re heavily invested in your career, day in and day out, it can be hard to balance the other areas of your existence such as recreation, family time, diet and rest. And if you’re constantly tethered to your job well past quitting time, it can be difficult to be present with your loved ones or even tend to your personal needs.
So how can we strike that optimal balance where you’re achieving and meeting deadlines at work while also having the time and energy for family, friends and hobbies? (Oh yeah, don’t forget about getting enough sleep and eating well too!) Here’s a handful of tips and strategies that can help you find that yin to your yang to ensure optimal harmony exists in all facets of your personal and professional life.
Find a job you love
Sure, we can’t all get paid to be a taste tester at a chocolate factory. But there’s something to be said about following your passions and working in a field you find interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. Waking up every day motivated and driven to succeed is one thing, but those feelings can be amplified when you’re headed to work in a field you truly enjoy. And even if you’re not currently at your “dream job” (few of us are), finding joy in those certain daily tasks that “ain’t so bad” can surely add to your overall well-being and motivate you to keep on pushing when unexpected obstacles arise.
Make time for your health/exercise
Take care of yourself. It’s as simple as that. Look at your day/week and find the time to exercise, meditate, get outdoors or whatever you need to get the blood and oxygen flowing. Then put it on your calendar to ensure you’ll actually do it. Even simple, short breaks throughout your day to go outdoors, take a small walk or eat a healthy snack will help maintain proper brain function and mental clarity.
Prioritizing health and fitness might sound daunting, but it could be something as simple as promising yourself to cook and take a healthy lunch to school or work. To make the idea more exciting to you, invest in some new meal prep containers or a stylish packable tote bag to carry your lunch in, so you’ll be excited to put them to use—bonus points if you use your tote bag at the grocery store as well to avoid single-use plastics.
Plan and prioritize your workload
In other words, don’t stretch yourself so thin at work that you burnout. Prioritize deadlines and major projects over minute tasks that aren’t urgent. Block out time to achieve larger, needle-moving goals (or “rocks” as we call them here at BN3TH). Sure, we all need to be good at multi-tasking, but perhaps turn off emails and messaging apps when it’s time go head down to put your best effort it. Also, ask yourself “what on my plate can I potentially delegate to other team members?” And when all else fails, remember: work smarter, not harder.
Take an actual lunch break
No more woofing down fast food while you finish up a last-minute project at your desk. It’s called a lunch “break” for a reason. Take the time you deserve to step away, properly nourish your body and socialize a bit. Sharing a meal with co-workers helps create bonds, increase collaborative efforts and serves as a pathway to find common interests. And if you work remote, meet a friend at a café, share a bite with your spouse or children or simply eat alone and savour the flavour of every bite. Trust us, the work will be there when you return. And it can wait 30 minutes.
When you’re done with work for the day, be done. For real. If you find yourself fiending to check emails after 6pm, it might be a signal that you’re work/life balance is a tad askew. Bonus challenge: begin to think about your life as a 5-to-9 instead of a 9-to-5, meaning reclaim those 16 hours you’re not getting paid and invest in your personal well-being and meaningful relationships.
Find a ritual that signals the end of your workday
Think of a shutdown ritual as a rite of passage from professional life back to your personal life. And they could be a variety of things, depending on the individual – stacking papers on your desk for the morning meeting, an afterwork cocktail, changing into sweatpants or simply closing the laptop. But whatever you do, make it final (see “Unplug” above) and don’t look back. Soon, it will become a trigger for your brain that it’s time to focus your priorities elsewhere. And you’ll return the next day with a fresher outlook and energized to dig right back in where you left off.
Set aside time for yourself and family
Plan ahead. Know when your kid’s soccer games are, when date night is with your spouse, when the surf is gonna be best and mark your calendar, so you make a commitment. This not only keeps you organized, but it also ensures you’ll “show up at your best” for yourself and your family.
Take a vacation
Who’d have thunk it? The ultimate way to unplug and recharge is to…not work! Your job likely allots a certain amount of vacation days, and generally they do not all roll over into the next year. So be sure to pick a few windows that would be best for whatever your vacation goals are. It helps if larger projects have been concluded before you take off so you’re not stressing while you’re poolside sipping a fruity cocktail. Set your out of office, don’t check emails and spend some of that hard earned dough. Because, after all, you deserve it, right?
Still feeling the strain? Take this quiz to get a better read out your current work/life situation.