Everybody wants to be a superstar in their career but there is a fine line between putting in the effort to excel and putting in so much effort that you pay for it with your physical and mental well being. No matter how young or how fit you are – you can’t be available all day, every day without paying a hefty toll somewhere down the line.
The trouble with today’s working environment is that it can be very hard to switch off even when you get out of the office. E-mail and social media have played their part in making employees think that they need to be at their boss’s beck and call all the time.
Do this for any lengthy period of time though and you will soon find that instead of being a superstar; you’re a burnt out wreck.
Our culture lends us to believe that work defines us and that can make people feel guilty about getting away from work and giving the right priority to social and family issues. It’s a cliché but nobody’s tombstone will read; “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
If you’re feeling stressed out and wishing you could get the work-life balance in your life; there’s some good news – you can get things back in shape and faster than you might think. It’s simply a question of setting some boundaries and adhering to them. Here’s how you can do that in six simple steps:
Step 1 – Recognize the Role Work Plays in Life
The first thing to realize is that work is important. It keeps a roof over our heads, it lets us prepare for the future and it offers the chance to broaden our mental horizons. If you recognize this – it frees you up to actually enjoy the work that you do.
One of the reasons that people can become overwhelmed at work is that it becomes an endless chore. It’s good to take a step back and see the value in our work both personally and professionally.
Step 2 – Don’t Be Afraid to Unplug
The first boundary to set is when you will and won’t be available outside of work. Sure, it’s perfectly reasonable to be on call the night before a major sales presentation in case something changes somewhere in the operation and you need to know before you get in front of the client.
Equally, it’s important to recognize that absolutely nobody desperately needs to know how many boxes of paperclips are in the office at 5 to midnight.
Set hours when you will be available and when you won’t. Communicate those hours to others. Then when the time comes round – switch off your devices. Stop thinking about work and enjoy the moments outside of work.
Step 3 – Create A Routine
Now let’s turn our attention to work itself. Many work days involve a bunch of wasted time. People drop by our desks and start conversations, meetings drag endlessly, etc.
If you can create a routine, ideally on a shared calendar on your office system, you can start to ditch some of this wasted time. The next time your colleague drops by unannounced point them at your calendar and say; “I’d love to chat but I have to work on XYZ just now.” 5 minutes before the end of the meeting – tell people you have to be in ABC place but would be happy to pick things up on a different day.
Creating a routine and sticking to it – lets you focus your in work time on what really matters – the work that you do.
Step 4 – Create Some Space for You
Now that you have a routine; build in some time that’s dedicated to you. Instead of “lunch at my desk” set “lunch out of the office”. Then go and take a walk, sit and eat and properly relax. You’ll find that recharging your batteries during the day offers you a chance to be more productive when you’re at your desk.
There’s nothing worse than spending the whole day chained to the desk without a break. Also set aside some personal time. You need to read and learn to improve your career prospects. You need time to exercise to keep your body healthy enough to deal with day-to-day life. You need time for your loved ones. Diarize that time. Make sure that people know that you’re not goofing off – you’re balancing your life.
Step 5 – Book a Vacation
Americans get a fairly lousy deal when it comes to vacation time; over in Europe companies offer their people more than a month of paid vacations. Everybody takes that time and Europe has yet to collapse on a economic basis; in fact the EU is the largest economy in the world. Bigger than both China and the U.S.A.
Taking a vacation gives you a chance to completely switch off from work. Let everyone know that you’re going and that you won’t be available while you’re away. Don’t worry – the world won’t end without you. If you were run over by a bus, as sad as that would be for you, your company would survive – so it can manage without you for a week or two.
Step 6 – Live in the Moment
When you’re at work, you should be at work. In mind, body and soul. You should be focused on delivering work objectives and be responsible and accountable for that.
Likewise when you’re not at work you shouldn’t be at work; you should be doing the things that you need to have a better life. That means ensuring that you focus on the family you are with, the book you are reading, the fun you are having rather than thinking about work and what could be done there.
A work-life balance comes when we give 100% of what we have to give to the activity we are doing right here in the now. It’s a recipe for happiness and success.