The New Year is nearly upon us. And while making resolutions is not necessarily part of everyone’s annual rituals, self-care should be a priority no matter where you are in your career. This is especially so considering the way the working landscape continues to evolve. Work-life balance will increasingly become an almost non-negotiable aspect for many when it comes to their career. This, while at the same time becoming something that is more and more difficult to achieve as the need for round-the-clock availability continues to grow. As this trend continues, it is now more vital than ever to strive for that balance. By laying out clear boundaries and effective management of both work and leisure time, you can move closer to striking the right work-life balance as you head into a new decade.
Set your boundaries
A large part of achieving work-life balance can be done even before starting work itself. By recognising your own priorities, laying out boundaries for work and choosing the right company, you will be taking a huge step towards finding the ideal equilibrium even before setting foot in the office.
1. Recognise your priorities
An ideal place to start would be to find out what your priorities are in life and, by extension, in work. This is one of the most important steps and, when done properly, can make the pursuit of work-life balance far easier. Remember! Work is going to take up a major portion of your life, so spend some time to ponder these questions: What is most important to you? Work or personal time? What aspects in life can you not compromise on? Of course, this varies between individuals. To some, it can be health that is the priority, and so setting aside time to exercise daily becomes a must. Some may want to set aside time for regular meet ups with friends, pursue hobbies or even just focus on work itself.
However, identifying priorities requires you to know yourself well, which might come easily to certain individuals. If needed, seek help and advice from a mentor or loved one, but remember: there is no standard template for work-life balance. What works for one will almost never work for another, and so the actual task of recognising your priorities should be done by you alone.
2. Lay out your own rules
Once you have identified your priorities, the next step is to set the appropriate rules and boundaries for your work life. Decide how much time you need to set aside and, in turn, the point of the day beyond which you switch off from work. This is important to do early on as it is very easy to get lost in your work and eventually compromise on your priorities. By laying out ground rules with regards to work life and following them strictly, you can save yourself from this danger.
For example, you can set a rule that you will not touch work after six in the evening. This means no entertaining late night phone calls or last-minute emails. Or perhaps a rule to not bring home your work laptop. Once again, this will vary from person to person and in some cases other factors may have to be kept in mind, such as work deadlines, emergencies, or your colleagues, if you are working with a team. However, at the end of the day, the aim is for you to have control over your own time.
3. Find a company that fits you
Equally important as your priorities are those of the company you work for. If one does not match the other, work-life balance becomes much more difficult to attain. Find a company that will respect your private time. It can be in the form of allowing off days on special occasions, off in lieu for overtime done, or flexibility in terms of work arrangements. Even if it is a company with long working hours, make sure it is one that has proper policies of caring for and valuing its employees’ work-life balance. A company with policies that match the boundaries that you set for yourself would be ideal.
Manage your work and leisure time effectively
Once your priorities and boundaries are in order, it is important to manage your work and leisure time effectively. Improving work efficiency and taking adequate breaks are two of the best ways you can improve your work-life balance.
1. Improve your work efficiency
Becoming more efficient at work may feel easier said than done. However, there are many simple tips and trick you can use to boost your productivity at work, allowing you to free up time for your other priorities and personal endeavours. One way is to prioritise the tasks that you have at hand. Ideally, you should be given a set of KPI by your manager. Prioritise your tasks according to the KPI given. Ask yourself, which task helps you hit this KPI? When completed, which tasks will help me hit my KPI sooner rather than later? This will allow you to not only see the order in which tasks need to be done but will also help you get maximum returns for your effort because you are now prioritising tasks that are of most value to your company.
Technology is also an increasingly helpful tool to use when it comes to improving your efficiency at work. There are many apps and tools that allow you to better organise your work and help you get through the checklist much faster. Tools such as Evernote, RescueTime, Any.do and Trello can be very helpful to explore. Other applications such as Skype and Dropbox are also excellent to help you better correspond with colleagues.
2. Manage your breaks well
A lunch break does not have to be for consuming lunch only. In the free time available, you can do small tasks that you would ordinarily do after work, such as a quick exercise session or running errands. Alternatively, you can consider taking smaller breaks throughout the day to recharge. This would allow you to stay productive throughout the day as opposed to falling into a lull as the day wears on.
Do not be afraid to make full use of your allotted leaves as well. Consider taking an extended vacation where you can use the time to prioritise yourself and your wellbeing by pursuing interests and tasks that you would otherwise be short of time for. Allow yourself the time and the space to relax and recharge yourself. In this time, do your best not to get involved in any sort of work-related tasks. It is an important aspect of work-life balance not to let work overlap with your rest time.
As we enter 2020, the demands of the workplace are likely to increase. Here’s how to find a balance between work and personal time:
- Recognise your priorities
- Set boundaries and rules for your work life and find a suitable company with similar policies
- Manage your time more effectively by boosting efficiency at work
- Manage your breaks well and make full use of your vacation days