What are you? A team leader, a team player, an independent consultant, a professional, or a working parent? However you describe your occupation, you are a busy contributor. But before all that, you are human, not a machine. To put it another way, you are more complex than any of the advanced machines that can be repaired, have their parts replaced, and can work 100% hundred percent of the time.
But not us humans. We need rest, time to relax, time to heal, grow and reconnect. All this so we can be 100%. Unfortunately, we juggle multiple roles and are expected to give our all to all the jobs we do. Be it professional or personal. With the 24-hour time limit and ‘need-it-right-now’ attitude that we all have, it’s just not possible. We prioritize our jobs and responsibilities towards others over our own well-being. We continue to do this until we spiral, crash, and burn, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, working from home, transitioning back to the office, and hoping that we are at the end of the COVID-19 nightmare, it’s about time we realized this for our own sake. It is about time that we initiate and commit to a work-life balance.
Think about why a work-life balance is important to you
Work-life balance is more than just a hip term or a fad. It has to be a way of life, the keyword here – is life. We need to understand that we have to LIVE A LIFE and not WORK A LIFE.
It’s important for you to first understand why YOU need a work-life balance. Because it most certainly is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of adjustment you can make. The balance is custom-made to your needs, your schedule, and your priorities. Begin with listing what’s important to you from both an internal (personal) and an external point of view. You can then go on to assign a rank to these priorities in a way that you maintain a balance between life, family, friends, and, most importantly, yourself. After this, schedule your priorities so you have a plan in place.
There is something very reassuring about having a plan. It is a way to take back a little control on what otherwise seems overwhelmingly out of control.
We have all asked ourselves these questions at one point in time. And it just indicates how badly we need to realign our balance to feel good and feel better about what we are doing, personally and professionally.
Achieving a work-life balance can be a challenge, especially since you have to break out of old patterns and habits of overworking and break into a habit of consciously maintaining the balance.
We have a few suggestions to help you maintain a work-life balance.
1. Dedicate a Workspace
Home or office, your workspace should be dedicated to working and nothing else. In a home environment, it’s best to have a dedicated workspace that works for you. With minimal distractions, an ergonomic workstation and all the tools within arms reach will help you channel your creativity, decision-making, empathy, and problem-solving skills. And you will be able to do this with better focus.
The same goes for your office workstation, use your soft-board or whiteboard effectively with motivational messages or important data, and keep your desk as clean and organized as possible. Remember to have a well-adjusted and comfortable office chair for productive comfort.
Your workspace should give you positive energy and help inspire you. You know you have succeeded when other members of your team or family feel most productive at your desk.
2. Set Boundaries
The pandemic has blurred the work-life boundaries in a way that most of us don’t see the boundary at all. With zero transit time and more hours available to work, we have taken our own time for granted. A misguided belief developed that since we are at home and now available with our work machines 24/7, we are available 24/7. The problem is that this belief was not limited to a handful but to the entire company culture. It was top-bottom, bottom-top, lateral, horizontal, and any & every direction you can conceive.
‘If I can stay late and work, so can you.’ ‘If I can do it, what’s your excuse?’ Sound familiar? You have either heard this or said it at least once in your career. It is best to understand that every person has different skills, personalities, and thresholds.
This is where boundaries need to be set. One has to be able to communicate clearly the details entailed in completing a task and one has to be reasonable while doing it. From an individual’s perspective, we need to know our limits and inform as such. From a team’s perspective, it helps to be organized and have a planned approach to one’s work to avoid delays and extended working hours. And it’s best to develop a work plan that works for all while respecting professional boundaries.
3. Establish your Routine
When we commute to work, we mentally prepare ourselves for work. We know that this is the transition into work mode. With the pandemic, we seem to transition from one room to the next which really isn’t much. When we reach the office we punch in, say our ‘good mornings’ and begin our day with a coffee or tea. And at the end of the day, we reply to any pending emails, say our goodbyes and transition back home.
When at home, you can try mimicking a commute by going out for a walk or a run. Not only will this help you transition but also give you an extra bit of exercise. Once you are back, you can transition into your home workspace better than when you would just move from one room to the next. At the end of the day, you can go for another walk or run and then call it a day.
It is important to establish a routine that will help you transition from a restful state into work mode and back. If you have any other way of transitioning and establishing your work routine, tell us in the comments.
4. Take Regular Breaks
When in the office, we would often have a small chat with coworkers at the office water cooler, the photocopy machine, or the break room. This socializing was important and it actually helped us remain connected. But with working from home, this becomes difficult.
Here are a few ideas.
Most of us have office buddies. Take a virtual coffee break with them to catch up on stuff that’s happening.
You can step away from your desk and have lunch with a family member which will not only help you take a break from work but also help you connect and communicate better with loved ones.
It helps to have a few moments of stillness. You can just close your eyes and have a few minutes to think to yourself. This stillness creates the space you need to create new ideas and get a new perspective on your job at hand.
It is very important to take regular breaks of 10-15 minutes to get a quick recharge and realign your focus for better productivity.
5. Be Kind
First and foremost, you need to stop saying ‘I don’t have time to worry about myself.’ You absolutely need to stop believing that. Self-care is a commitment, a promise you make to yourself. And it is just as valid as any commitment or promises you to make. You have to make yourself a priority. And most importantly not place blame on yourself for not completing something or making a mistake. It happens with the best of us.
Even if you are to blame, you have to forgive yourself for your error and move on. Remember, negative thoughts about oneself will lead to self-blame and negative thoughts and so on, setting in motion a vicious cycle.
It’s time to build a virtuous cycle by simply being kind to yourself. You will think positive thoughts, improve on mistakes, and feel good about yourself when you are kind. That we can guarantee.
Work-life balance is more than just balancing life with work, or work with life. It’s about finding the balance within yourself. Once you find that balance, that equilibrium…cherish it.