Our world is unpredictable and rapidly changing. Technology brings new challenges and, very often, the pressure to be constantly connected. And the lines between home and work life are becoming increasingly blurred, especially if, like me, you are self-employed and/or work from home.
Now more than ever, we need the skills to take care of ourselves so we can perform well at work, achieve our personal and professional goals, be there for our loved ones, and feel our best. But these ideas about taking care of your mental and physical health, reducing stress, staying on top of your work, and having more time for the people and things that matter all boils down to one thing: creating a more balanced life.
Going beyond old notions of “work-life balance”
There’s an old misconception that “work-life balance” means spending equal amounts of time on work and life outside of work (like balancing two sides of a measuring scale), but that’s not true. Balance may mean working four hours a day for you, while others thrive on a longer workday structure. Having a healthy “work-life balance” is basically just feeling fulfilled both areas – work life and, you know, life life.
So finding balance isn’t just a case of working fewer hours, working from home two days a week, or being able to finish work in time to pick up the kids from school. It goes much deeper than that to take a more holistic view of how you take care of yourself and how you spend your time. Taking this broader view, finding balance means:
· Being able to manage your work and meet deadlines without working full time.
· Maintaining boundaries between work and non-work life so that you are not worrying or thinking about work all the time.
· Spend quality time with your children, partner, friends and other people who matter to you.
· Keeping up with the hobbies you love.
· Make an effort to take care of your physical and mental health.
How to find more balance
Starting with physical health:
1. People who regularly engage in physical activity have a less risk all kinds of diseases, from bowel cancer and heart disease to diabetes and dementia. Therefore, it is vital that you make time for regular physical activity (walking, running, yoga, etc.). The easiest approach is to make the activity part of your daily routine, for example cycling to work or walking (rather than driving) to the train station.
2. Get outside as often as you can, even if it’s just a quick coffee in the sun during your morning break.
3. Maintain a regular and restful sleep routine, which may mean nine hours for you or six hours for someone else. Good practices include going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (including weekends) and disconnecting from screens an hour or two before bed.
4. Try to eat foods that nourish your body. For example, you could spend an hour on Sunday morning preparing some lunches for the week ahead (a big batch of soup, grain-filled salads, etc.) or invest in meal kits to make evening meals easier.
A healthy body feeds on a healthy mind, but here are some other steps that can help you improve your mental health (they certainly helped me):
5. Make time for hobbies and relaxation. Personally, I find that reading, mindfulness, and running help me relax, and most days I find time for those activities. For you, it could be five minutes of deep breathing or meditation, a long bath, a walk in the woods, watching movies, or anything else. It’s important to find your own way to switch off and relax.
6. Try to live in the moment instead of always thinking about what was and what could happen in the future. Mindfulness is great for learning to be more present because it teaches you to graciously acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and notice what’s going on around you.
7. Write a letter to your future self. Deep down, you probably know what makes you feel mentally strong and what you need to do to take care of your mental health. So when you’re in a good place and feeling strong, write a letter to your future self to read when things aren’t going so smoothly. In the letter, list some steps you know make you feel more positive, and maybe even list some things you’re grateful for. Save the letter so you can read it in difficult times.
8. Embrace imperfection. Perfectionism can lead to stress, so remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the best. Being good enough is, well, good enough!
Maintaining such good habits can be a challenge in a busy world, but here are a few steps that have helped me continue to prioritize balance:
9. Set firm boundaries between work and non-work and protect those boundaries. When I’m not in my office, I’m not working. I don’t check email; I am present with my family or enjoying the silence to myself.
10. Hang out with people who make you feel good. People who are positive and support you. Whenever possible, avoid or limit your association with people who leave you exhausted.
11. Say no to things that are not a priority for you. Yes, it’s good to help people whenever you can, but there will be times when their request conflicts with your priorities. In that case, learn to politely but firmly say “no” (or “no, not now”).
12. Eliminate time-wasting aspects of your day. Like those social media notifications that suck you into your phone, and before you know it, half an hour has passed. Turn off app notifications and ensure that your social media activity (or news feed, or whatever) happens on your terms, at a time that suits you.
13. Treat your time as a precious asset. For example, if you’ve been invited to a meeting but aren’t sure it’s the best use of your time, try saying something like “I don’t think I’m the right person to attend this meeting” or “I don’t think I can add value to this conversation, but I can’t wait see a summary of the email afterwards.”
14. If you work from home, try to create a dedicated workspace that you go to during work hours and leave at the end of the work day. Even if it’s just a corner of a spare room or a recess under the stairs.
15. Finally, remember that finding balance is a journey, not something you achieve when you’re done. You will have to constantly work on building and maintaining these good habits. But the reward is worth the effort.
To stay up to date with the latest and emerging business and technology trends, be sure to subscribe to my newsletterfollow me Twitter, LinkedInand YouTubeand look at my books, Future Skills: 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in the Digital World and The Future Internet: How Metaverse, Web 3.0, and Blockchain Will Transform Business and Society.
Forbes – Innovation