4 different ways to approach work-life balance
Talk to an employee in a 9-to-5 job, and they’ll tell you how challenging it is to achieve that perfect balance of life and work. Try as we might, compartmentalising work and leisure are hard and we often catch ourselves thinking about that assignment long after the office has shut shop for the day. Work-life integration or blend is the reality for most people as they do not fully disconnect from work even when in the comfort of their homes, and vice-versa.
Some days, work will take precedence and others, your loved ones and/or personal health will command more attention. If there are areas of your life you feel like you have been neglecting, do not try and compensate by slicing up your time into neatly allotted hours of the day, here’s what to do instead:
Go with the flow: Make all the mental notes and schedules you like--but dedicating strictly eight hours for work and eight hours for leisure and expecting yourself to follow through with dead certainty is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, allow yourself room to experiment and do not be upset if the day does not go as planned. This is not to say that you should throw your timetables and calendars out the window, rather make a list of all the work you hope to achieve and accomplish in a day. If you find yourself lacking the motivation to finish a certain task, return home to your family and keep it for another day -- unless of course, you’re facing looming deadlines.
Take small steps: In a digital age, it is inevitable that your professional life will spill into your personal life, especially if you have children and other family members to take care of. Many of us either bring home our office devices to continue working or sync our work accounts to our phones, leaving us connected to our jobs forever. The point is to not beat yourself up over letting this happen, even if you do not intend for it. You might have to attend to a professional emergency just when you’re about to go to bed or jump in on a call during the weekend -- and, that’s life. If you wish to create clear boundaries between your multiple lives, start small -- leave your devices in the office, set up a personal account and do not check your emails when you’re away from the desk. Allot a weekly time for family meals, and know that if you miss a week, you can always make up the time in the next. Disentangle slowly.
Play at work: When work assignments and projects dominate your life and you find yourself working even on the weekends because of urgent deadlines to meet, other factors such as health, leisure and family will automatically take a backseat. If you can’t make time for things after-hours because you work overtime regularly, squeeze them in during lunch or tea breaks. Book a doctor’s appointment, catch up on that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to watch, or go for a quick sweat session. Step away from the desk and read a chapter of the novel you’re halfway through. Choose these little moments to make time for yourself, especially if you’re time-strapped.
Have a life outside of work: Want to be more disciplined in keeping your day job and after-hours life separate? Get involved in after-hours or weekend projects which demand your physical presence and a minimum level of commitment, such as volunteering or night classes. That way, you’ll have no choice but to devote your attention to something other than your 9-to-5. Explain to your colleagues and boss that you will be unavailable after hours--most workplaces would respect you for your decision.