Expert Tips For Achieving Work-Life Balance

by Erica Florentine

Many of us have a goal to achieve the best work-life balance possible. However, it can be a lot more difficult to achieve than one might imagine. I’ve rounded up some expert tips for achieving work-life balance that might help you in reaching this goal. These tactics are simple to practice, and can ultimately make a huge difference in how much time you have to devote to your personal life — including friends, family, and yourself — and how stress-free that personal time is with out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

Sure, you say you’re going to leave the office by 5 p.m. every day to spend time with your family, but when was the last time that actually happened? Lately it seems like it’s dark outside when you get to your office, and dark outside when you finally get to leave at night. Even outside of the office, in today’s world of emails and texts many of us have become accustomed to working around the clock. How can we begin to make sure our personal lives are getting the much-needed attention they deserve? Much of it has to do with the way we spend our time at the office. Are we managing our time poorly? Are we taking unnecessary breaks to online shop? Are we overanalyzing projects to death rather than moving onto the next task? All of these and more can play into why we’re stuck in our office chair late every night. Let’s start to mend the pattern. Here are 10 tips for achieving work-life balance, according to experts.

1. Organize Your Week The Right Way

Let’s start by how you’re tackling your week as a whole. There might very well be a “right” way to take on the week so that you can ace work-life balance. Glamour spoke to life coach Stacia Pierce who suggested making the most out of Monday. This might seem difficult for those who find Mondays to be especially drowsy days, but just think of how happy you’ll be later in the week when you have more free time to do things outside of the office. Pierce recommended focusing and digging into your work on a Monday, using Tuesday and Wednesday to work through ideas and the bulk of your to-do list, and then leaving Thursday and Friday as wrap up days, when possible.

2. Power Down Your Electronics

Today the line between work and personal life is often blurred due to technology. This is because we’re known to have our cell phones glued to our hands at all times, allowing for work emails to bing directly to us even when we’re off the clock. However, this habit of constantly being plugged into work through email, calls, texts, etc. can be really chipping away at you. Forbes spoke to Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life, who said, “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment.” According to Brooks, this is because those messages from work are interrupting your personal time and could be adding a layer of stress to your life (perhaps without you even realizing it). So power down those electronics and resist the urge to check in during your off hours.

3. Be Mindful In Your Decision Making

Maria Sirois, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, shared some insight with me on balancing work and home life. According to Sirois, it’s important to make choices that elevate your best self, both in the office and at home, and to be mindful of the choices as we’re making them. Next time you're about to make a quick decision at work, slow it down and make sure you're making one that will set you up for more peace and happiness (like, being able to get out of work on time to see your little one's soccer game).

“Whether considering how to complete a project or organize a family trip, your energy is affected by the mindful choices you make” Sirois explains. “With a work landscape that is highly-pressured and based on fluid hours, we do not always feel in control of time demands, but we are always in control of how we show up.” That said, use mindfulness throughout the day, and watch as you see positive results on your work and home life.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Is the reason you’ve been staying late at the office and losing out on personal time because you resist asking for help when you need it? I personally hate asking coworkers for help with things — I always think I’d rather handle it myself than give someone something else to add to their plates, however sometimes we all just need to be OK with leaning on someone else. Chances are your coworker might have some extra time, and the project or task will get accomplish a whole lot quicker with multiple minds working on it. TIME spoke to financial blogger Catherine Alford on this topic, and she noted that asking for help is key when seeking work-life balance. Ultimately, it’s impossible to handle everything on your own all the time, she added.

5. Set Realistic Expectations

Your client calls you and asks your team to deliver a huge project by the end of the week. Based on similar projects you’ve worked on, you know for certain that your team will need at least two weeks to complete it. The Guardian spoke to Chris Bryce, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, who said it’s important to set realistic expectations with those handing you work in order to perfect your work-life balance. (Otherwise, you’ll be working around the clock, right?) Bryce told the outlet, “The most important thing is to communicate well with your clients, and let them know what’s realistic and what’s not, with the time you have.” By doing so, you’ll ensure you’re regularly able to stay within decent work hours, allotting more (well-deserved!) personal time.

6. Two Words: Time Management

If you’re successful at managing your time at work, you’ll be more likely to get out of the office on time each day. (Of course, there are exceptions — like getting a last-minute project at the end of the day — but for the most part this is true.) According to Sirois, “The most resilient and happiest of us are wise about time.” Sirois says this means making the most of your time at work by accomplishing the most you can while you’re there, and then using your personal time wisely as well.

7. Wasting Time? No Way

On that time management point, let’s quickly discuss wasting time. If you’re like me, you certainly know a thing or two about wasting personal time. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve wasted away watching Netflix, and then regretted the next morning that I hadn’t spent the time with friends or family instead. Instead, try to make the most out of the moments you have both in the office and out of the office. This means cutting out time wasters while you’re sitting at your desk and instead focusing on the work at hand. Sirois says we should also try to stop wasting time trying to seek perfection. “Resilience, the ability to ride the waves of life with health and increasing ease, is elevated when we stop wasting time trying to make the impossible happen,” Sirois explains. “Perfection is impossible and a delusional effort.” Rather than trying to reach absolutely perfection at work — for instance —, accomplish projects to the very best of your ability, and then mindfully move onto the next task. You'll save yourself a whole lot of time this way.

8. Consider When You’re The Most Productive

Sirois says in order to achieve work-life balance, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. The first is, “When am I most productive?” If your response is the morning, try to tackle the day’s most difficult tasks early on so that you can free up time later in the day. If your response is the afternoon, use the AM for quick to-dos, and hone in on the big projects come noon. By knowing yourself and how you best work, you can be the most efficient person possible at the office, freeing up time for your personal life.

9. Consider How Much Time You Need Off

Another question Sirois suggests considering is “How much time off from work is really enough?” Maybe you’ve become accustomed to leaving the office late every night and never taking vacation. Then, you wonder why it is that you never seem to have time for your friends and family. Being cognoscente of how much time you’d like to allot for your personal life is the first step here. Then, make moves to make it a reality by using some of the tips we’ve already discussed to best manage your time in the office and be as efficient as you can be. Don’t forget to use those vacation days! Your brain deserves some time off.

10. Schedule Your Downtime

Lastly, if you are still finding that making time for your personal life is seemingly impossible, try scheduling that time in the same way you would schedule in a meeting or a call in your calendar. WebMD spoke to Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best, who noted, “It helps to be proactive about scheduling.” This means connecting with your friends and getting a plan put onto your calendars and being sure not to skip out on it. This could also mean scheduling in a family dinner for your extended family once a month to make sure you all get to see each other. Just make sure to avoid checking your work email while you’re doing these activities.

As Sirois told me, “While we may think otherwise, there isn’t one formula for balance. We’re all figuring this work-life thing out as we go along.” With this notion in mind, try practicing the tips outlined above as you attempt to achieve a great work-life balance. As you go along, you’ll begin to find what tactics work best and — in figuring it out as you go — you might very well land on a work-life balance that’s just right for you.

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