With the increasing pace of life and all the demands that work places on us, not to mention the technological advancements that keep us ever more connected, it can be hard to find a work-life balance. With only 24 hours in the day, there are limits to what we can realistically achieve. This does not mean that you are required to only sleep, eat and work during these 24 hours.

In order to improve productivity at work, you also need to ensure that you spend time on things that bring you joy. Be it going to the gym, engaging in a hobby or spending time with loved ones – achieving a level of harmony to balance out work with the rest of your life is critical. But how exactly can you do this? We offer some useful tips.

Some of the tips that you’re about to read are easier to implement than others. However, opting for a holistic approach and trying them out together is the optimal solution. Sure, it will take adjusting to, training yourself and your colleagues and an overall change in habits for some, but the results will be worth it. So, without further ado, here are some of our recommendations. 

Unplug from technology

Technology is ubiquitous – it’s all around us. You may wake up to flashing lights and red dots to signal new notifications received, but this is just plain unhealthy because we train our minds to seek out these notifications in terms of gratification and rewards. It’s not only applicable to social media though. It also applies to emails, Skype messages, messages on other chat systems, missed calls, Viber/WhatsApp messages and so many others.

To halt this bad habit, consider unplugging from technology for a set period of time. Preferably in the evenings and early mornings. Dedicate a specific time during the day to checking your emails and try not to jump or stress out when a new email pops into your inbox. If you start building the habit of informing your contacts that their emails or messages will be responded to within 24-48 hours, you’ll find you’re having a much easier time to focus on the important things. 

Learn the power of “no” 

The power of saying “no” cannot be underestimated, but let’s face it, it’s really difficult for most people to say “no” to their boss or manager outright, just like that. There is, however, a more polite way for you to say no indirectly and this involves getting your manager or boss involved a bit in your work process.

When they ask you to do something and you would ideally like to say no but you don’t feel like you have the courage to do so, ask them to help you to reprioritise your priorities so that you can fit in the task and get it done. When they take a look at what other tasks you’re busy with, they might decide not to ask you to do the task altogether. Alternatively, they’ll help you reprioritise your tasks all while knowing what else you’ve got left to do.

Prioritise tasks

Find time for friends or family outside of work

And speaking of prioritising, it’s not only when your boss asks you to squeeze in one more task in your day to stretch your limits. It’s also about you yourself taking the time out to focus on the most important tasks first. Look at looming deadlines. Determine approximately how long it will take you to get each task done and then prioritise in terms of needs and expectations. Leave the lower hanging fruit for later when you might have more time. 

Set boundaries

This is a strategy which involves “training” your colleagues to expect your daily departure. For example, start by indicating to them that you need to leave work by a certain time and that if they’d like you to take care of anything, they should email you before 3pm.

Do this for a couple of days. Not necessarily in a row, but every other day or so. This will help inculcate new habits for both you and your colleagues as you’ll be able to stick to a pre-set schedule, and they’ll get used to your dedication to sticking to strict timelines and will help both of you achieve more over time.

Set aside time for friends and family

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s not only about being dull, however, it’s also about dedicating time to spend with loved ones as they might start feeling ignored and this could cause rifts in relationships. Having healthy relationships with loved ones is one of the most fulfilling things in life and it’s time to set blocks of time to dedicate to them.

So, a good tip to keep here is to set a few blocks of time (ahead of time) for friends and family and try to get in some good old laughs with them or share what you’re going through. Another tip is to avoid talking about work with them altogether. While it’s an important part of your life, it’s not the only part of your life and you need to consider closing the door to work when you’re with your loved ones so that you also don’t miss out on special occasions.

Meditate, exercise and set aside time for hobbies

This might seem like a big and possibly unachievable task simply because so many other things are vying for your attention at the same time. However, it’s not impossible. Spending time on your hobbies, taking time to journal, draw, read, exercise or meditate or even all of these is an excellent way of rejuvenating and getting inspired. Write your ideas and thoughts down starting from as little as five minutes a day. Dedicate 20 minutes to a yoga workout or a run. Wake up an hour earlier and meditate for 30 minutes. And don’t forget your hobbies and interests. 

Use the resources available to you

If you find yourself struggling or if you simply want to maintain an existing balance in your life, then it’s worthwhile to use the resources that are available to you. Your employer, for example, might offer some psychological services as part of your health insurance package. Alternatively, you can get in contact with free mental health service providers who will be more than happy to lend a caring ear and listen to you while providing you with much needed support. 

Volunteer

This one may seem like it will take a big chunk out of your life and you may feel that you simply don’t have time to go the extra mile for other people who you don’t know. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Nor does it have to be people. You might contribute to cleaning up a local park from litter, helping to take care of animals or spend one hour in an elderly home reading to seniors or simply helping them reminisce about their lives. This is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time – spending it for the benefit of others.

Outsource your chores

It probably wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that hardly anyone enjoys doing chores. Vacuuming, mopping, dusting, etc. are not on a lot of people’s lists of fun things to do. However, they need to get done if you want to live in a habitable and hygienic environment.

There are two suggestions here. Firstly, consider outsourcing your chores to free up some of your valuable time. And secondly, if you can’t outsource, consider breaking up your chores over the week’s days so that you don’t waste an entire Saturday or Sunday morning on these tasks. You can do vacuuming on Monday, dusting on Tuesday, polishing on Wednesday, etc. 

Take time off

It’s part of most legal contracts that you’re allotted a certain period of time off from work each year. If you’ve noticed your days off piling up and you haven’t used them, it’s time to do so. If you feel that you simply can’t afford to take an entire week off, consider taking one day off and create a couple of long weekends for yourself.

Planning for the future in terms of where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, who you’ll go with and what interesting places you’ll visit or what things you’ll do while there will help keep your mind focused on something else apart from work and you’ll be able to break the usual routine. 

Take time off from work to balance your life

Conclusion

Achieving a work and life balance does sound like hard work. Especially if you’re the type of person who has already deeply established work habits that mean you hardly have time for yourself. However, pausing to stop and think about whether this is truly healthy for you and your well-being (both now and in the future) is critical for your long term health. While we have offered 10 different strategies and while these would ideally be used best in tandem with each other, you can always pick and choose one or two which speak to you the most and start with baby steps. Taking small steps now and building onto them in the future is a great way of keeping you balanced, healthy and joyful.