Work-Life Balance: An Elusive Goal or Total Myth?
Everyone strives to find that perfect balance between work and home. It’s that sweet spot that leaves you feeling professionally accomplished and personally fulfilled, whether that means being home in time to cook a meal for your family or simply having the time to devote to personal pursuits that feed your soul. Many psychologists and business professionals have weighed in on the matter, but opinions differ on whether it’s merely difficult to achieve or downright impossible. If you’re feeling a bit out of balance these days, here are a few tips to restore harmony.
Acceptance: Some Things Can Wait Until Tomorrow
The team at PBS NewsHour conducted an experiment, committing to fit into their days – somehow – the one thing they wish they had time to do every day for an entire week. What they found was that work-life balance isn’t static, and doing the things you think you want to do most might not bring you the satisfaction you’re longing for after all.
What’s the takeaway? First, your goals and interests may change, and that’s okay. And while you may not find time every day to engage in the activities you think you long to do, accepting that some things can wait until tomorrow might be the real key to feeling more balanced and avoiding the stress and burnout that may increase your risk of addiction.
Set Realistic Goals
People tend to underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete tasks, and they tend to overestimate the amount of time they have in a day. When you schedule more than you can realistically get done in a day, you find yourself working late and sacrificing the personal time that you would otherwise spend with your family, on hobbies you enjoy, or simply recharging.
If you’re frequently overstretched, cut back on your number of tasks and obligations each day. Experiment with prioritization methods that help you identify your most important tasks each day, and focus on crossing those items off your list first. If you have time remaining, you can begin to tackle less-important tasks.
Practice Efficient Working Methods
If you procrastinate too much, you’ll eventually fall behind, forcing you to spend hours in a rushed state trying to catch up when you could be enjoying quality time with your family or friends. Breaks are essential for helping you work at your optimal performance, but again, the key is finding the proper ratio of breaks and productive work.
One method that many busy professionals find effective is the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that involves 25-minute intervals of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. This method helps you to avoid distractions and prevent burnout by allowing you to get up and take a short walk, chat with a friend, or let your mind rest for a few minutes between work sessions.
Schedule Time to Unplug
One of the biggest obstacles to achieving better work-life balance is the always-on nature of life today. If you access your work email on your smartphone, it’s tough to avoid those urgent messages when you’re trying to take some time for yourself. To avoid getting sucked into work when you’re in need of some R&R, schedule time to unplug and be truly unavailable.
For instance, you might decide to mute your notifications on Sundays so that you can take the whole day to enjoy your family without interruptions. Turn your device on first thing Monday morning and address any unanswered messages that came in while you were unplugged before starting your work week.
Work-life balance is in large part about recognizing where you can be more flexible with your goals and expectations and placing greater importance on the things that matter most to you in your personal life. Setting realistic goals, working in sprints, and learning to accept that some things can wait until tomorrow will get you closer to the ideal balance you’re working to achieve.