25 Key strategies to achieving a work-life balance is the sixth article in a series looking at providing the complete guide to a Work-Life Balance. We are now going to look at the solutions you have available to you.
Read the first in the series – Are you struggling with work life balance?
Read the second in the series – What is work life balance?
Read the third in the series – Signs Your Work Life Balance Is Out Of Sync
Read the forth in the series – How Easily We Get Work Life Balance Wrong
Read the fifth in the series – Analysing your work life balance
Strategies For Establishing The Perfect Work-Life Balance
There are many challenges to obtaining a healthy work-life balance. Yet, there are simple actions to consider moving closer to the balance you desire. The 25 tips outlined in this presentation are designed to help you restore the balance and harmony in your work and personal lives.
1. Determine Your Priorities
It’s time for you to take charge of your life’s journey and to enable this you need to develop a prioritized list of things that need to get done. Defining and prioritizing what’s most important to you at this present moment in your life will make all the difference. When doing this you must ensure you are looking at your work-life balance as one of your priorities.
We all live such busy lives these days and its challenging, in fact it is impossible, to do everything on our to-do list. You have limited time and energy, so you need to determine what your priorities are.
If you want to turn your life around, make priorities a priority.
You need to spend some time seriously reflecting on what is most important to you, and make a list of your top priorities at work and at home. … determining what is really important to you, what deserves your attention, focus and investment of time.
Try this! Ask yourself, “If I could only focus on one thing in my life, what would it be?” That answer is your top priority. What would you focus on second? Third? Fourth? You’ve now identified your top four priorities.
Having reflected on your wheel you should know the 10 improvements or changes you need to make to bring about work-life balance, from here you should be able to whittle down these into your top four priorities. Does this match what you just worked out?
My suggestion is that included within your priorities should always be something for work, yourself and your family/relationships.
2. Set Specific Goals
Take your list of priorities and turn them into concrete and measurable goals. You can no longer let your work-life balance and other responsibilities get in the way, emergencies and unexpected events, chores and errands, kids’ endless demands, distractions, tiredness, dictate your daily action. Instead you now need to be driven by goals.
Having worked through a life evaluation questionnaire grading yourself in the 10 key areas, and then reflecting on these scores, you should know with certainty what the most important changes need to be and you’ve reflected these in your selection of priorities. Now all you need to do is put them into a doable goal format.
Everyone has something they’d love to change or better themselves with. Sometimes, though, it’s harder to make changes in the right direction when the way to get there is unclear. Making headway towards success might come down to making the clearest goal and the appropriate action steps to follow. Setting goals in terms that seem achievable, but still challenging will see a higher success rate for goal-setting.
Get your goals written down!
3. Write A “To-Do” List For The Day Before You Leave
Ask yourself these key questions: What do I need to Start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently? Successful people plan their work and then work their plan. You have one life, so you need to make the most of every day. By taking time to think of the key tasks to work on is the way to turn your priorities and goals into reality. Never forgetting the importance of a work-life balance. Seriously your health will thank you!
Set aside 10 to 20 minutes at the beginning of each day (or the night before) to plan your tasks and activities for the day and evening ahead. Include all the key things you need to do the next day and leave it right where you’ll find it in the morning, so you can just grab it and dig right in tomorrow without burning that start-up time.
This is now your action plan, it gives you the schedule to work on. Just make sure you have taken into consideration all your priorities, so you are getting something done in the important key areas.
4. Structure Your Week
Achieving work-life balance means we need to begin focusing on what is important to us. You can have it all, but probably not all at once. What should I aim for? This is the question you should use when planning your week.
In the above section you have created your to do list which undoubtedly will be very work orientated. This is its companion which ensures you take time to remember everything else you need to be doing.
In an ideal world someone with great work-life balance would include the following in their day and week:
- An 8 hour working day – maximum.
- 8 hours of sleep at night.
- Plenty of time for breakfast and travelling to work in the morning.
- One hour for lunch.
- A balanced, healthy diet.
- No work on weekends.
- Quality time with their partner.
- Quality time with their children.
- Quality time for self.
- An hour for exercise every day.
- Social activities at least twice a week.
- Regular contact with family and friends.
- Time in nature.
What else would you have on your list. Get your list done.
When you have a schedule in front of you and self-created deadlines, it will be easier for you to stay on track.
5. Reduce Your Wasted Time At Work… Including The Energy Drains
I used to find myself wasting time at work. I’ll surf to some of my favourite websites, distract myself with something interesting to read, or play a game when I should be working. These things simply waste time – they’re a basic method of procrastination. I have eliminated them from my day. You need to get rid of your time wasters.
One thing that many professionals feel challenged by each work day is how easy it is to waste time. From our computers to our co-workers to the recesses of the internet, there are plenty of opportunities to get distracted and wheedle away hours of our workday. If you find yourself challenged by the tendency to waste time, take a look at what you do during the next few days and spot the time wasters.
You also need to look at the things that steal your energy away. A heavy meal at lunch could well cost you in your productivity following this. Maybe there are people in your life who are always negative, maybe depressed and bring you down after talking to them. Watching TV into the early hour of the morning effects your performance at work potentially. You need to spot your energy drainers and either cut them out or reduce their occurrences. You really need to make sure you’re making the most of the time you’ve got. Get work done at work, but do enough that you won’t need to take it home.
6. Establish Boundaries
Set fair and realistic limits on what you will and will not do both at work and at home. Clearly communicate these boundaries to your supervisor, co-workers, partner and family. For instance, you might commit to not working late on certain days unless there is a crisis. Additionally, set aside a time at home during which you will not check or respond to work-related emails or voice mails.
You need to consistently maintain your boundaries according to your availability. If Monday is your day for taking the kids to school, make sure you protect this. 6pm is your workout time in the gym, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, let nothing else crop up, or book an appointment that will stop you. Establish your boundaries then protect them. I love my Friday Night Family Meal, and my Sunday day out with Grandkids. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of these. What boundaries do you need to set?
7. Make Time For You… Insert A Downtime On Your Daily Schedule
As much as work, health, and relationships take priority in your life, it is also important to schedule time for your own renewal. Take at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “you time,” everyday. It will do wonders for you.
No matter how busy you are make sure to build some downtime into your schedule. It could be time spent going for a walk, reading the bible, doing meditation, or some other relaxing activities that you can do by yourself. The purpose of this downtime is to let you recharge, gather your bearings, and “catch your breath”.
8. Make Time For Your Loved Ones
Today, being busy is extremely common. A demanding schedule can negatively influence your relationships, which are crucial to your happiness. It is essential you make time for your family or friends.
At the very least spend quality time with them. Whenever you give someone your undivided attention, you are spending quality time with them. Get rid of all distractions and focus on talking with your loved one and really being present with them. Try for an hour a day, and one whole day totally devoted to them. Under no circumstances should you neglect your loved ones—even if you’re really busy.
Carve out dedicated time slots for your loved ones. Step back from your pressing to-do list and make an effort to nourish the important personal relationships around you. Both you and your loved ones will benefit from the effort.
Scheduling time with them the same way you schedule a meeting or an appointment is one way you can prioritize loved ones when you have a busy life. Putting it on your agenda will help prevent you from scheduling anything else during that time. It’s also a way of saying to yourself that your family and friends are as important to you as the other things you put on your calendar.
9. Leave Work At Work… Respect Your Private Time
Let’s look at a work-life balance in the simplest terms. Work is work, home is home. There should be no place for work at your home (unless, of course, the nature of the job has you working from home). Limit yourself in bringing work home. This is a practice done by many business people: when they are unable to finish something, they pack it up and bring it home with them. The result is a dinner table strewn with papers and notes, instead of a meal eaten with family. If your workplace is your home, you have to designate an area that is exclusively for work, and keep anything personal from entering that domain
Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms. This might consist of listening to music or recorded books during your evening commute, exercising at the fitness center, running errands, or keeping personal appointments.
Scheduling such activities immediately following your normal work hours also prevents you from spending that extra twenty minutes at the office which then turns into several hours. Once you’ve put private time on your schedule, protect it, unless there’s an emergency.
10. Delegate When Possible
Delegating tasks is one thing that can help with work-life balance. Delegating tasks is something that comes naturally to some and very uncomfortably to others, so it’s a somewhat under-used strategy for some of those who could benefit from it the most. Delegating tasks—asking others to take on some of your workloads—can take many forms. Can you offer trades with anyone, where you handle some of their workloads that you enjoy more, and they handle some of yours? Can you hire it out? Are there people who would be willing to pitch in if you asked them? Think about what tasks in your life need doing, and which could be done by someone other than you.
11. Take Care Of Your Health
Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and bad exercise habits can cause you to feel a lack of balance in your life and can counteract any efforts you are making to achieve work-life balance. Your health should always be your No. 1 priority. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work life and your personal life will suffer. Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals (especially breakfast), exercise at least three times per week and sleep a minimum of eight hours per night.
While you may not think you have time to add exercise and extra sleep to your jam-packed schedule, these practices relieve stress, raise your energy level, increase your stamina, improve your mental clarity, boost your immune system, and make you a happier, more engaged, and more productive person.
Get Adequate Sleep.
A solid night’s sleep vastly increases your concentration level, making you more productive at work and adding to your enjoyment of your personal life as well. Sleep is an essential ingredient for you to recharge. Your body heals and regenerates when you sleep so make sure you get 8 hours in a night.
Relaxation (Stress Management)
“Unwind” with something personally and spiritually fulfilling and relaxing. Try meditation or deep breathing, both incredibly powerful relaxation methods.
Eat a healthy balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, pasta, nuts, seeds, salads. Have 3 main meals a day. Snack on fruit to prevent energy dips.
Get Plenty Of Exercise
It may feel counter-intuitive to add another activity to your life, but exercise relieves stress, clears your mind, and ultimately makes you more productive. Also your body needs it. Get plenty of exercise, even a brisk walk at lunchtime will raise your endorphin levels, your body’s natural happy hormones that will help counter balance any stress chemicals.
You know what these are. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, drugs to relieve stress is certainly no good for you. But also sugar laden deserts and snacks and high fat foods are absolutely bad. It is time to clean up your life. These substances only tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause even more problems.
12. Turn Off Communication To Work When You Get Home
The digital devices we all now carry around are full of distractions. tweets and texts, stuff to buy, games to play, apps to add, and constant new information. Worse still Today’s technology can make the line between your work-life balance quite blurry. Constant access to your email and messages from work. If they’re turned on, you’ll almost surely use them and very likely abuse them. So when you get home turn them off.
13. Eliminate Clutter
Get rid of clutter in every area of your life. Do you really need everything you have? Give anything away you have not used in the last two years. Certainly, someone else can use what you no longer need. You can even sell items, furniture, clothing, etc. you no longer need. Likewise, periodically get rid of emotional and psychological clutter, those ways of being that no longer serve you. Clean up your desk, your car, your briefcase. Remove the clutter on your computer. Get everything cleaned up and organised. Make a spring-cleaning day. Whatever time of year we’re in.
14. Slow Down – Make Each Moment Matter
Carpe diem is a well-known Latin phrase meaning seize the day, enjoy the moment. Yet – it also entails the message not to waste a single moment. It means giving our all, being the best we could possibly be in every moment. It’s not wishing away today but taking in everything we see and hear. Paying attention. Being in touch with our environment and with ourselves. Don’t wish your life away in a hurry. Take time to enjoy, and make sure you make many special moments. Go buy your loved one a gift, or just phone them up right now and simply say ‘I love you.’
15. Make Room For Spontaneity
Leave a day, or a couple of hours during the week blank. No activities scheduled, nothing definite planned. Building on from the point I made before, doing spontaneous things is fun, it builds magic into our lives. When was the last time you just made the decision to go away for a few days or phoned your partner and said I’m coming to get you we’re going out for a meal. Maybe where you just dropped into see a friend. Things don’t always have to be planned, and no matter how busy we are, we can always find time to be spontaneous.
16. Get Control Of Your Thoughts
Thoughts can be our best friends and our worst enemies. The thoughts in our heads constantly popping into our minds can be either positive or negative. The average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. Our thoughts drive our emotions, which drive our behaviours, and ultimately determine our actions — what kind of life we live. Many of you have a habitual stream of negative thoughts. For some the result is constant anxiety, insecurity, or even depression. To crush this, you need to take control of your thoughts. It is not an immediate process, but it is one that can be implemented into your life.
You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.
You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive thoughts, or you can choose desirable ones like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.
Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours! But you have to train it to be so. Keep on top of your thoughts, catch yourself when being negative, and make yourself positive.
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
Always maintain a positive mental attitude. Positive emotions can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength. So when you take time off from work to spend in the gym, or with your loved ones, don’t start feeling guilty for having taken this time off, or even allowing your mind to drift to thinking about your business.
17. Learn How To Say “No”
Don’t accept every request that comes your way. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule or align with your priorities, don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on more. Just say no. Especially when you need to be focused on specific tasks. You cannot always help everyone, execute every task and take on every project that comes your way.
You likely already have too much to do, too much information to absorb, and too many choices to make. If so, your challenge is learning to say no far more often — “no” to more projects, more meetings, more emails, more phone calls. Why do so many of you feel it so difficult to say no. You take on far too much and this is at a cost to you. Take care of your priorities they have to come first, one of which of course is your work-life balance. When you have made that family outing arrangement do not ever allow yourself to cancel it because of a business opportunity that may have arisen. Sometimes you even have to say no to making money.
18. Take Personal Responsibility
Take personal responsibility for your work-life balance. This includes speaking up when work expectations and demands are too much. No more excuses. In this crazy world we live in where so much seems to change minute-to-minute and so much seems out of our control, one thing remains within our immediate control—taking back ownership of and responsibility for ourselves. When we do that, we can be more effective in our response to change in a way that moves us forward. You are responsible for every decision you make, so from now on make sure you make wise decisions.
19. Have That Holiday
We all need time off where we can get away. Make sure you do take time off, because its so important that every now and again you recharge your batteries, rest your mind, get away from the pressures of your daily work. I admit I hate the fact that many people seem to only look forward to 2 weeks every year and that’s their vacation. I find that very sad. I hope most of you love the work you do, but you still need a holiday which forces you to stop working. I also think the occasional weekend away is a good idea. We all, at times, need to take time off, that is so important for a good work-life balance.
20. Get Back To Nature
Spend time in nature. It’s your choice: break out or burn out. The best quality results will never be produced by the long work hours, it will depend on your skills. And we all need fresh air to thrive. Ambitious people connect with nature and the outdoors to bring out the best of themselves. It is really tough to live your best self by just spending hours in an office, sitting around your computer and working under fluorescent light. Live a little different from the hustle and bustle of everyday business and rebalance in nature, revive yourself, it will have an amazing impact. Just take a walk in the park or take a drive over the weekend to a beauty spot and walk around. Its great exercise, relaxing, awesome for your mind and body. Breath in that fresh air. Remember burn out will never happen as long as you respect your work-life balance.
21. Aim For Satisfaction
The reality is that people are deeply dissatisfied personally and professionally. As individuals, we owe it to ourselves to do something about that. As companies, we owe it to our people to teach them how to implement systems in their lives that will drive increasing levels of satisfaction. Too often we don’t know what we want, we approach our lives with no strategy, and in general we are hoping things will work out. It’s time we took our destinies back into our own hands. We cannot sit around thinking, hoping, waiting for something wonderful to happen. We need to take a proactive approach. I’m a great believer in goals, in aiming high, but at the back of every goal I set I’m driven by the need for work-life balance.
Life satisfaction has been deﬁned as an individual’s perception of the quality of his or her life as a whole or within specific life domains so it is clear, for us to experience satisfaction we have to work on each key area of life to bring about improvement. (We looked at what these were in analysing your work-life balance). Concentrating on each is going to bring satisfaction even before you have managed to reach the right balance. Every bit of improvement you make will add to your satisfaction.
Life satisfaction is being happy about your life. It is the happiness that exists when are different segments of life are flourishing. We have to take care of the whole to achieve satisfaction.
22. Keep Growing
An important part of personal development is the concept of continuous improvement. We need to grow. Your personal improvement journey is never finished! What this means is, if you are truly committed to philosophy of continuous improvement, you are less likely to quit because you are always in search of the next goal.
You always have a choice. You can always do something to make your life better. You can always choose to do a positive thing for yourself and for others. Life is not fair. Life is tough. Sometimes life treats you like a piece of s***. But you can always grow and improve. It needs to be a deliberate decision. You’ll also recognise when life is out of balance, where you are neglecting important parts of your life, and you’ll search for the way to put this right.
23. A Work-Life Balance Corporate Policy
The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to work-life balance. Work-life balance initiatives would include:
- Flexible working arrangement (e.g. compressed hours, job sharing, remote working);
- Leave arrangement (annual leave, Parental leave);
- Dependent care assistance (Child care arrangements and Crèche)
- General services (Employment assistant programs)
- Implementing reasonable time and communication expectations
- Mental and physical health promoting activities (e.g. gym membership, cycle to work scheme, lunchtime meditation classes)
- Promote a culture of ‘working smart, not long’
- Take proper breaks at work, for example by taking at least half an hour for lunch
Working within an organisation with these things in place most certainly gives you the best chance of living a healthy work-life balance.
24. Empowered By Your Purpose & Meaning
For some, the idea of a “life purpose” seems irrelevant and regard it as a subject reserved for philosophers and dreamers. After all, our lives our so busy and we’re just trying to keep our heads above water and don’t have the time to mess around with things like purpose, or do we? Yet for others, their life purpose is what gives them strength and a direction for their focus and effort.
Every individual has gifts and talents that can make a lasting impact. However, only a minority of people utilize those gifts and talents to live up to their full potential. Tying your gifts and talents with your personal purpose not only leads to a more successful career, but a significant one as well as a balanced life.
Life purpose is what gives meaning to our lives. It makes us feel alive, empowered, capable, and strong.
To identify your purpose ask yourself these key questions:
- What is my true purpose in life?
- What ignites my passion?
- What do I find myself reading about most often?
- Talking about?
- Are there issues I wish I could change in my own life, on the world stage, or in my community?
- Are there passions or interests that I once had that have gotten squeezed out?
- Are there new activities or opportunities I would love to pursue?”
Finally, what one thing would I be prepared to stand on a soap box in a packed arena talking about?
When you focus on what’s truly most important to you in life, you will begin to not only produce extraordinary results, but more importantly, you will experience an amazing level of personal fulfilment in the process.
Having a purpose makes it impossible to merely exist. When you have a definite reason for living, a “why” behind every action, you have meaning for everything you do. When life has a purpose and meaning, it seems far easier to create a work-life balance, it happens just naturally.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
25. Self Assessment – Evaluate Your Work-Life Balance On A Regular Basis
Set aside some time once every other month or so to reflect on your current balance, what you would like it to be, and what the plan is for arriving there. Hopefully you took the time earlier on to assess your life through the life evaluation questionnaire, produced your Wheel of Life. At the end of this presentation, my hope is you’ll work on establishing a healthy balance, and every month you’ll assess how balanced each key area of your life is by revisiting the questionnaire and revising your wheel of life. Acknowledge the reality of the situation you are in and set about making improvements.
If life has gotten away from you, if the demands upon you are making you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and/or deeply concerned about the future, if your work-life balance is unfairly skewed away from quality time with yourself, your family, your interests and hobbies, and/or your community, then it’s time to stop and refocus on what’s most important to you and find a way to establish a good and healthy work-life balance. Let the ideas in this article strengthen your life and help you to establish balance.
As you head off please take the time to decide on your action plan for creating a good healthy work-life balance. Tomorrow I’m going to conclude everything we have gone through and hopefully get you working on sorting out your work-life balance.
Hope you took some great value out of this post today! I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions