When there are only 168 hours in a week, and 40 of those hours are dedicated to your career, that leaves only 72 waking hours per week, once sleep has been factored, for free time. We often find ourselves left with the question of where to find a balance with it all. As we head into the summer months, managing work-life balance can be challenging, especially in a culture where we strive for growth and stability, but ever so critical for continued positive performances.
First, let’s ask ourselves – how do we define work-life balance?
What is Work-Life Balance?
Defining what work-life balance is truly comes down to each individual professional. For some it may be taking a mental health day once every couple of months, for others it may be having a better balance of making appointments happen during the work week or taking time off to spend with their families. What is crucial to managing a healthier balance is first defining what it means to you.
Questions to ask yourself when figuring out this answer could include:
- What are responsibilities at work that I need to hold myself accountable for?
- What are responsibilities in my personal life that I need to hold myself accountable for?
- What are good health habits – mentally and physically – that I need to implement into my balance?
- How would I prioritize these things if I were to list them out from most important to least?
- What caters most to my personal needs?
Answering these questions, ultimately would lead you to understanding what your personal definition of balance is. Knowing your hierarchy of needs, personal and professional priorities, and how to blend those will lead you to knowing how to make it a healthy blend of lifestyle.
How Do I Take Control of that Balance?
Part of the struggle in having a work-life balance is advocating for yourself to have the time and flexibility that you need. Taking control of your balance and needs starts with two things. One is accepting that some weeks will be less balanced than others – you may have more personal commitments than professional one week while another is the opposite. The second part of taking control comes from advocating for yourself.
Helpful tips on how to do that include:
- Being honest with yourself – Being honest with yourself can include listening to your body, taking sick days, taking mental health days, and knowing your limits before you reach them.
- Being honest with your employer – Some fear that being honest with your employer when you want to take time for personal reasons could lead to a bad reputation in the workplace. It’s always better to be honest with your employer than to either lie or not advocate for yourself at all. If you are not abusing time off policies, conflicts will be minimal and the benefits will be great.
- Make sure you’re in an environment and culture that supports balance. If you’re applying for a new job, ask about work life balance and culture in the interview process. It’s important to make sure you are putting yourself in the hands of employers that support you as much as you support them.
Setting boundaries and expectations with yourself, your loved ones and your employer is the most important factor to successfully managing your balance. Setting boundaries with yourself may mean learning when to unplug, setting goals for the week and writing them down among many other mental health techniques. Setting boundaries with your loved ones, although challenging is important. This could include behaviors like taking quiet time when mentally overwhelmed or saying no to social events when you’re tired.
Boundaries with employers may be an intimidating concept to some but can be very important especially in a world where many professionals are often able to take their work home or be remote. Healthy and professional ways of setting those boundaries can include sticking to your work hours. Unless something time sensitive has come up, it is important to not get in the “one more email” habit. Often, we find that habit leads to several after-hours evenings or early mornings. Another important habit to kick is not fully taking your time off. If you’ve opted into a vacation day but you log in “just to check” you’re robbing yourself of much needed down time.
Overall, work-life balance is a constant battle for professionals across the globe. If you find yourself struggling more than succeeding to manage that balance, remember to define it, take control, and set those boundaries. Being your best self personally and professionally heavily relies on doing just that!
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