Many of us struggle with finding work-life balance in our daily routines. Unfortunately, employers aren’t getting rid of the 8-hour workday any time soon, leaving us with only a few hours to ourselves daily. Many people wake up, get ready for work, go to work, come home, cook dinner, do light household chores, and get ready for bed.
Photo by Brett Jordan
Maybe you have a few hours in between to yourself, or you’re a parent with absolutely no time to yourself. Ultimately, it can be difficult to find any personal time in your day with the way things are.
The definition of work-life balance varies depending on who you ask. In an ideal world, we’d have eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep, and eight hours of personal time. But the world doesn’t work like that. Instead, work-life balance is a better balance of your work and personal life, even though they might not be equal.
For some, work-life balance is stopping work at a specific time and doing things you enjoy. For others, it may mean having a flexible schedule that allows them to work when they want and prioritize other tasks.
How to improve your work-life balance?
Why do we need work-life balance? Ultimately, if you’ve worked more than 60 hours a week, you probably already know the importance of balance. Working too much is bad for us, and science proves it. Most people aren’t productive all day long regardless of how much time they spend at work, so even if you’re working 10 hours, you might only accomplish six hours of real work.
Work-life balance allows you to enjoy your life instead of working all day. You work so you can afford to do the things you enjoy, even if it’s going for a hike, which costs nothing. You work to live, not the other way around, and me-time is healthy for you. A good balance between work and life will give you more flexibility and prevent burnout, potentially facilitating your success at work. Here’s how you can create a balanced work-life schedule that works for you:
Most of us can’t spend eight hours a day doing whatever we want because of long commutes to work. Instead, you have to be realistic with how much time you can feasibly give yourself to focus on work versus personal time. Perfect equilibrium isn’t possible, so don’t expect to be able to give yourself as much time as you want.
Also, ensure you are realistic about your working environment and tools to ensure everything is in quality condition. If you are a remote worker, you likely will need a working laptop, keyboard, mouse, headset, desk, and more. If this isn’t provided by your company you need to ensure what you have can keep up with your work or sit down with your boss and express your need for a work computer.
Make a list of all the priorities you have every day besides work. This might include housework, driving the children to school, send money to family or to pay bills, or walking the dog. Most of us prioritize work over household tasks and then don’t have time at the end of the day to clean or take care of the things we need to accomplish at home. If we can’t even do our chores, how can we be expected to make time for ourselves? Consider what’s most important to you and include it every day.
For example, if self-care is important and you like waking up and going through a complex skincare routine, ensure you give yourself enough time for it. This way, you can get your work and chores done without losing aspects of your life that make you feel more balanced. Even if it’s dedicating a few minutes to yourself every day, ensuring you’re doing something you want to do every day will be well worth it.
Many people have difficulty saying no to others because they don’t want to disappoint them. For example, if your boss asks you to stay late at work regularly, you probably do it. However, constantly saying yes to things that interrupt your daily life can wear on you and lead to burnout because you’re not giving yourself any personal time.
Declining to help someone can feel uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s necessary to stick to your daily routine and include some things you want to do in it. When you say yes to extra time, you lose out on something that you truly want to do, such as spending time with your family. Setting boundaries with your employer or clients will give you the power to take your personal life back.
Talk to your boss
One of the easiest ways to take back control of your life to improve your work-life balance is to talk to your manager when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Of course, some bosses won’t listen to your pleas for more time off, but the best bosses often listen when their employees are asking for help. Consider other aspects of your life and how your current work routine and environment impact them. For example, if you work in an office, you can talk to your boss about working remotely to give you more time to spend with your family.
Additionally, you can ask for more flexible work schedules. If you’re already a remote worker, it’s possible that you don’t need to be online and waiting throughout the entire day. In addition, most requests that come to your email probably aren’t emergencies, so talk to your boss about a more flexible schedule that works for you. Of course, many bosses won’t understand the need for a flexible schedule, but you can highlight the ways they’ll benefit from providing these opportunities for employees, such as reduced idle time, increased productivity, and employee satisfaction.
Become you own boss
Not every boss will be on board with you wanting a more flexible work schedule, so if that’s the case, you may consider becoming your own boss. Freelancers and independent contractors can work from home with pets and children, set their own schedules, and decide what companies they work with. If you want more freedom to give yourself a better work-life balance, this could be the best course of action, depending on your skill set.
Stick to working hours
If you want to give yourself more personal time, you have to stop working after hours. Instead, review your contract for your working times to determine when you need to be there. Most office jobs are nine to five or six, depending on how long you get for your lunch. Once it’s time to go home, don’t spend another second at your desk. Instead, pack up and leave. Whether you’re working remotely or in an office, your employer can’t retaliate if you choose to stop working when you’re supposed to.
There will still be times when your work bleeds into your personal time, but try not to make it an everyday occurrence. Instead, try to stick to your schedule to give yourself enough time to focus on activities that truly matter to you.
Everyone needs a work-life balance, whether they realize it or not. The people in your life need you to be there for important events. If you’re too focused on work, you’ll lose out on valuable opportunities to enjoy your life. Unfortunately, everyone is different. Build your schedule based on your personal needs and stick to a routine that ensures there’s enough time for fun in your day.
Megan Isola holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and a minor in Business Marketing from Cal State University Chico. She enjoys going to concerts, trying new restaurants, and hanging out with friends.