Are you like the nearly 7 out of 10 full-time employees in the U.S. who don’t or can’t prioritize their personal life over their work life? It’s a shocking statistic, but the truth is that 66% of Americans feel they don’t have a good work-life balance.
But how do you start balancing work when it gets out of whack? And in an environment where home and work life lines are getting blurred, how do you set boundaries that allow you to be productive and embrace time away from work?
One Tech offers these tips on recognizing when your work life is encroaching on the other parts of your life that matter and ways to restore the balance so you don’t burn out.
Recognize When Your Work Life Is Taking Over
Sometimes,it’s hard to notice when your life is consumed by work. It starts small, like taking an extra hour one day to finish a project or skipping lunch in order to catch up on emails. Then it happens again on another day, then another. In a few weeks, you’re suddenly overwhelmed, and it may seem like it came out of nowhere.
An unhealthy work-life balance is characterized by your need or expectation to let your job take precedence over other aspects of your life. After a while, this imbalance leads to negative consequences on an individual’s health and overall quality of life.
Consider these questions, and if you answer yes, to any of them, start making a plan now to change your relationship with how you work.
Do You Feel Continually Overworked?
If you work extra hours each week, whether adding time to your day, working weekends, or even finishing up a project on holidays, you’re likely working too much. When those extra hours cut into your time for rest, relaxation, hobbies, family, and personal activities, you definitely are.
Overworking takes a serious toll on your mental and physical health, with higher chances of developing anxiety and depression and reduced energy for doing the things you love.
For people who work more than 55 hours a week, studies show that they are at a higher risk of having a stroke or developing heart-related conditions.
Finding balance as soon as you can is the best way to alleviate the stress that causes these mental and physical ailments.
Are You Neglecting Your Personal Life?
Your personal life is what revives your sanity, brings added meaning to your life, and gives you joy. Missing out on the people, events, exercise, daily chores and activities, and everything else that isn’t work because you still have excessive work to do is as unhealthy as it gets.
Leisure time and moments devoted to enjoyment are essential to sustaining your mental and physical health. So if you find yourself saying “no” to hanging out with friends, continually missing your gym days, or struggling to find time to do something you love because of work, you need to make a change.
The fact is that if you’re neglecting your personal life, you’re actually making your work life even harder to deal with. When you are working, you may find you have trouble focusing, can’t seem to get as much done as you used to, or feel distracted by so many tasks to do at the same time.
That’s because your mind hasn’t been given time away. When you force your brain to focus on work for so long without reprieve, it gets overworked, like a muscle staying flexed for too long. At a certain point, it has to let go.
Are You Pushing Self-Care Aside?
Part of your personal life that needs attention is your physical and mental self-care. This includes taking time off when you are sick, taking vacations, making time for exercising, getting adequate sleep, and enjoying non-work activities.
Failing to prioritize your self-care is what leads to deteriorating health. If you struggle to take time off, either for an illness, needing a mental break, taking a personal day to catch up on home life chores, or going on a vacation, you need to change your work behavior and schedule.
Do You Commit Yourself to Work Over Loved Ones?
If relationships with family, friends, and significant others are becoming more and more strained because your commitments to work take up so much of your time, that’s a sign you’re letting the wrong part of life consume you.
You might find yourself turning down events with friends, missing out on activities with your kids or family, or ignoring invitations to hang out.
And worse, that commitment to work often makes people irritable. You could catch yourself snapping at co-workers, being unusually annoyed or angry with family and friends, or distancing yourself from loved ones.
Are You Experiencing Burnout?
Burnout is when you experience exhaustion in a job, either mentally, physically, or emotionally, and it happens due to chronic stress and pressure. Remember that muscle metaphor? Your muscles, like your work life, are designed to stay flexed for only so long, and pushing yourself past that point only deflates you.
When you can no longer draw boundaries between life and work or are thinking about work constantly, that’s a sign you’re mentally exhausted.
Physical exhaustion may come in the form of not sleeping, developing unexplained aches and pains, losing energy, or struggling to focus on the tasks at hand.
Signs of emotional exhaustion often show when you feel everything in your life is unimportant or uninteresting, and you don’t want to do anything unless you have to. Or you may feel that even though you once loved this job or field, you can’t picture yourself doing it much longer.
While people have different thresholds for experiencing burnout or may only struggle with one of the above examples of overworking, even just one is enough of a reason to rethink how you relate to your work.
What Work-Life Balance Should Look Like
A healthy work-life balance should be one where you can accomplish work goals while still having time to relax, be with loved ones, have hobbies, and enjoy living.
It shouldn’t just be in an ideal world, but in your real world, you should be able to meet your professional commitments and do the things that nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
A healthy work-life balance should include:
● Time management: Organizing and prioritizing your time to ensure you meet your work and personal goals.
● Boundary setting: Establishing clearly defined times and spaces for your working life and personal life and ensuring they don’t cross.
● Handling stress: Creating ways to manage your stress, from exercising, practicing mindfulness, and taking work breaks.
● Being flexible: Implementing strategies to accommodate those unforeseen events without messing up your work or personal life.
Everyone falls into the trap of thinking if they just work a little harder or longer, they’ll accomplish more. But remember, you need a combination of rest, work, and leisure to function at your best.
It’s an illusion to be productive all of the time or to think that an eight or more-hour workday equates to eight hours of output. The only way to be the most productive is to restore your work-to-life ratio.
Steps to Take to Improve Your Work-Life Dynamic
Finding what works best for you can be challenging at first because there isn’t one idea out there that works for everyone. Also, the needs of your job may not pertain to others or some of the solutions offered.
You may have to establish some goals for how you want your work-life balance to look and experiment with your time to see what allows the most productivity and creates lasting meaning in your job.
Finding the right balance in a single day may be difficult, but it might be easier to achieve throughout the whole week. Be patient. You’ll figure out what works best for you.
Here are some steps that will help you realign your work-life dynamic!
1. Discover How Your Brain Operates
Some of us are our best thinking selves first thing in the morning; others hit their stride in the afternoon. Figure out when you’re at your savviest and most productive. Then plan your work around those times as best you can.
Try some productivity hacks to help enhance those productive bursts, too, like the Pomodoro timer or pausing every hour with a 15-minute break.
2. Chunk Your Time For Different Tasks
Once you know how your mind operates, set up your tasks around those high-productive and down moments. Do your most mentally intensive work when you’re most ready for it and check your emails or do mundane tasks in your slower-paced time.
3. End Your Work Day at a Designated Time
If you allow work to fill your time, it will, especially if you work from home. So don’t let it. Set a certain time to end your work day, then log off, shut down the computer, lock the door, or schedule something non-work related afterward.
Be consistent. Make five o’clock (or whatever time makes sense for your workday) your stopping time as often as you can, and it will get easier.
4. Enlist Technology to Help
Technology can be your best friend when it comes to managing your time and avoiding distractions, from timers to ad blockers. Use apps to block distracting websites while you work and then block your work tools after hours.
If you can, restrict yourself to one work device that you can close or shut down. Or have one device that is completely work-free so you really can get away completely.
5. Take Time Off
You need time off for well-being and self-nourishment. Take sick days when you’re sick. Go on vacation occasionally. Take bereavement time. Take a personal day every now and again.
And when you’re out of the office, be out. Don’t check your emails or messages. Don’t check on the progress of a project or just do a little bit of work. Invest in yourself with time off.
6. Eat Lunch Out
Step away from your office or home office every now and then and eat lunch out. This gives you some downtime, a chance to refocus your brain, and reminds you to eat (because how often have you had a “working lunch” or just forgot to eat while working so much?).
Make plans to go out and meet friends or coworkers for lunch, too. Adding that social element also helps keep you sane and rejuvenates your brain.
7. Build Social or Other Beneficial Plans Into Your Work Day
Similar to eating with people at lunch occasionally, make plans to see coworkers or friends throughout your work day sometimes. Meet at a coffee shop and work for a couple of hours or hold a meeting with a colleague at a restaurant.
This is especially helpful for people who typically work from home and find themselves feeling isolated.
Work other helpful routines into your work day, too. If you know you’ll be on the phone or in virtual meetings a lot throughout the day, try taking a walk while you’re doing them to get some physical activity in.
8. Do Something You Love That Isn’t Work-Related
First, having a hobby or interest that you can do after work makes unplugging from work easier. If you have something to look forward to after work, it can make the day go by faster and make it easier to stop checking messages and stick to your predetermined work schedule.
Plus, pursuing hobbies and passions gives you energy, boosts your vitality, enhances your creativity, and allows you to bring a fresher, more energized self to work.
9. Talk With Your Manager
There is sometimes a fear that you’re not doing enough in your work day, and that’s why you feel pressured to keep working longer hours. This thinking exacerbates your unhealthy work-life balance.
Instead, talk with your company’s leaders about how to prioritize your time, solutions for streamlining projects, or even if there are tasks that don’t need to be on your plate but could be shared, given to others, or require hiring another person for.
10. Reconsider Work That Provides You With Balance
While your job can’t and shouldn’t satisfy all of your needs for meaning in life, from purpose and challenge to social connections, it should provide moments of accomplishment, achievement, satisfaction, and team bonding.
If your work doesn’t or no longer stirs your interest, enthusiasm, or sense of worth, you may need to re-evaluate the way you work or the work you do.
Find Purposeful Work With One Tech Staffing
If your current job isn’t supporting you the way you need it to, or you’re looking for that dream job in an engineering or technical position, reach out to One Tech Staffing. Our recruiters specialize in finding placements for technically talented candidates, and we are dedicated to finding that next job for you!
Message us today or submit your resume and let us help connect you with job opportunities that meet all of your goals.