5 Strategies to Achieve a Work-Life Balance
“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life,” said Heather Schuck, author of The Working Mom Manifesto.
As a working adult, a significant amount of your time is spent on work. The delicate balance between work and life is difficult to maintain, especially in a pragmatic society that values productivity and performance. According to an international study by Kisi, Singapore is ranked the second most overworked city in the world and ranked ninth from the bottom for work-life balance (iSwitch, 2021). The rising cost of living, increased competition from the workforce, and fear of losing jobs are some of the contributing factors (iSwitch, 2021).
However, the absence of a sustainable lifestyle can be counterproductive when you experience burnout. Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability (Verywellmind, 2020). You may face a complete lack of motivation to work, accompanied by physical and emotional health issues.
To avoid these negative implications, here are five strategies you can adopt to achieve a work-life balance.
1. Minimise Distractions
You may spend more time than you realise on scrolling through social media, particularly when you are not motivated. However, this results in task-switching, where your thought process is interrupted, and focus is lost. This slows down your performance, resulting in more time spent on work and less time for leisure. On the flip side, perhaps the workaholic in you thinks that you can multitask to make things more efficient. In reality, you are actually engaging in task-switching!
To counter this, put distractions aside – whether it is your phone or work emails. Set aside time to focus on the task at hand. Sometimes, a ritual may help, whether it is listening to some lo-fi work music or drinking a cup of coffee. This allows you to reach a state of flow, which is the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in an activity and may even feel a sense of satisfaction.
2. Track How You Spend Your Time
According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion. You may have put aside all sources of distractions – your phone, your dramas, or even your social life – but still, spend a long time completing a single task. If you are a perfectionist, you may spend too much time on the details instead of completing them. On the other hand, if a deadline is approaching and the ‘panic monster’ kicks in, you may complete the job in a much shorter time.
By tracking how you spend your time, you become aware of your habits and how much time you spend on a task. Being more efficient allows you to have your much-needed leisure time or social life with friends. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment when you keep track of how much you have completed! There are various tools you can use to manage your time. One of the tools is the Pomodoro technique that segments your working time into 25-minute blocks, with 5-minute breaks between each block. After four blocks are completed, you can take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. The small breaks allow you to focus better.
3. Build Healthy Habits
Some may have the misconception that a work-life balance is something that can be achieved, but it is actually an ongoing process that is best maintained by building a foundation of healthy habits. It may sound cliché, but good sleeping and eating habits can help you to feel more energised and focused on work. Exercise may be dreaded by some, but it can help you to feel better about yourselves. Physical exercise releases endorphins, which some may call the ‘happy hormone’.
Setting goals and rewarding yourselves can also help to motivate you. One of the available apps that can help you kickstart a healthy habit is Habitica. It is a gamified habit tracking app where you can challenge your friends to stick to their habits. Many other free habit-tracking applications can work for you too!
4. Invest in Yourself
Saw that luxurious car or fancy handbag you would like to get? Just kidding, we are not encouraging you to splurge carelessly! Instead, we ask that you invest time in things that you enjoy doing. For some, it may be that daily evening jog; for others, it may be that catch up with a long-lost friend.
Tom Daley, an Olympian, was recently spotted knitting at the Tokyo Olympics. Your hobbies give you something to look forward to and allow you to be a human rather than a work-zombie. If you are not sure what makes you happy, explore some new activities and you may find something you like!
Do you have so much work that you are not sure where to begin? Try the priority matrix, which segments your work by the impact and effort.
Image by The Priority Matrix (Lucid Chart, n.d.)
Quadrant 1: Quick Wins (High Impact, Low Effort)
These are tasks that are the easiest to complete and yet have the highest rewards. These tasks can help you to get started and complete the more difficult tasks later.
Quadrant 2: Major Projects (High Impact, High Effort)
Work that falls under this category may include long-term projects without clear deadlines. Since they are not as time-sensitive, they may be neglected or pushed down the priority list. To counter this, set deadlines and checkpoints into your schedule.
Quadrant 3: Fill-ins (Low impact, Low Effort)
Less important tasks which are not as urgent can be easily delegated, or you may choose to decline them.
Quadrant 4: Thankless tasks (Low Impact, High Effort)
These tasks are time-consuming and may not have much impact on the business. Try to avoid these tasks or do them later.
The process of achieving a healthy work-life balance is akin to becoming a professional athlete or training for a triathlon. It takes a concerted effort to get in shape and a continued effort to stay that way. However, those who commit themselves to this will reap quality-of-life benefits.
It is possible to have a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Take control of your work. Be proactive with your time. Get a (balanced) life today by adopting one of the above strategies!
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