Work-life balance is the art of juggling one’s work and personal life. It involves strategically planning and allocating time for both work and personal aspects of one’s life including relationships, hobbies, ad passions. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance. Everybody achieves it in their own unique way.
Why it's difficult to achieve nowadays
Work-life balance is becoming more and more difficult to achieve because the separation between work and personal life is becoming rather blurred. Back in the day, one could punch out, leave the office behind, and go home to a peaceful evening. Nowadays, with the advent of laptops, smartphones, and ZOOM calls, one never really gets to leave work behind so seamlessly.
Emails come shooting in at all hours of the day and notifications from work-related what’s app groups flood our phones as we try to spend time with our loved ones. We are constantly ‘in-touch’ with work in one way or another.
Alongside technological advancements, we seem to have evolved and developed this desire to be constantly plugged in and connected. FOMO (fear of missing out) is stronger than ever now that we have access to everything that’s going on around us at our fingertips.
Having our attention constantly torn away from our families to our phones can have a negative effect on our relationships. Conversations and social connections never quite feel as gratifying when our thoughts are on work.
My personal struggles with work-life balance
I used to work in the corporate world, but I left that job and I’m currently a blogger and freelance writer. I’m grateful that I get this chance to pursue writing, something I absolutely love to do. Most days, I wake up feeling excited for what lies ahead, a day of writing in my PJs at home. But I do notice some bad habits creeping back into my life.
I’ve never been much of a social media user until recently. I started an Instagram account to promote my blog and engage with my readers. It’s been a really fun experience, but I realize that I have this nagging feeling inside me to be constantly present on social media. It’s this irrational fear that if I check out for too long, I’ll be forgotten or replaced. So, I find myself constantly on my phone, checking notifications, replying to comments, and posting stories.
There have been times when I’d be playing a card game with my husband and in between turns, I’d take a quick glance at my phone and the quick glance soon turns into a 5-minute let-me-reply-to-this-one-comment situation. And honestly, I hate myself for doing it! Deep down, I know that splitting my attention this way does neither my relationship nor my work any justice.
Tips to improve work-life balance
The goal for me is to connect with my loved ones without distractions. Here are some suggestions on how to improve work-life balance that I have found to be rather effective over the years:
1. Ditch your phone for a while every day
I enjoy going out for walks without my phone and just catching up with my husband. Also, I try to keep the phone away during dinner time. I often get this urge to check my phone if I hear a notification, so I find it useful to keep my phone on silent or in a different room altogether.
2. Block out some me-time in the morning
I find waking up in the morning and immediately checking social media to be quite draining. Instead, I enjoy making a cup of coffee and watching some funny videos online to gear me up for the day. This little bit of time carved out just for myself feels nice.
I’ve also started meditating and journaling in the morning. I spend 15 minutes meditating using the Headspace app. This helps to put me in the right headspace, no pun intended, to tackle my to-do list for the day. Then, I take 5 minutes or so to write down all the things I’m grateful for that morning in my journal.
Here’s my list on one random Monday morning.
What I’m grateful for:
a good night’s sleep
my morning cuppa
a yummy breakfast
a peaceful meditation session
a call from my hubby
a text from my dad
a beautiful sunny day outside
After a few weeks of writing in my journal, I began to realize that I had so much to be grateful for within just the first few hours of my day. This practice fills me with gratitude, joy, and an overall positive outlook on my day. Most of all, it reminds me that I have many reasons to smile even when I don’t have the best day professionally.
3. Plan something fun mid-week
We often tell ourselves, “It’s okay. I’ll work now and enjoy the weekend.” Living for the weekend can be a dangerous thing. We can’t quite hit pause on our personal life on weekdays and resume on Friday nights.
Although elaborate dinner plans may not be possible in the middle of a busy work week, try to schedule a quick dinner date with your partner or catch a quick coffee with friends after work. I often find myself making excuses not to make plans on weekdays. But when I do, I always enjoy myself and feel quite content.
4. Avoid spending too much time on chores on weekdays
My husband and I try to stick with simple dinners that can be prepared in 40 minutes or so. We try to space out our chores across the week, so we don’t end up spending too much time doing them on any one particular day.
Any deep cleaning of the house is done on a lazy Sunday. In fact, we sort of have this cleaning day ritual where we sleep in, have a take-out brunch while watching Netflix, and then we get to cleaning with a nice playlist in the background. This way, we don’t end up spending too much time and energy doing time-consuming tasks like mopping the floors on busy weekdays. Instead, we can chill and spend time together playing games or just talking about our day.
5. Outsource chores when you’re busy
It’s tempting to do everything on your own and not spend too much money on external services such as laundry and food delivery. However, on days or weeks when you’re busy with work, trying to juggle everything can be exhausting and draining. When a big work project is due soon, outsource some chores – send your clothes to a nearby laundry service, order food delivery, or hire help for house cleaning. Don’t try to do it all when you’re already stretched thin.
6. Shop smart
Before you go grocery shopping for the week, do a quick check to see if you’ve missed anything on your shopping list – detergent, shampoo, milk, etc. Nothing caused me more dread back when I was working 9 to 5 than having to stop at the shop to grab something after work. It takes time, energy and no one wants to do it. So, plan ahead and avoid multiple grocery runs in a busy work week.
Why work-life balance is important
Pouring too much time and energy into work can ultimately take a toll on your health and well-being. It can lead to strained relationships, excessive stress, and burnout. Plus, a happy personal life can have spill-over effects on our work too. We tend to feel more motivated and productive at work when things are going well in our personal life.
Being constantly in-touch with work through our phones indeed poses a difficult challenge when it comes to being completely present in the moment at home. I have definitely struggled with this; I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t have to be constantly on social media. I’m starting to allocate time slots to check my phone. Outside those time slots, I’m working towards being more present with my loved ones.
I don’t always succeed; I sometimes relapse into bad habits, and maybe you do too. As much as it sucks, we’ve just got to keep trying – all it takes is to say “No, this can wait,” to one e-mail, one what’s app message, or one notification to get the ball rolling. So, let’s get that ball rolling together!
What do you do to strike the right balance between your work and personal life? Do share in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.
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