The idea of a balanced work-life relationship seems totally unachievable to many of us. Either we’re “in balance” or we’re not. However, it would be much more useful to think of work-life balance as a spectrum, rather than an absolute.
Chances are, none of us are ever going to feel like we’ve nailed the perfect balance. But if we approach it in a “something-is-better-than-nothing” fashion, we can put small actions into practice and enjoy individual, encouraging successes.
At the end of the day, work-life balance simply boils down to time and what we do with it.
1. Prioritize balance
If work-life balance is what you want, you need to make it a priority. If something is a priority, you will be able to make the tough calls and sacrifices that come with the territory. Understand that achieving the elusive work-life balance will be difficult so when you are faced with challenges, you’ll be less likely to throw in the towel.
2. Understand your personal utility curve
The utility curve describes an economic theory whereby the amount of money we spend on a product or service is not always directly proportional to the satisfaction the product or service provides. Now apply that to your work-life balance strategy. Think carefully about how much you spend and on what. Is working the extra hours worth it to achieve a more luxurious lifestyle? Sometimes shorter workdays and an economical car are part of a more effective recipe for overall success and happiness than a Porsche and 14-hour workdays.
3. Work smarter
In a world where multitasking reigns supreme, it can be difficult to focus on one thing at a time. However, multitasking may actually be detrimental to your overall time management. According to Harvard Business Review, when you divert your attention away from one task in favor of another, it will take you roughly 25 percent longer to complete the initial task as a result of switching focus. Do your best to tackle one task at a time, and be fully present when doing so. This will help things run smoother and faster.
4. Plan, plan, plan
At the beginning of the week, take note of everything that’s happening or needs to happen that week: events, errands you need to run, etc. Looking at the bigger picture will give you a better idea of where you can save time. You’ll be able to group tasks together and shorten the time you spend on things other than your personal life. Put both personal and professional activities on your calendar, including travel time, workout time and blocks of time to get your “think work” done.
5. Save time where you can
Take a moment to assess your daily life. Is there anywhere you could save time? For example, if you spend a long time on your daily commute, investigate alternative routes or modes of transport. Employees in the United Kingdom are now entitled to ask for their working hours to be adjusted according to their personal requirements. This creates room for staggering working hours in order to avoid rush hours and save time spent commuting.
6. Schedule downtime
It may sound crazy, but if you leave relaxing to when you are “done with everything else,” you will never relax. If you consider downtime a priority (and a fundamental aspect of a well-balanced life), it belongs where all your other priorities do — on the calendar. Many extremely successful people swear by this practice.
7. Outsource the small things
Some things just aren’t worth doing yourself. Certain errands like mowing the lawn and cleaning the car can easily be outsourced — costing you less money than the time and effort is worth to you. All these things take up time you could be spending relaxing and ensuring you are as effective as possible at your work. Plus, you’ll give work experience to the local youth in your neighborhood!
8. Eat well, sleep well and exercise
It’s a cliché but it’s true. Looking after yourself is key to having a balanced life. Your body is your biggest tool. And if you don’t take care of your tools, getting anything done takes longer, and you’ll put your work-life balance in jeopardy.
Pick one or more of these strategies and change your behavior. Remember, if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll get the same result. Try something new to find your work-life balance!