All work and no play can lead to burn out and serious health problems.
Working too much can cause you to feel irritable and impact your mental, emotional and physical well being to say the least. Ever heard of under-promising and over-delivering? I bet a lot of people reading this do the exact opposite of this. Over-committing is one of the leading causes of stress and burn out in the workplace. This is why finding the perfect work-life balance is so important.
When demands and expectations are too much for you – speak up. It’s hard to say no to your boss when she/he is asking for something to be done yesterday. Especially when there are 60 other people who would love to have your job. Competition might be fierce, and you might really want a raise or a promotion. The good news is:
It is more than possible to find a work-life balance that allows you to set boundaries in the workplace while still advancing your career.
Assertively Say No and Set Boundaries
So how can you improve this skill? Find assertive ways to communicate your needs and set boundaries. Here are a few examples: If someone asks you at the end of the day to do something for them right away tell them you will work on it tomorrow during business hours. If your boss is piling on work and deadlines, ask them: “would you rather I complete project A or project B because it isn’t possible to do both in the given timeline”.
If your peer asks you to take on an assignment as a favour for them but you can’t handle the additional workload: “I’d love to help you out but I’m swamped with task A, task B and task C and two of them are due tomorrow so I wouldn’t have time to work on that for you”. Or maybe you have a team assignment with members not pulling their weight: “Lets divide and conquer this project. Would you like to do task A or task B?”.
There are a lot of great ways to kindly say no and set boundaries that help you achieve and maintain balance without jeopardizing your career or relationships with others. Learning assertiveness skills is key to work-life balance. A therapist or career coach can help you learn this essential skill.
An easy way to help you find work-life balance is to just simply unplug. Checking emails or even thinking about checking them is a constant trigger for stress as it alerts us to any number of things that could have gone sideways and require our immediate attention. Always being connected to work increases our chances of worrying all night and weekend long. Set specific times for when you will not work or engage in any other work-related activities. For example, after 6pm and on the weekends I will not check emails.
You can also unplug mentally by not thinking about work. Distract yourself every time you start ruminating about work. Quiet and solitude allow us to be fully present and connected to ourselves and others. It allows our brain and bodies time to recuperate for the next day. It provides a time when our bodies can be free from cortisol and adrenaline that can be at high levels when we ruminate on workplace issues. Unplugging provides a break from rumination and will help you come back to work relaxed and recharged!
Having a schedule, and/or a to-do list is a great way to stay organized and will reduce the amount of time you spend planning each day. Make sure you have an accessible overview of any due dates, meetings, or other events you may need to prepare for and set aside specific time to prepare. A very common mistake is overestimating how much can be done in one day. It’s easy to lose motivation to continue your routine of scheduling and writing to do lists once you realize you can’t complete your to-do list. It’s much easier to create a smaller to-do this, and once you finish all the tasks, you can keep going and do more. This way, you feel like you’re overachieving, rather than underachieving.
Make sure to schedule personal time as well and don’t let anything get in the way of it. Make “me time” your number one priority. Write set times to cook, shop, exercise, schedule, strategize, be creative, be social, read, be alone, plan what you will cook and shop for, time with friends, time for doing nothing. Try to take care of your mental health during your personal time.
So you’ve set up your calendar, made some to-do lists, and now you’re staring at this endless list of tasks that may feel impossible to complete. Take some time to decide what tasks need to be completed first, such as whatever presentation, meeting, or project that appears first in your calendar. A lot of highly productive people feel the need to do just about everything at once, but you need to set limits for yourself as well to avoid a burnout.
Limit Your Distractions
When you start a task, do you constantly check your phone, emails, or other unrelated content? These types of distractions will double the amount of time it takes you to complete your tasks. You’ve probably heard of study smarter not harder, try to work smarter not harder.
If you can improve your efficiency at work by assertively saying no and setting boundaries, staying organized, prioritizing, and giving yourself time to unplug and unwind, you’ll have much more time for a personal life! Achieving this level of work-life balance will not only have an amazing positive impact on your mental and emotional well being, but will actually make you more productive and effective in both professional and personal pursuits.