Meetings. Soccer practice. Long hours. Project deadlines. Yard work.
Given all the responsibilities you have both on the job and at home, you may feel that a healthy work/life balance is unrealistic right now: spending more time at work may cause you to miss out on a rewarding personal life; but effectively managing the challenges of your personal life (such as coping with an aging parent or marital stress) may make concentrating on your job difficult.
So how do you strike a balance? Implement just three or four of these ideas to make a measurable difference in your life. They will help you lower your stress level, free-up more time, and put you on the path to a healthier work/life balance.
Drop unnecessary activities. Make a list of what really matters to you. You may find out that you’re devoting too much time to activities that aren’t a real priority. If at all possible, drop commitments and pursuits that don’t make the top five on your list of priorities. Doing so will greatly focus your efforts and simplify your life.
Realize that time is often more valuable than money. The time you spend away from meaningful relationships in your life is time you can never get back. With this in mind, consider hiring a lawn maintenance service, a handyman, or a babysitter (but always have a contingency plan in place).
Get enough sleep. Few things are as stressful and potentially dangerous as working when you’re sleep deprived. Aside from feeling awful, you’re also more likely to make costly mistakes and be less productive. So while you may be tempted to burn the midnight oil, it makes more sense to hit the sack and tackle your work with a fresh pair of eyes in the morning.
Plan fun and relaxation. Given the frenetic pace of our lives, nurturing ourselves just doesn’t happen by accident – but it’s still an essential part of maintaining a balanced life. So set aside space in your weekly calendar for activities that are fun and relaxing to you. Plan what you’re going to do and make necessary arrangements – reservations, childcare, etc. – to ensure you’ll be able to keep your commitment.
Use e-mail effectively. Use e-mail, as opposed to voicemail, to send detailed messages. Try to respond to your incoming messages in groups – just a few times a day. This way, you will interrupt your train of thought less frequently and stay more focused.
Learn to say “No.” Whether it’s a co-worker asking you to spearhead an extra project, or your child’s teacher asking you to be the head room parent, remember that’s okay to respectfully say “No.” Once you quit doing things out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll make more room in your life for activities that are meaningful and important to you.
Exercise your options. Find out if your employer offers flex hours, a compressed workweek, job-sharing or telecommuting for your role. These options may afford you greater flexibility to alleviate stress and free-up more of your time.
Master software packages. Learn the tips associated with the software packages you use most frequently. They can increase your productivity.
Organize. If your insides are churning, create order outside. Some people find that cleaning, organizing and reducing clutter actually reduce stress – both at home and at work.
Get a system. Develop a routine for tackling recurring tasks both at home and work. If you drive by the dry cleaners and grocery store on your way to and from work, make a habit of bringing your shopping list and dry cleaning with you to take care of those stops en route.
Ask for help. Are you overwhelmed because you don’t have the support or tools you need to get your work done? If so, don’t be a hero. Approach your boss or loved ones and ask for the help you need to be more productive at work or at home.
Lighten up. Don’t take everything so seriously. Nobody and nothing is ever perfect, so drop your shoulders and learn to laugh!