Call it work-life balance, time management, or a roadmap to personal happiness; it’s the often elusive mix of work and play that keeps us feeling valued and content. In today’s fast-paced, ultra-connected world, it’s more than ever a challenge.
Yet successfully juggling the complex demands of career, family, and self can make the difference between feeling anxious or depressed or enjoying a full, rewarding life. As singer Dolly Parton observed, “We must never get so busy making a living that we forget to make a life.” Mental health experts at the Mayo Clinic tell us getting on the road to work-life balance can begin with two simple strategies:
Set Limits:Track your time – List your daily tasks for a week, work-related and personal. Decide which are truly necessary, and which satisfy you most.
Manage it better – Cut or delegate the least vital tasks to make time for alternatives. Look for ways to multi-task and/or organize chores into more efficient blocks of time.
Keep a list - Put important family and work events into a weekly calendar. Having a current to-do list can keep you from getting sidetracked.
Learn to say no – It’s okay to respectfully decline to organize a school party or do something extra for a co-worker – and doing so gives you more time for activities you must or want to do.
Leave work at work – It may not be easy, but make a decision to maintain boundaries between work and personal time.
Reduce email access – Checking email no more than three times daily will deter you from responding to other people’s issues instead of focusing on your own.
Explore work options – Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting or other scheduling options. The more control you have over your time, the less stressed you're likely to be.
Take care of yourself:Eat right and exercise – A healthy diet and daily exercise keeps you fit for peak performance.
Get enough sleep – Don’t use personal electronics at bedtime. The blue light emitted reduces levels of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Make time to relax – Setting aside time each day for activities you enjoy, alone or with friends or family, helps reduce stress.
Create a support system – Join forces with a colleague at work to help each other as needed. Accept help offered by friends or family, and/or try gaining some free time by swapping babysitting or other chores.Maintaining work-life balance is a continuing process as your job, family and interests change. Periodically examine your priorities and options – and understand that everyone needs help sometimes. If life feels too chaotic to manage, and you're spinning your wheels worrying about it, it may be time to seek professional help.
Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.