The concept of work-life balance is an interesting one, not least because it seems to polarize opinion in modern society. While some believe that attaining a positive work-life balance is the key to happy and productive existence, for example, others claim that this relatively new idea is particularly vague and lacking in genuine substance.
A recent study may have shed some light on this debate, however, while also suggesting that there is a definitive tipping point at which the sacrifices required to earn a specific salary begin to overwhelm the benefits of a higher income. This figure is currently mooted at £37,000 per annum, with the individuals capable of earning this sum best placed to strike the ideal balance between their professional and personal activities.
7 ways of achieving an ideal work-life balance
While studies may have begun to offer some insight into the metrics of a positive work-life balance, however, bringing this to life and applying it to your daily schedule remains an extremely difficult challenge. With this in mind, here are seven steps towards achieving a practical work-life balance that can drive greater health, happiness and daily productivity: –
1. Learn to say ‘no’ in the workplace
As a capable employee, you are probably in demand among your colleagues, supervisor and line manager. If you are also of a positive and enthusiastic disposition, however, you may well become the main target for any last minute work tasks or extra-curricular activities organised by HR. While you should never compromise on your positive outlook as an individual or become entirely inflexible in the eyes of your colleagues, you should at least make decisions based on your existing workflow and develop and authoritative voice when saying no.
To achieve this, review your job description the refresh your mind and determine which tasks or role specific and which are not. This should give you greater confidence when evaluating your workload and declining requests from others. Over time, it will also allow you to build mutual respect with your colleagues and enforce your specific working hours more easily.
2. Create a flexible working schedule with the bigger picture in mind
While it is accepted that creating a daily schedule of work can help to drive productivity and a more favourable work-life balance, it can also have the opposite effect in some instances. If you create a rigid schedule that is inflexible or unresponsive to a change in your circumstances, for example, you may miss out on natural opportunities to enjoy breaks and become over-worked during busy periods.
Instead, you should build a changeable and flexibility strategy that is based on your monthly workload. This will help you to factor in both busier periods and days when your workload diminishes, creating a tailored schedule that minimizes stress and provides an opportunity to rest. Do not be afraid to schedule longer working hours during busy days, either, so long as you compensate for this elsewhere in your schedule.
3. Be sure to include down-time in your working schedule
On a similar note, you should also strive to include downtime in your daily, working schedule. Whether this revolves interaction with your children or spending time with friends and family, adopting a proactive approach to prioritizing downtime ensures that this is not overlooked as your workload increases.
The best way to achieve this is to identify periods of time immediately before or after work, as you look to add an hour or two to your daily schedule and create an additional opportunity to interact with loved ones. Even if you are unable to spend time with your partner before you start your working day, why not commit to starting work earlier and easing your schedule in the evening?
4. Communicate with your manager and negotiate flexible working directives
The rise of flexible working directives in developed economies has aided employees in their quest to achieve a positive work-life balance, but only for those who are confident and capable of communicating openly with their management team. More specifically, it is crucial that you request a flexible working schedule from your manager, outlining a case for the business and negotiating mutually beneficial terms.
The key is being proactive, as you look to speak with your manager at the earliest opportunity about flexible working. This enables them to make allowances for your change in circumstances, while it also affords you time to present your request as actionable business proposal.
5. Become more energetic and make time for exercise
This next step requires an investment of time, especially if you are already overwhelmed by a packed schedule. It delivers an outstanding pay-off, however, while it also creates a positive cycle that aids productivity, drives clearly defined thought processes and enables you to attack the challenges of the day with renewed energy.
Once you begin to exercise and build your endurance, you can create an activity schedule that helps you to manage all of your commitments. Over time, your sustained exercise regime will begin to deliver a myriad of benefits, not least in terms of increasing your energy levels and enabling you to complete time-sensitive tasks with more urgency.
Additionally, it has been proven that physical exertion helps you to become more alert, and hones your mental sharpness. This can be invaluable at the beginning of the day, so consider committing any spare time in the morning to physical exercise.
6. Take control of technology and use it to your advantage
We tend to view technology as an imposing and influential force, and one that controls many of our daily chores and activities. This is far from accurate; however, as in actual fact technology is merely a diverse and accessible tool that is malleable to the demands of each individual user.
With this in mind, it is crucial that you change your outlook and assume control of the technology in your daily life. It can then be used or discarded to your advantage, whether you look to save time through online shopping or ban the use of devices during busy periods of work. Remote technology can also help you to work from home or host virtual meetings, while it is easier than ever to automate simple process such as curating and distributing reports.
As a result, technology can enable you to multi-task and optimize your daily productivity (so long as it is used wisely).
7. Assess your output and drop energy-sapping, unnecessary tasks
Given that some of our tips require an investment of time, the practicalities of everyday life dictate that we will need to do away with less productive activities. According to PhD psychologist Marylin Puder-York, many people expend their time on activities that are completely unnecessary, or de-prioritize those that are energy-sapping and do not add value.
It is therefore important to evaluate your personal and professional activities, before prioritizing these in a simple and actionable list. You can then discard those that are of no value at all, while also minimizing the amount of time spent on non-essential tasks. This will then create additional time within your day, which can be committed to more purposeful or rewarding activities.
These practical steps should enable you to achieve a superior work-life balance, without compromising on either your career or personal relationships. Do you think we missed anything in this post, however, as if so please feel free to share your comments and insight below!
Photo credit: Phil and Pam Gradwell via flickr