The prospect of achieving a work-life balance might seem borderline impossible to some – especially those in high paying, high-stress jobs in big cities, who spend their lives travelling between Paddington Court Executive Rooms and board rooms in Tokyo. Well, there is no one answer to the question of work-life balance, unfortunately, but there are a number of ways that, when combined, will lead to the achieving of it.
1. Compartmentalize technology
While it can be really difficult if several people are relying on you outside of work hours, what it comes down to is that they are called work hours for a reason. You need to separate your work communications – that includes work email and work phone – from your home life. For some, this means leaving their work phones at work and keeping their emails on their work technology only. For others, they are able to keep their technology with them but switch off the relevant connections. Do whatever works for you and whatever helps you not to work outside of work hours. Essentially, it is about ensuring you don’t find yourself lying in bed next to your partner replying to work emails, or in a luxury boutique hotel in London but answering calls instead of drinking a glass of wine on the terrace.
2. Don’t always say “yes”
Being the “yes man” at work may seem like a good move when everyone is thrilled with you for taking on their projects, but it swiftly turns on you when you don’t perform because you have taken on too much. If you say no to something, that is all you can be faulted on. But if you say yes and then underperform or disappoint, it says a lot more about you as a professional. If you don’t have time to take something on, say no – not just for the sake of the piece of work that deserves the proper time and respect, but also for your state of mind and your anxiety levels at work. You are also allowed to say yes to things conditionally – this is something people tend to forget. You could respond to a request about an assignment needing doing by saying, “I would be happy to help, but I can only get it to you for next week as I’ve got a lot on my plate next week”. If it suits them, they will agree and you will have the time you need. If it doesn’t suit them, they will find someone else to do it. A hard “no” is not your only option – remember that.
The number one thing that falls to the wayside when we are stressed, overworked and overcommitted is sleep. This is ironic given that sleep and rest are just about the only things that can provide you with the energy or ability to do those things. Though it may be a quick fix at first, a diet of energy drinks, double coffees and vitamins can only get you so far. You need solid rest if you are going to perform to your highest potential at work. It is basically a cycle where too much work makes you sleep less, too little sleep makes you underperform, and underperformance results in work pile-ups. Break the cycle. Take care of your body. If you are working in London from another city, consider looking for Paddington hotel deals so you can enjoy some luxury and get some sleep while you are away from home.
4. Join a group
Whether it is an art class or a running club, joining a group in your personal time can be very helpful in maintaining a work-life balance. When you simply decide to go for a run or paint a picture, this use of time can seem indulgent or you could be tempted to skip it in favour of something seemingly more pressing. However, when you have committed to a class, there is a layer of responsibility and dedication that will ensure you go more regularly. Ultimately, the importance of going is to have some time to do things that are for you. But realistically, you need a bit of a kick if you are going to go continuously without guilting yourself into working instead or cleaning the house. Physical health is just as important a feature of the work-life balance as mental health is, and the two often go hand-in-hand.
5. Eat well
When you are in a rush, pressed for time or struggling to juggle a million things at once, nutrition can get neglected. This is not always intentional. Sometimes, you are too busy to eat or don’t have time to fetch food. Other times, you pick the easiest thing you can, like fast food from the high street or snack food from the supermarket. Firstly, you are allowed to take time to eat – the “life” part of “work-life” kind of necessitates that. Secondly, the more energy you have, the better work you will produce and the quicker you will likely be able to complete it. So it is a win-win for everyone.
6. Treat yourself
Yes, your work is essential. Yes, keeping fit is essential. Yes, feeding yourself the right nutrients to function is essential. But these are the essentials, you also need to enjoy yourself sometimes. This can mean different things for different people. For some, it may be spa treatments at The Devonshire Hotel Paddington. For others, it may be a stroll through the arboretum in Kew Gardens. A lot of people just like to wind down on the couch and watch Netflix or read their book. Whichever person you are, make sure you fuel that side of you and let yourself have fun once in a while.
Getting a work-life balance that works for you is critical, or else you will just burn out or – worse! – quit a job you actually really enjoy when you’re on top of things. It is not as hard to achieve as you might think, it just requires breaking things up into small, manageable pieces and setting strict rules for yourself. Once you cut yourself off from things like work emails at home, you will find that you stop feeling the need to reply so often, and then the process becomes more natural.
Until then, keep yourself in check and don’t forget to take a holiday every once in a while.