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How to Achieve a Better Work/Life Balance

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Business Advice

Do you have a good work/life balance? How do we determine what constitutes a good work/life balance? Some people spend their entire life working on their business. As a result, they don’t have a good family life. Nothing but work has resulted in a bad marriage, a failing relationship with their kids, and no source of interest or pleasure outside from their everyday work. Work is their reality, nothing else. On the other hand, some people choose to have a more balanced life. For them, it’s not a matter of having little work to do or no ambition, but rather they choose to have a more balanced life, including a great relationship with their spouse and children, or time for their friends and hobbies.

What the studies show about work/life balance:

According to a series on work/life balance conducted by the Globe and Mail, more than 1.8-million Canadians worked 50-plus hours a week in 2008. The series also shows that one in five adults report being severely time crunched and 78 per cent of Canadians between 35 and 44 years of age have reported that their daily schedule is more hectic than it was five years ago. The effects of a deteriorating work/life balance are not only felt by Canadians. Similarly, a study conducted by the Families and Work Institute, showed that 1 in 3 U.S. employees also experience feeling overworked as a chronic condition. Clearly, all signs indicate that most of us do not have a good work/life balance and studies seem to suggest that if we continue with our current habits, not only are things not going to improve, but there could be health implications. As pointed out in the Globe and Mail series, we continue to work harder and feel more stress, yet we’re reluctant to make the necessary changes to achieve a better balance.

So what is work/life balance? How do we achieve it?

How many of us witness our email inboxes overflow with email after email? We barely have a chance to answer an email before the next one comes in. How many of us feel time-crunched? Or that we are being pulled in a million different directions at once? The problem with this is that – without a break from all the madness – these experiences contribute to an enormous amount of stress. And as we are told every day by health experts, stress has a major impact on our health and wellbeing. Studies show that stress has a direct impact on medical conditions like heart disease, obesity and infertility, and with the past few years serving us a devastated economy, it’s fair to say that stress has reared its ugly head for most of us.

Unfortunately, taking the routine couple of days off of work here and there is not going to cut it. Work/life balance is not about jetting off to the Caribbean once a year and it’s not about taking a few days off when your spouse starts to nag. Work/life balance is about the everyday things you do to strike a balance – it could be taking a few breaks in the workday to talk with a friend or your spouse, it could be making sure you’re able to drop the kids off at school in the morning, it could be going to the gym every morning, and it could mean turning your blackberry off at 7 pm every night. In other words, work/life balance is achieved through the little things that give you the momentary break you need to gather your thoughts, enjoy life and reduce your stress levels. The point here is that you are choosing to live your life in a way that balances fun with work, family time with work time and your social life with your office life.

How do you choose to have work/life balance?

The problem with today’s business world, and why some experts argue we are more stressed out than ever before, is that technology has blurred the line between work and home life. Although we are not in the office or out on the field at the end of the day, we come home and connect to work via our laptops and blackberries. Making the choice to have a work/life balance means simply having a clear distinction between work and life (of course, we say simply, but we know it’s not simple). Here are some of the things you can work on doing now in pursuit of a better balance:

1. First and foremost, if your job is nothing but stressful and there is absolutely no enjoyment in it, find a new job. Your job should be something you enjoy and look forward to. While you don’t have to enjoy all aspects of a job, there should be a certain element of the job that you do enjoy to make it worthwhile to stay.

2. Maximize the value of your time in any situation – whether you’re at work, at home, at a family event or out with friends. Consider how you can best take advantage of the time you have. Perhaps instead of watching television during a night at home with the family, you could make dinner together or read together. At work, find a way to spend more time working on business plans than on answering email. Another tip here is to schedule and plan the work day as much as you can – this will help you prioritize your tasks and complete the things that need to be done during the work day, rather than after work hours

3. Take care of your health: take a break whenever you need it, regardless of the work that’s in front of you. A tired and lethargic mental state will do nothing for you. You’ll be surprised what a quick 10 minute walk in the fresh air can do for re-energizing your brain. Also, try different fitness classes, sports or de-stressing activities, like yoga. Eat right.

4. Try doing little things that help you achieve more balance, such as striving to leave work on time at least 3 days a week and turning off the blackberry and laptop at a set time in the evening.

5. Identify little ways to simplify your life: try spending less time staring aimlessly at the computer, surfing the web, constantly checking email throughout the day, anything in your life that gives you little to no value for the time you spend doing it. With proper planning, this will free up more time for the things that are more important.

6. Most importantly, seek the help and support of your family members and friends to help balance your life.

How do you strive to maintain a work/life balance?

Read the Globe and Mail Work-life Balance series here.  

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