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12 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance

Nov 10, 2022
12 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
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Making enough time for both your professional life and personal life (aka work-life balance) can be hard, especially as hustle culture is gaining popularity to make ends meet—but it’s not impossible. 

The concept was introduced during the 1980s as a way to allow for more time for family and hobbies outside of work. But in a post-pandemic world, it feels like work-life balance may be harder to attain. 

For example, in the first 8 weeks of lockdown, employees worked 49 minutes longer per day on average, and sent about 8% more emails after-hours, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Below, we’ll discuss the impact of having a poor work-life balance before giving you tips on how to improve it.

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Work-Life Balance and Why It’s Important

Work-life balance means managing your professional responsibilities and personal life in a way that reduces stress and allows you to be more productive and content in all areas of life. Consequences of an unhealthy work-life balance include:

Decreased job satisfaction: Having a poor work-life balance can result in decreased job satisfaction, higher turnover rates, and absenteeism, per a January 2022 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Signs of an Unhealthy Work-Life Balance

  • Feeling tired all the time, even after resting or on weekends.

  • Spending little to no time on personal relationships, hobbies, or self-care.

  • Getting sick more often, which can be a sign of lowered immune response due to stress.

  • Displaying short temper and irritability with colleagues, friends, or family.

  • Struggling to stop thinking about work during off-hours or compulsively checking work emails and messages at home.

  • Experiencing insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns, often due to stress or overthinking work-related issues.

  • Productivity levels drop, indicating inefficiency and potential employee burnout.

  • Feeling disinterested in work and other activities that used to be enjoyable.

  • Increasing dependence on substances like alcohol, caffeine, or even overeating.

12 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance

 

Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance

1. Time Management 

Improving time-management skills is essential for maximizing productivity and achieving a better work-life balance. Although it’s easier said than done, the first step is important: Set target tasks and ensure that you finish them throughout the day. 

Start by setting clear, achievable goals and breaking larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Prioritize tasks using tools like to-do lists or digital planners, and allocate specific times to focus on each task to maintain concentration and take regular breaks. Here are some tools that can help:

  • Technology: Take advantage of the software and apps available, such as calendars, apps, and to-do lists. And apps like Notion, Evernote, and Trello can help you organize your work process. These apps also allow for integration with other apps, which makes it easier for you to keep everything in one place.

  • Planner: Set aside time to organize and review what’s happening in your week. This way, you can cut down on tasks that take up too much time but don’t have a lot of value.

  • Reminders: Set an alarm or reminder for time limits for tasks. Try the Pomodoro Technique: Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a specific task. Take a short break, then repeat. After every four rounds, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes).

2. Know Your Priorities 

Setting priorities for work tasks effectively throughout the day and week involves a strategic approach. Begin by identifying all tasks and categorizing them based on urgency and importance, using tools like the Eisenhower Box or a simple priority list. 

Start each day by reviewing your list and focusing on tasks that are critical and time-sensitive first, while scheduling less critical tasks for later in the day or week when you anticipate having spare time. 

It's also helpful to review and adjust your priorities at the end of each day or week to reflect any new tasks or changes in task importance. This method ensures that high-priority tasks receive the attention they need, preventing last-minute rushes and reducing work stress.

3. Establish a Realistic Schedule

Establishing a realistic work schedule starts with you defining your work hours based on your most productive times and the demands of your job. Be realistic about what you can accomplish within these hours and set boundaries to protect your personal time. 

It’s important to remain disciplined about starting and ending your workday at the same time. Additionally, don't be afraid to unplug completely after work hours—turn off email notifications and resist the urge to check-in.

4. Set Boundaries

A good work-life balance doesn’t miraculously happen in a snap. It must begin with you setting boundaries and limits on the things you do. Learning how to say “no,” especially when those things do not benefit you, is one part of effective conflict management

Knowing your priorities can help you set your boundaries, and learning how to say “no” makes it easier to say “yes” to things that are good for you. Examples of these include being able to take breaks and do something you love to do.

5. Take Breaks

 This may sound simple, but it’s easy to skip taking breaks, especially when you’re intensely focused on doing something for work. Make sure that you step away from your desk once in a while, eat on time, drink water to stay hydrated, and get adequate sleep. 

Try your best not to skip lunch—away from work. You can even eat lunch with coworkers. Taking these breaks helps you improve your work efficiency and also gives you space to breathe.

 

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6. Use Vacation Days

Aside from taking breaks during your work hours, make full use of your allotted time off. One way to make sure you do this is to plan vacation time in advance, clearly communicating it with your manager. You deserve to have a vacation where you focus on your well-being and relaxation.

7. Create a Flexible Schedule

Creating flexible work hours or incorporating a work-from-home policy involves carefully considering the needs of both the business and the employees. Start by evaluating which tasks you can effectively manage remotely and identify the hours you are most productive. 

Communicate these insights clearly to your employer, proposing specific work hours that ensure you can fulfill your job responsibilities while also attending to personal commitments. Be prepared to discuss how you will manage communication and remain accessible during core business hours for meetings and teamwork.

Alternatively, there are many jobs offering part-time hours, and some companies are even switching to a 4-day work week (staff work 32 hours instead of 40 with no drop in salary). 

In 2022, the Icelandic government experimented with a shorter working week which led to benefits such as: increased productivity, being less stressed at home, and better social connections. 

8. Find a Job You Love

Take time to reflect on activities that energize you and skills you excel in, and consider how these can translate into a career. Research industries and roles that align with your interests and identify companies whose values resonate with yours.

Networking is also key; connect with professionals in desired fields to gain insights and learn about job opportunities. Consider internships or volunteer positions to test the waters in potential career paths.

9. Make Time for Family and Friends

Prioritize important family events, social activities, and personal downtime in your calendar, treating them with the same importance as work meetings or deadlines. Dedicated social time provides necessary breaks from work stress and recharges emotional and mental energy, improving focus and productivity when you return to work.

Don’t hold back on requesting time off, but make sure to communicate your availability to your colleagues, and also, resist the urge to check work emails or messages during designated personal times. 

10. Exercise and Meditate 

12 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance

Exercise is one of the most effective stress relievers. It not only benefits your physical health but your mental health as well. Exercise boosts your mood, which improves your outlook throughout the day and week.

Meditation and yoga are also beneficial. Start small by doing a quick 5-minute meditation session when you wake up or before you sleep.

11. Cultivate Your Hobbies 

Having a good work-life balance isn’t restricted to having more time for your family and friends. It means you have more time for yourself as well. Devote time each week to doing something you love to do like reading, painting, collecting certain items, dancing, and more. 

Sometimes reaching professional and personal goals isn’t enough to keep us satisfied. Hobbies help improve our quality of life, leading to better mental health.

12. Provide Honest Feedback

Giving honest feedback to your employer requires clarity and professionalism, focusing on how certain aspects of your work environment or schedule impact your productivity and overall well-being. 

Be specific about the challenges you face, such as excessive work hours or unrealistic deadlines, and propose practical solutions or adjustments that could help alleviate these issues. Communicate openly and constructively, ensuring your feedback is seen as an effort to enhance not only your own performance but also the overall efficiency and morale of the team.

 

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About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

 

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