Work. Eat. Errands. Sleep. Repeat.
The mantra of many, but enjoyed by few. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, nearly 58% of Canadians report “overload” as a result of the pressures associated with work, home, family, friends, physical health, volunteer and community service.
Employees are increasingly feeling the stress caused by juggling the competing demands of their job and family life and it's taking a toll on their health. According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, four out of ten U.S. employees state that their jobs are “very” or “extremely” stressful. Those in high stress jobs are also three times more likely to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and twice as likely to quit.
Achieving work-life balance means having equilibrium among the varying priorities in one's life – but this state of balance is different for every person, and often difficult to achieve. Here are a few tips to get yourself out of the work-life slump, and into a more productive, fulfilling life.
Being open about your needs
If you have a family function to attend, or a doctor's appointment during work hours, make sure you put it in your schedule. Create an open dialogue with your managers and colleagues to keep them in the loop. Tell them what your plan is, and ask them to respect it.
Be as productive as you can, when you can
To-do list services like Wunderlist can be a great help for tracking both large and small-scale tasks. You can share your to-do lists digitally with colleagues and managers to be held accountable for your goals. It is also a good morale booster to check off items on your list as you complete them.
Pay attention to your energy throughout the day. If you know you are sluggish in the morning, avoid scheduling important meetings or projects which require significant focus and attention to detail. Use your hours when you are at optimal performance and energy levels wisely.
Set an achievable schedule for the day the night before
It is easy to overwork yourself if you don’t keep your goals S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Setting an achievable schedule can help you feel fulfilled once you’ve accomplished more difficult, high-priority tasks. This also sets a limit on the amount of work you should be doing.
What are your biggest priorities? Try the sandwich method: starting the day with something you know you can accomplish quickly and with relative ease, followed by a larger or more difficult task (and then an easier one).
Take brief “Brain Breaks”
Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day. Your productivity and effectiveness will increase if you take even a ten-minute stretch or bathroom break every few hours. Additionally, schedule at least one thing you look forward to each day. The activity doesn’t have to be time-consuming, complicated, or expensive, but putting aside the time for yourself will help you maintain a good balance of work and wellness.
On your longer breaks, leave the office!
Many of us choose to eat at our desks in order to get more work done. In many cases, however, not stopping for a break can be counter-productive. The longer you try to focus on any one topic, the more difficult it can become to stay focused on the task at hand.
When it's break time, it's important to take a break and get yourself out of a work mindset. Going for a brief walk or hitting the gym on your break can help make a stressful day more manageable. You can also plan to meet with a colleague or friend once a week for lunch or coffee. It forces you to leave your desk and avoid scarfing down a sandwich while answering emails.
Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed. In fact, research has shown that workers who fit in exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their sedentary peers.
Embracing the “off” button
We have become a particularly wired generation. It is easy to forget that every piece of technology has an off button, and not-so easy to actually use it. In a study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), it was shown that people are overwhelmingly using technology before sleep - a proven disruption to sleeping patterns. 95% of the people who were surveyed admitted to using some sort of device in the hour before sleep.
If you’re on your computer all day at work, make an effort to schedule activities into your evenings so you’re less likely to succumb to the inclination to pull out your laptop and continue working. If you’re looking for a way to unwind before bed, try avoiding screen time by reading a book. A lack of sleep is detrimental to your productivity and your mental well-being, so ensure it becomes a priority.