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The secrets to achieving work-life balance

Does achieving the holy grail of a work-life balance feel out of reach? For many, it feels like a mystery that needs solving, as work and familial pressures mount up. When you add in the increase in homeworking, the boundaries between work and family/leisure become even more blurred. When your work-life balance is consistently out of kilter it can lead to poor mental and physical health and inefficiencies both at work and home. Clearly then, it's vital to achieve a balance so you can fulfill all your roles to their full potential. So what are the secrets to achieving this mystical work-life balance we all want to have?

First...What exactly is work-life balance?

When we talk about work-life balance, we are not only referring to the time you have to get everything done at work and at home. It is about having a more holistic approach to your life, and so it will have a different meaning to everyone. If you think about all the things that are important to you - such as work, family, friends, hobbies, and interests - and one is being compromised on a consistent basis, then you do not have balance. If work is constantly taking priority and eating into your other obligations, then it's time to take some action. The following tips can help.

Make achieving balance a priority

Achieving work-life balance is a process, and it won’t land in your lap. You need to make balance in your life a priority, and take intentional actions to give yourself a chance to make it happen. This can mean some big decisions about the type of work you do for example. However, if you are already knee-deep in a busy life with certain financial obligations there are definitely some small actions you can take to have a more balanced life. This can range from requesting flexible working or arranging more help in the home to getting your family on board to help you solve your work-life balance as a team.

Prioritize your workload and schedule your day

When you are working at full speed every day, it's impossible to take a step back and look at the big picture. By having a clearer idea of your goals and priorities for the future, as well as the here and now, you are more likely to work smarter and feel motivated. When you understand what needs to happen in the next quarter, for example, you can plan back and build in the steps and goals to get there. You need to be ruthless about your top 3-5 priorities every day and get them done first. If you have more than that and you don’t achieve them, your energy and motivation will drop.

Carve out time for yourself

“I don’t have time”. That’s what we often say when we think about having some time just to ourselves, isn’t it? But, if you turn around your mindset, it’s amazing what time we can make when we really need to. Part of feeling that your life doesn’t have balance is when you don’t have any time to do the things that enrich your life. An hour a day could be spent reading or learning or doing a favorite hobby. The benefits will extend far beyond the hour - you will have increased focus and it could improve your mental and physical health too.

Let others help

Solving a problem like work-life balance can feel very difficult when you are trying to do it on your own. It may be that you need to sit down with your family and understand their perspectives on how your work is impinging on family harmony. You will better understand what their needs are, and equally, they will have a better idea of the obligations you have at work. If you can all work together to come up with some solutions, you may find that if you can do some things - like get to a family dinner a certain number of times a week - that will be sufficient to maintain a beneficial equilibrium. Importantly too, don’t be afraid to ask for help because sometimes only extra resources will help the problem. So for example, if you have a huge deadline at work or a new project for a couple of weeks, you could rope in friends and family temporarily to help. The key here is communication and understanding so you don’t feel alone in shouldering all the burden.

Give up on perfection

The surrealist artist Salvador Dali famously said “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never achieve it.” Nothing in life is perfect and if you can accept that your work-life balance will tip now and again, you’ll have a realistic and more healthy mindset. So when a family member is sick you may need to miss that conference or work dinner, or if there is an important deadline at work you will have to accept that you won’t be home in time for dinner. These are part of the ebb and flow of life and our commitments, so roll with the punches when you have to. You may need to recommit to centering that balance once again though after a few weeks to be mindful that imbalance doesn’t become the norm.

These are just a few ideas for you to consider when seeking to improve your work-life balance. As this looks different for everyone, you will need to do some research and take some time to commit to the process. Luckily there are a wealth of resources out there to help you unlock the secret to having a more balanced life.

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