When work starts taking over your life, nothing good can come out of it. No matter how much you love what you do, unplugging your brain from work and simply enjoying life is critical if you want to stay healthy, happy and productive.
Here are five practical and easy-to-implement tips for achieving a greater work-life balance.
#1 Figure out what work-life balance means to you
Work-life balance can mean plenty of different things to different people. Its definition is a very personal concept and there are no official guidelines on how to hit the balance in your life. To put it simply, your life — your rules.
So before you set out to overhaul the way you work and live, make sure you’re clear on the desired outcome. Do you want to have more time for traveling? Do you feel like you’re missing out on family dinners too often and need to claw back some family time? Or perhaps your gym membership has been on the back burner for too long and you crave for some decent exercise?
Whether work-life balance means finishing work earlier, making time for your hobbies or switching off devices at 6pm, figure out your definition first to set a clear direction.
#2 Adopt healthy habits
Low productivity is one of the key barriers to achieving work-life balance. When we fail to accomplish our tasks on time, it leads to extra work hours, increased stress and disrupted work schedule. And there’s nothing balanced about that. Knowledge workers (i.e. people who spend their days pressing keyboard keys at their desks) are particularly at risk of developing health problems and sending their mind into overload. To stay sharp throughout your day, try adopting some of the recommended healthy habits:
- Take breaks. Whether you stretch, practice mindfulness, go for a walk or chat with another human being. Try to find your excuse to take breaks every 50-90 minutes. The recommended break time is 15 to 20 minutes, plus a longer one for lunch.
- Stay away from screens. If you take a break from staring at your computer screen to stare at your mobile screen, that won’t help you improve your productivity. It’s critical to shift your attention and use a different part of the brain to let it rest.
- Drink water. Dehydration can do a lot of weird things to our bodies. For some, it triggers headaches and problems focusing, for others it causes a range of unpleasant symptoms, such as dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue and cool skin. Always have a glass of water on your desk to make sure you’re sipping throughout the day.
- Eat your 5-a-day. It can be really difficult to eat healthy when you’re hungry. We tend to gravitate towards fast, high-calorie food to replenish our hunger faster. That’s where homemade lunch comes in. Packing your own lunch is one of the best ways to control what you eat. And to make sure you load your body with essential nutrients and vitamins. And to make sure you don’t undo this achievement, try to have a healthy snack on hand to keep the sugary snacks out of the picture. According to Harvard Business Review, the more fruits and vegetables we consume, the happier, more engaged, and more creative we tend to be.
#3 Be realistic (and learn to say no)
Turning down new business is extremely difficult. Freelancers and small business owners know this feeling all too well. However, sometimes saying no can turn out to be the smarter decision in the long run. Overcommitting almost always leads to disappointment. You will either burn out working the extra time or won’t hit the agreed deadline and let your client down. Learning to say no is a crucial skill in the world of business. As it teaches us to think ahead and stick to the long-term strategy instead of picking up small deals as we go along.
The same rule applies to your daily workload. Planning too much for the day and not reaching your goals hurts your motivation, and we all know what sagging motivation does to productivity. Understanding your own working style will help you prioritise and plan your work better. Think about your productivity peak times — do you work best in the mornings or evenings? Do you achieve most in short bursts or need time to get into the flow? How often do you need to take breaks to keep your energy high? Once you find your work rhythm, you will be able to allocate your time more accurately. This will help you achieve more and feel better.
#4 Set boundaries
Do you ever really stop working? Running your own business means you get to wear a whole lot of different hats. You’re the accountant, the marketer, the account exec…and the sole responsibility-bearer. It’s a relentless, never-ending quest for success. Getting some boundaries in place is truly crucial to your mental health. This might mean restricting yourself from working in your bed or logging out of your work email after a certain hour. The point is, set yourself some rules. Try to live by them because the pull towards being constantly connected and available is too difficult to manage otherwise.
#5 Outsource the most tedious tasks
Yes, it will cost some money to hire a freelancer. But you can use the time gained the more tedious aspects of your job to look for new business. No one is good at everything; by focusing on what you know and do best and outsourcing the non-core activities to on-demand specialists, you could accelerate the growth of your business and increase your profits. If you browse the list of skills on PeoplePerHour, you will see that there are experts specialising in virtually all areas of business from finances to PR to talent management. This applies to freelancers, too. If a task is demanding too much time and energy, look for a freelancer to help you with the workload. So you can use the time gained to search for new clients or simply chill. Working smart not hard is the only way forward.