Work-life balance: how to get it right

In the aftermath of the lockdown experience of 2020, which was the single biggest disruption to the patterns of our working lives for almost a century, many people found that they did not want to go back to the way things were before. The break gave us all a chance to assess what is important to us in our working and domestic lives, and it demonstrated that as far as most jobs are concerned, it’s possible to take a much more flexible approach than had previously been the case. 

Now people are looking for better ways of managing their work-life balance, while employers are realizing that making concessions to this makes their employees happier, healthier, more loyal and more productive. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, however. What adjustments could you make to your work-life balance to get the best of both worlds?

Establish your goals

The first thing to determine is what you really want out of your life in both the immediate term and the long term. If you are saving toward buying a house or retiring, for example, that may be a long-term goal, but it will mean you need to earn more right away. If you know you face a specific long-term health risk, it may be more important to focus on getting enough exercise or maintaining healthy eating patterns in the immediate term. 

Other immediate-term concerns could include things like spending time with children while they’re young or getting enough sunlight to look after your mental health during the darker months of the year. You should also be thinking about things you enjoy for their own sake, whether that’s getting out of bed a little later in the day or having time to travel.

Establish your needs

In addition to your goals, you need to think about your practical needs. For example, you will need to earn enough money to meet basic living costs, and you will need to be able to access work despite potential issues such as transport costs, a shortage of parking or mobility problems caused by a disability. 

You may need to spend some time face to face with colleagues or clients to do your job well, or you may need access to mentoring or other forms of support to handle the tasks assigned to you. Once you’re clear about your needs and you’ve established your goals, you’ll be able to start negotiating the working arrangements that will best suit you.

Learn to set boundaries

Knowing what you need in your life will not get you very far if you find yourself in a position where you’re constantly giving way to other people. The first step in negotiating is learning how to say no. You have a right to decide how much work you take on, so tell your employer if it’s too much. Trying to please others by extending your boundaries all the time will only cause them to push you further. Doing favors all the time can all too easily result in you being taken for granted. Defining clear limits works better for everybody. Good employers will appreciate it because they’ll know that it lowers the risk of you suddenly getting burned out. 

Worklife balance tips, if followed sensibly, improve what you have to offer at home and in the workplace. In fact, the importance of a good work-life balance is stressed in many degree programs, such as Walsh University’s advanced online nursing degrees. These programs are offered online for greater convenience, but it is important for those who take courses while working to make sure they set aside time for themselves as well.

Learn to prioritize

To establish a healthy work-life balance, you’ll also need to set boundaries for yourself and be realistic about what is and isn’t important. Organizing your tasks with a clear order of priority will keep you from becoming overwhelmed and having too much to cope with at once. You can do this with work tasks, domestic tasks, and the things you want to do for pleasure, as long as you make sure that things in the latter category don’t always come last. 

When you’re focused on something with a high priority attached to it, don’t let people distract you by pressuring you about less-important matters. Don’t worry about trivial things until you’ve completed that task. 

Take proper breaks

When you have a lot to get through, you may feel bad about taking breaks, so it’s important to remember that they have a bearing on your productivity and your health. Getting proper rest and getting your mind off work means that when you come back to it, you’ll feel refreshed and will be able to bring more energy to it. You may even find that you have fresh insights. 

Never let yourself be pressured into working through lunch and keep overtime to an absolute minimum, making sure that you’re properly compensated on the occasions that you do agree to it. If possible, get outside at lunchtime to enjoy some daylight and fresh air. Don’t be tempted to work on your days off or give up vacation time in the hopes of making a good impression. Ultimately, people will judge you by the quality of your work rather than the hours you put in.

Don’t skimp on sleep

The single most important break you need to get is the overnight one, when your body and mind rest and repair. It’s estimated that around a third of US adults don’t get enough sleep, and this can cause problems from tiredness and difficulty during the day to an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Sleep really matters, and when you do get enough, you’ll feel much better for it. 

If you struggle to get to sleep once you’re in bed, make sure that your room is at a comfortable temperature, well ventilated and not too dry. Try meditation to get your thoughts off work or the problems you’re facing. Don’t look at a screen too close to bedtime because too much blue-toned light can confuse your brain into thinking it’s morning. Audio books or gentle music are a much more effective way to wind down.

Know when to stop

Sometimes we all encounter tasks that are too much for us or find ourselves in situations where we need a more serious break. It’s important to acknowledge that you can’t do everything, no matter how hard you work. You need to be able to admit when you’re stuck, both to yourself and to your employer. Respecting your own limits in the short term will help to prevent more serious problems from developing in the long term. The same thing applies if you find that you’re just not able to be happy in the job you’re doing. 

Commitment and loyalty are good qualities, but there can come a point when you need to rethink your life and look for a better option that will enable you to thrive. Although it can take a lot of energy to find a new position, you need to balance that concern against the day-to-day drain on your energy from staying in the old one.

Find time for family

One of the hardest things about being in a job that is demanding too much from you is not having enough time to spend with your family. This is particularly tough if you have young kids and want to be there to see them grow up, or if you have caring responsibilities for an elderly or disabled relative. 

Not having spent enough time with family is one of the most common regrets of old age. Being around people we love fortifies us, lifting us up emotionally even when it’s hard work, and it makes it much easier for us to cope with life’s ups and downs. Even if you have a job that involves helping people, nothing is as rewarding as looking after your own loved ones and seeing them happy, so don’t let them slip into second place.

Find time for fun

Time outside work isn’t all about the essentials or attending to other people. It’s also about having a good time. Whatever it is that you love to do purely for its own sake and because it makes you feel good matters, too. You deserve to be able to spend time on hobbies, favorite sports, or just kicking back and watching TV. It’s okay to spend time playing games, going shopping or just hanging out with friends doing nothing in particular. Life is not all about achievement, and when you give yourself permission to have fun, you’ll find that every aspect of life becomes easier to contend with and more satisfying.

Watch your well-being

How do you know when you’ve achieved a successful work-life balance? The simplest way to measure that success is by looking at your state of health, both physical and mental. Are you generally in good shape? Do you feel good about yourself? Is it easy to get up in the morning feeling positive about your day and easy to relax in the evening, feeling that it’s been a good day? These are the things that really count. You only live once, so make sure that every aspect of your life, work included, contributes to helping you be the person you want to be.