Work-life balance: Why you need a life after work and how to get one
Constant immersion in work has become the new normal for many professionals, especially young professionals. Many people check their mailboxes even while on vacation, sacrifice weekends to complete a project, and stay online in corporate chats in the evening. If you are a student and do not have a job yet, you may already have trouble finding balance between study and free time. Team projects, huge self-study assignments, lists of books to read — all of these will only do you good if you know when to take a break and do something for yourself.
The way you organize your free time after studies or work partly determines your career prospects.
Why is balance so important?
Work-life balance is a ratio between your professional activities and private life that is mutually beneficial for both aspects. As technological advancements and the culture of overachievement keep pushing us for better results in the ever-changing working environment, the skill of creating and maintaining this balance becomes paramount. If you let one of the aspects dominate, the other starts to suffer.
Balance is a subjective notion, and it is different for everyone. However, its impact on one’s life is a constant value.
Mental health. No matter how much you love your work and feel that it gives you a sense of accomplishment and self-realization, it inevitably involves stress and a permanent exertion of your willpower (which is, as we know, a finite resource). Even if it may seem that answering a single message at midnight is no big deal, it is wrong. If you never take your mind off work, you exist in a situation of constant challenge — in other words, under pressure.
Physical health. Stress is bad for your brain cells and body in general. In the long term, it may lead to a wide range of conditions, from hypertension to cardiovascular diseases. In addition, preoccupied with work, we often cannot sleep enough, eat unhealthy foods, or fail to find time for physical exercise, all of which is detrimental to our health in general.
Productivity. Leisure time is not the time you sacrifice at the expense of your personal growth. A good rest reboots our mind and takes it off routine tasks, which ultimately gives us more energy when we return to work.
Broadening your horizons. The things you do outside your office or university walls help you think outside the “box” of your professional interests. Not only does it make your life fuller and serves as a source of new emotions, but it also makes your experience more diverse and broadens your mind. As a result, you become a more interesting and mindful individual, which gives you extra points in your professional environment. Besides, your hobbies also help you develop skills and personality traits that may come in handy at work.
A few general principles
Work-life balance is not constant. You cannot stay immobile forever; our life and work is influenced by a great deal of external factors, such as other people and various conditions and situations.
However, there are general principles of reaching balance, and if you stick to them, you will learn to keep this equilibrium.
Monitor yourself and never ignore signs of fatigue or illness. If you feel tired, have a rest or go to bed. If you do not feel well, take sick leave. Remember to take breaks when you feel like it, not when it is too late.
Learn to say “no.” Be your own boss: if you feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks, just say “no.” It will prevent you from spreading yourself too thin and help focus on what really matters.
Stop being a perfectionist. As we think about work, we are not necessarily concerned about pressing issues; instead, we keep mulling over things we could have done better. With time, we acquire more and more responsibilities in life, and being a perfectionist becomes harder.
Remember what really matters. Ultimately, work-life balance is a matter of self-control. Do not let short-term results distract you from what really matters in the long term.
Do not split your life in half. It may seem that the notion of work-life balance implies a struggle for domination between the two aspects, but it is in fact the opposite: our professional and private lives must coexist in harmony. You need to observe how the way you organize your life affects you and slowly change it if you need to, but do not rush.
The central point of the balance is you. Five simple tools can help you organize your time to comfortably combine life, work, and self-development.
- Priorities. The easiest way is to create a to-do list that includes not only work or studies but the rest of your life as well: workouts, family events, friendly get-togethers, outdoor walks, and hobbies. Make a goal of your leisure-time activities — one equally important to meeting another deadline at work.
- Breaks. Choose a few days off when you do not go anywhere near your mailbox or any work-related tasks, and a few evenings when you are off limits for your colleagues. Do not spend all your time working.
- Silence. Consider taking a “digital detox” from time to time — turn off notifications and refrain from reading chats or browsing social media.
- Me time. You should not sacrifice dinner with friends to resolve a work-related issue or scroll down emails from your academic supervisors at the cinema. There is a time and place for everything, and life is not only about work.
- Boundaries. Set the rules and communicate them to your colleagues or team project partners: for instance, you never check chats in the evening, you only check your mailbox at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and you never deal with work-related tasks after 9 p.m. Make sure you follow these rules.