For many, achieving that perfect balance between climbing the corporate ladder and spending quality time with your family is the dream, right? But, sometimes, in the process of trying to achieve it, you may stretch yourself too thin.
Maintaining the ideal work-life balance may not always be easy — in fact, one-third of respondents in an Ernst & Young survey said managing a work-life balance has become more difficult — but it’s something you really can achieve, especially when you implement some of the tools others have found helpful.
Take Charge of Your Time
The first step — and often the most challenging — is to remember that your time is yours. You get to decide how to spend it.
“Learn to value what you do, who you are, and your time,” Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Southern California, said. “You will be more effective and less stressed if you learn to take charge of your work, personal and family time. Reducing stress means you’ll have the mental freedom to make better decisions and enjoy your life more.”
Simplify Your Routine
We each only have 24 hours in a day, but if you simplify some of the things you have to do on a regular basis, you may cut back on the time you waste. This can include everything from putting your credit card bills on automatic payment so you don’t have to worry about them to “putting a key rack near your front door so you never lose your keys,” Alison Kero, the CEO of Ack Organizing in New York City, said. “The more you can implement effective systems into your life, the easier everything will flow, and you’ll find yourself less likely to be wasting time, energy or money.”
Don’t Fear Saying ‘No’
It can be challenging, and make you feel like you’re letting people down, when you don’t do something. This applies to both your work life and personal life. But it’s OK to say no to allow yourself to maintain that essential balance.
“Learn to say ‘no’ whenever work, friends or family make unreasonable requests,” Tessina said. “You get to decide what’s unreasonable.”
“Saying no to one thing gives me time and space to [say] yes to another,” Amanda Basse, marketing coordinator for Laguna Beach House, a boutique hotel in Laguna Beach, California, said. “I have had to learn to be firm with my no, and when I am able to say yes, I go above and beyond to perform. I just know I can’t be all things to all people.”
Use Your Commute to Your Advantage
“I’d urge [those] who commute to work in their own cars to decompress on the drive home by talking out what might have been frustrating or encouraging during the day,” Carrie Aulenbacher, an executive administrative assistant for Transportation Investment Group in Erie, Pennsylvania, said. “If they commute by rail or bus, I’d suggest making a journal entry on the way home to decompress before getting home to their personal life.”
It’s easy to let technology run your schedule, especially because it can help you feel like you can be in many places at once. But sometimes it can be better to simply disconnect and be present in the moment.
“I have [my work email on my phone] set to manually update, which means I have to choose to open the app in order to see new emails,” Erica Zahka, the founder of Boston-based professional attire rental company Own the Boardroom, said. “That way you aren’t taking ‘me time’ to respond to work emails, but you are still available when it is an actual emergency.”
“Figure out what’s really, truly valuable to you and your life and then set boundaries and let go of anything that you don’t like, use or need in your life anymore,” Kero said. “When you start choosing for yourself — whether it’s how you spend your time, who you work with or what you buy in the store — all those decisions are telling the story of who you are.”
Once you’ve decided this, it’s time to put these priorities at the top of your list. One way to do so is by writing it down.
“Use your calendar to claim time and space for priorities and not just meetings,” Helene G. Lollis, president and CEO of Pathbuilders in Atlanta, said. “When something is on your calendar, it is like you have given yourself a ‘permission slip’ to focus on something important to you.”
Set Life Goals
“We all have business goals, but what about personal goals?” Alison Podworski, CEO of Alison May Public Relations in Agawam, Massachusetts, said. “Make a short list of what you want to achieve that week for yourself.” She recommends keeping these weekly goals attainable, but not to forget about bigger picture goals you want to work on over time as well. This can include everything from financial goals, like paying off a credit card by the end of the year or saving for a down payment on a new house to getting everything ready to start college in the fall.