Tips to improve work/life balance

Written by Ellen Lees
Ellen Lees
Life Coach Directory Content Team

If you've noticed your work/life balance is off, there are steps you can take right now to get back on track. Here we share some ideas to help you get started. 

Schedule your day - plan in fun and rest

While it sounds counterintuitive to add more things in when you’re already drowning in tasks, scheduling times to exercise, socialise and do the things you enjoy is imperative for creating balance.

At the beginning of the week, plan time to do the things that nourish you (mentally and physically): whether that’s going for a drink with friends, going to the gym or even an evening devoted to pampering. Try to prioritise self-care here and block it out in your calendar, as well as benefitting your well-being, self-care can give you the energy you need to truly show up in other areas of your life. 

Learn to say no

Many of us benefit from establishing clear boundaries in our lives and sometimes that means saying no. Perhaps you're overwhelmed by work tasks, or a friend is relying on you and your plate is full to the brim. We may think saying yes makes us a good employee or friend, but when we do it and sacrifice our own needs, it can lead to burnout.  

If saying no feels difficult, start by asking for more time to think about a request. This gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and respond intentionally. You could also suggest an alternative, instead of a simple no. Practice these techniques and notice how it feels to hold back some yeses for yourself. 

Try the ‘work smart, not long’ method

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well and succeed in your career, and working harder and longer may seem like the right thing to do, but it may be hindering your journey to success. The ‘work smart, not long’ method involves tight prioritisation and planning to ensure you do the most important work in a reasonable time frame. It allows you a certain amount of time on a task, without getting caught up in less productive activities, or taking on more work than you need.

Each morning write down your top priorities, the things you need to get finished today and why. Then, schedule a proper lunch break and an end time. Follow this plan and over time a routine will start to form.

Make health a priority

Calling in sick isn’t always easy, but you need to prioritise your health and well-being. Pushing through illness and fatigue will only make you feel worse. This is particularly important if you feel close to burnout, you’re frequently experiencing headaches or not sleeping. Ensure your employer is aware of how you are feeling, and the effect a high workload and long hours are having on you. They should support you and together, you can decipher a more manageable plan.

It can feel quite daunting talking to your employer about your health, but being honest about how you feel, and the impact your work is having on your well-being is the most important factor.

Identify what work/life balance looks like to you

This may not be possible for everyone, but if there are certain working hours and locations that you think will benefit your work/life balance, consider speaking to your employer. If you have a long commute and spend hours in traffic every morning, perhaps you can start earlier, to avoid traffic and make the most of your working time. Maybe you have the option to work remotely. 

Another question to ask yourself is: are you really happy in your role? Think of the reasons why you’re working so hard, and what's causing your stress. Are they avoidable, or can they be managed? Only you know if you can overcome the issues, and if this isn’t possible, maybe it’s time to move on and follow a new path.

We are individuals, and so our work/life balance will look different for all of us. But we should all make a conscious effort to find the right balance (or blend) of work and life. Try visualising a perfect 'average' day. What work are you doing? Where are you doing it? How long are you working for? Is there room for rest and play on this day? Now, how can you take a step closer to this vision?

To help you see what areas of your life need attention, try our wheel of life tool.

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