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Everything today is so ridiculously convenient.
Didn’t have time to pack your lunch this morning? Good thing there are 379 restaurants within a block of your office building.
Car in the shop? No sweat — just pick up your phone and request an Uber (you don’t even have to call).
Want to make money, but too lazy to get off your couch? Google has 185 million answers for you.
I mean, come on!
It’s no doubt that when it comes to technology, we are more connected today than ever before in history. And with all this talk of delivery drones and teleportation, that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
That convenience is great for having your new Eiffel Tower-Drawing Pancake Bot delivered in a timely fashion, but it’s costing us in other areas of our lives.
Particularly when it comes to understanding the importance of work life balance.
How many times have you fallen victim to the 60, 70, or even the 80-hour work week? Accepted a phone call while you were on vacation? Gone into the office on a weekend to wrap up a few loose ends?
If the answer to any of the above is more than zero, then you need to get your work-life balance in check.
Here are 8 ways to improve your work-life balance today.
1. Plan your workday
It’s easy to walk into the office with a loose plan for the day, turn on your computer, and come to several hours later having accomplished absolutely nothing. Increasing your daily productivity can be as simple as taking 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritize tasks and set goals.
Meetings pop up, emergencies happen, and plans change. It’s inevitable. But if you have a list of tasks to accomplish, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off once the dust settles.
2. Make commitments outside of work…and keep them
Take a yoga class a couple times a week, join a book club, or schedule a weekly dinner date with a friend or significant other. Just make sure whatever you commit to is enjoyable and has nothing to do with your day job.
Making commitments outside of the office forces you to leave your desk at a reasonable hour (unless you want to be known as the flaky friend) and spend time doing something good for your mind and your body.
3. Actually work at work
Crazy concept, right?!
A 2014 survey conducted by Salary.com reported that 89% of respondents waste at least some time at work on a daily basis. Here are the dirty deets:
Which category do you fit into?
If you’re guilty of sabotaging your own workday, there’s a simple solution to immediately improve your work-life balance: stop wasting time! Get off Facebook and work while you’re at work so you can leave in time for happy hour.
4. Manage others’ expectations
Communication is key. Make your intentions clear, and leave no room for interpretation.
Letting others know how important work-life balance is to you sets clear boundaries so others know what is and isn’t acceptable. For example, if you won’t be coming into the office on weekends, you should let that be known before you get called in on a Friday evening.
When Senior Manager Dan disapproves of your decision (because you know he will), tell him about the Stanford study that reports people who work long hours have a 20% higher mortality rate than those who don’t.
If you’ve shown you are a responsible and productive employee by planning your workday for success and wasting as little time as possible at work, then it is perfectly reasonable to set boundaries and expect others to respect them.
That’s often easier said than done given the hyperconnectivity of the world we live in today.
It’s tempting to check every notification as it pops up because of the dopamine release it provides. The effect is similar to ADHD. Overstimulation and constant connectivity make it difficult to sustain attention on one task at a time, causing our brains to become more reactive to external stimuli.
If you’ve done a good job managing other people’s expectations, then you should be totally free to cut the cord when you’re away from work. The world won’t fall off its axis if Susan doesn’t get that spreadsheet from you until Monday morning.
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6. Allow yourself time off
Asking for time off can be difficult, especially if you work in a company culture that rewards long weekends and extra time spent at the office. If you’re struggling to see why work life balance is so important, maybe you need to step away for a little while.
Senior Manager Dan hasn’t had a vacation since ’92. Look at Dan. Does he look happy to you? No, his wife and kids left him 10 years ago and he wreaks of whiskey and bad decisions.
Don’t be like Dan.
Allow yourself time off to relax and do things that bring you joy. If your excuse for working long hours is that you enjoy what you do and find it fulfilling, then find something else you can enjoy, like a new hobby or goal.
7. Perfect the art of saying “No”
Being a “Yes” man may make you popular with the crowd, but it won’t help you perfect your golf swing (the golf swing you never have time to practice because you’re always helping Susan with her spreadsheets).
Saying no can be challenging, but at some point, we all have to accept that we can’t be everything to everyone. The more things you say “no” to, the more time and effort you can commit to your yeses.
8. Setting priorities can help you better understand the importance of work life balance
Decide what’s important and what’s valuable to you in life and prioritize those things over everything else. Warren Buffet suggests using the 5/25 Rule for this: write down the 25 most important things to you in life. Identify the top 5, and avoid the other 20 at all cost.
Though you may love the bottom 20 items on your list, they are only distractions from the top 5 things that you SUPER love.
Figure out the things that you super love, and keep those at the top of your list.
Has there been a particular event in your life that helped you better understand the importance of work life balance? Share it in the comments below.
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