Do you ever feel like life is rushing by so fast? You’re juggling what seems like millions of different things, you can’t remember what day it is, or whether you remembered to eat breakfast… tell me it’s not just me?
I had a good long look at my silly schedule recently and realised work was eating into my evenings and weekends. Nowadays, with the availability of technology and social media, it has become commonplace to check emails 24/7, take calls whilst eating dinner and carry laptops everywhere with us. I’m guilty of all of the above. And whilst I was also at home, I was fretting about my house resembling a dumping ground for toys/dishes/dirty clothes, whether there was any food in to make meals that weren’t beige/out of a packet/both and feeling guilty for forgetting to text back long-suffering friends and family.
I carried my constant feelings of stress and angst around with me like a little dark cloud, and I had forgotten to do simple things like laugh, go outside and exercise and rest.
How does one maintain the optimum balance between the time allocated for work and other aspects of life, and not feel like an epic failure?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”, with their survey indicating that:
- Over 40% of employees neglect other aspects of their life because of work;
- The more hours you spend at work, the more hours outside of work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it;
- As a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness, with this affecting 42% of women compared with 29% of men – perhaps a consequence of competing life roles and pressures to ‘juggle’;
- Nearly two thirds of employees experience a negative effect on their personal life (physical and mental health problems, poor relationships, lack of personal development).
This is a subject that has been close to my heart of late. I’m determined to bring back some balance into my life. Here’s what I’ve uncovered in my quest for that optimum work/life balance:
- Take some responsibility, and ultimately power, back into your life. Your employer won’t do anything if they don’t know how you are feeling. If work expectations are too high, it’s imperative to say something. Can anything be delegated to colleagues? Can they put better administrative systems in place to make the team more self-sufficient and less reliant on you? Can they bring in any additional admin support, even on a temporary basis? Ultimately, a happy worker is more productive and will perform better, and a responsible employer should know this.
- Have set work hours and stick to them. Switch off the work phone and make a clear line between work and home. Nothing is going to happen if the email doesn’t get answered until the morning.
- Phones have a lot to answer for. Let’s face it, today’s society spends a LOT of time checking their phone. Where is yours right now? I bet it isn’t far away. Separate your work and home phone. I have two and, whilst it’s occasionally annoying carrying the two around, I can go out on my days off and leave the work phone at home without fear of a call. I don’t want work emails to be the first thing I see on a morning when I check my phone.
- Take proper breaks. Get up from your desk, eat lunch, walk somewhere, anything to break the day up. The human body wasn’t born to stare at a bright screen for endless hours each day. There is nothing like some fresh air to clear the head.
- Work ‘smart’. My boss always asks me to do this. What he is essentially saying is prioritise your work, set a certain amount of time per task, leave the less urgent things until later in the week, and don’t waste time on less productive activities or long, unstructured meetings. Find ways to reduce stress at home. Ask for help from friends and family. Something I really struggle with. I want to be Wonder Women and do it all, but I can’t. If someone offers to help cook or clean, don’t be too stubborn or proud to take their help. And if they don’t offer, ask for it!
- Book that holiday, even if you aren’t going away. But make sure you switch off the phone and laptop. Ultimately, if you weren’t there tomorrow, the business would have to replace you. You are entitled to a holiday and your boss can manage without you!
- Schedule time in that silly schedule for ‘you time’. Exercise, relaxation, hobbies – whatever floats your boat. Do what you love and give it the energy that it deserves – it will revive and refresh you. If you have to take a day off to do this, just do it. Some things are worth it.
Ultimately, your health and the people your love are more important than anything else. If you value yourself, protect those precious things.