As 2014 comes to a close, it is a great time to reflect on the year and what to improve in 2015. If you are a busy career-driven person, achieving a better work-life balance should be on your list.
The HSE recently released statistics highlighting that 39% of all work-related illnesses were caused by work stress resulting in depression and anxiety. If you keep ignoring the signs, you may well be on course for early burnout.
Here are six things you can do to achieve a better work-life balance in 2015:
1. Clarify Your Definition of Success
It seems obvious but the first step is to work out what is really most important to you. It is very easy to lose your ‘sense of self’ when you are too focused on career goals. Career goals are certainly important, but they are not the only thing that is central to your life. Focusing on the bigger picture is often key to gaining perspective on what is truly important to you.
2. Set Your Boundaries
Boundaries are very important when it comes to work life balance. If you only ever respond to the people who put the most pressure on you, your family and friends will almost certainly end up taking a back seat. Try and be present in every moment, whether that is at work or at home.
In the age of smartphones, this is even more important as your email is always in your pocket. You need to set personal boundaries. Do you really need to respond to that late night email or can it wait until morning? Often, simply reading the email prevents you from taking much-needed downtime in the evenings and weekends.
3. Practice Good Time Management
Ensuring you are disciplined with your time is essential to achieving a better work life balance. You can get sidetracked by tasks that are easy to do but don’t relate to your most important goals. Make sure you prioritize them effectively. Flexible working is also an option to raise with your employer if you feel constantly interrupted at the office. It allows you the quiet time, possibly at home, to simply get things done.
4. Take Time Away from Work
No one can work at full speed indefinitely. Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint, so take time away from work to stay sharp. Taking time off regularly, including the occasional long weekend, will help you stay focused and maintain a positive attitude towards your career.
It is equally important to leave work at work when you do take a vacation. In our “always connected” world it’s easy just to scan through emails while away. This ruins the break you’re taking, and it doesn’t help work either. Make sure you come back energized and refreshed.
5. Get Active
Exercise can have a direct bearing on reducing anxiety symptoms. The stress hormone cortisol gets released during a stressful day at work. Exercise depletes the cortisol in your body, allowing it to return to normal levels. It is also necessary for maintaining a regulated immune system and a healthy hormone balance. This doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym. Stretching, walking and cycling are all low impact activities for the gym-averse amongst us.
6. Schedule Time to Meet with Friends
We take a lot of time planning our working week but often don’t put anywhere near the necessary effort in planning our downtime. Plan to meet with friends at least once or twice a month. It helps keep you grounded and realize that there is an extended support network for you if things are getting tough and you’re losing focus on what is truly important. Share your goals for 2015 with a few close friends and ask them to check in with you from time to time to help you stay focused.
Prioritize Your Happiness
The key to all of the above though is to make sure you prioritize your happiness. Your needs are important, whether that’s at work or at home, so take the time to reflect and plan to make 2015 the year you get the balance right.
About the Author
Helen Taylor is head of HR for Instant Offices. She has held various senior HR management and consultancy roles over the past 10 years and has extensive experience working in private equity and high growth business environments.