Do you struggle to achieve a work-life balance?
I’ve always had a hard time figuring out where work ends and my personal life begins.
When I was working as a personal assistant, I’d reply to every email I received within 5 minutes – even if it popped up in my inbox at 11pm.
I wanted to show my boss how reliable I was and turn myself into a linchpin, an indispensable member of the team. Worked a little too well… before long, my boss asked me why I had dared to take a Sunday afternoon off to go on a date…
Now that I’m running my own business, the lines are as blurred as ever. I love what I do so much, it doesn’t feel like work at all. I can spend hours typing away at my laptop… until I startlingly realise I haven’t left the house or seen a friend in 3 days…
The last time that happened, I knew it was time for a change. Fulfilling your life purpose and doing the work you’re meant to do in this world brings you happiness and fulfillment – but only if you don’t neglect everything else in the process.
Here’s what I learnt about creating a work-life balance:
Define What Work-Life Balance Means To You
Whenever someone mentioned work-life balance, my eyes would roll. “I’m running a business here. I can’t work only 8 hours a day so I can go partying afterworks when I’m planning a launch.”
I thought that work-life balance meant I had to dedicate equal time to all areas of my life – and there’s no way I can do that… or even want to, for that matter.
I want to spend my time doing the things I love and that matter to me. Some days, that means sitting at my desk all day writing inspiring articles. Other times, that means taking the whole day off to spend some quality time with my partner and friends. And then there are days when I do coaching calls in the morning and spend time with friends in the afternoon.
For you, work-life balance may mean leaving the office in time so you can have dinner with your family. Or having a flexible work schedule that allows you to take an afternoon off to grab a coffee with a friend. Or having a part-time job so you can work on your side hustle in your free time.
You know you’ve achieved work-life balance when you have enough time to dedicate to both your work and your personal life – without resentment or burnout.
TAKE ACTION NOW: Grab pen and paper and jot down what your ideal week looks like. What activities are you doing every day? Who are you spending your time with? Where do you hang out? Jot down everything: work, relationships, hobbies, workout, self-care… This exercise helps you figure out how you want to spend your ideal week, so you can start creating it in your real life, too.
Analyse Your Day
Now you know where you want to go, let’s figure out where you’re starting from. What does your current week look like?
Take a look at how you spend your time every day. Keep a diary for a week and jot down how you spend every half hour of your time. At the end of the week, ask yourself:
- What activities are sucking up too much of your time?
- What activities do you neglect/rarely find time for?
- What changes can you make to turn your actual week into your ideal week?
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t make all these changes in one go. Take one step at a time and before you know it, you’ll have achieved the perfect work-life balance. You know what they say, slow and steady wins the race.
Once you’ve identified which change to start with, schedule it in your calendar. If it isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t get done.
Let’s say you want to start exercising a couple of times a week. There’s a gym near your workplace, so you decide to take a class an hour before you need to be at the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When Tuesday comes around, you’ll likely be tempted to find an excuse to stay in bed that little bit longer. Unless you’ve booked those slots in your calendar. Treat anything in there as a non-negotiable and your ideal week will materialise sooner than you ever thought possible.
Don’t like using a physical calendar? Click on the image below to download the Weekly Planner. It features a digital calendar + productivity tips to help you make the most of your time:
How many times do you get interrupted during the day?
You’re trying to finish a presentation so you can go home in time for dinner, but your coworkers keep stopping at your desk, asking you to take on more tasks.
You’re enjoying lunch with a friend, but you keep receiving work emails. Before you know it, the hour went by and you’ve barely talked to your friend.
You were ready to leave for the gym, but your BFF called you to complain about her BF. Again.
You teach people how to treat you. As long as you allow them to interrupt you, you’ll never enjoy the work-life balance you crave so much.
Tell your coworkers not to disturb you when you’re at your desk. Let your boss know you won’t be checking emails outside of office hours. Text your friend to say it’s not a good time to talk, but you’ll call her back as soon as you can give her your undivided attention.
These conversations are uncomfortable. Chances are, people won’t believe you at first. Stand your ground and defend your new boundaries.
You can live life on your own terms – or you can live the life other people want you to live. Your choice.
Boost Your Productivity
You can spend less time working – as long as you make every minute count.
Here are a few tips to help you boost your productivity so you can spend less time at work and more time doing other things you love:
- Eat the frogs first: The frogs are your most important tasks of the day, the things you absolutely need to get done to move the needle forward. Do them first thing in the morning.
- Delegate/automate the rest: Social media, emails, other small tasks that need to get done but aren’t as important. Delegate or automate as much as you can. If you can’t, it’s time to ditch it.
- Limit distractions: Put your phone on silent. Turn off notifications. Use the Freedom app on your phone to avoid websites you shouldn’t check while you work. When you can focus on a task without interruptions, you finish it so much faster.
The secret to getting everything done is to do only the stuff that matters.
Over to you now. How do you achieve work-life balance in your life? Share your tips in the comments below.