Career Woman

7 Tips for achieving a more realistic work-life balance

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It can be very difficult to find balance between pursuing a rewarding career and spending time with your family.

That’s especially the case for physically and mentally challenging professions, like nursing, that require long hours and emotional strain, but any job that makes you feel like you have to pick between spending time with your family or spending time at work can make you feel guilty when you choose one over the other.

You don’t have to accept feeling bad, no matter where you decide to spend your time. There are things you can do to achieve a more realistic work-life balance without feeling like you have to split your time right down the middle.

Schedule set work hours and stick to them

Career creep is very real. It’s an especially big challenge if you spend any time at all working from home. You may work from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, for example, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t checking email or sending text messages to supervisors, colleagues, and clients before or after those hours.

Schedule set work hours and stick to them so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of spending more time doing work-related tasks than you should. Make it clear that you will no longer accept calls at home after a certain time and take control of your email so you aren’t a slave to notifications day and night. Your family will thank you.

Prioritize your time by making lists

There are many tasks you have to complete throughout the day. It can be difficult to keep track of what you should do and when, which means you could get to the end of the day and discover there’s an important task that has to be done before you leave the office.

Do yourself a favor and make lists. There are many different kinds of lists, that when created, can help you stay more productive. For example, a project list can help you prioritize which projects you work on and when, while a running list of small tasks that need to get done but aren’t time sensitive. You’ll never have to stay late because there’s something you forgot to do ever again.

Take time off when you have it

Taking time off poses some challenges. Finding the right time can be difficult, as you don’t want to leave your team behind while they’re working on an important project, but simply submitting your time off request with plenty of time for it to be reviewed and approved can be a hassle too. However, these are hassles that are well worth the effort.

It is so important to use your vacation time if you want to achieve any semblance of a work-life balance. You owe your family that personal time away from work, and you also owe it to your work. Taking time off can make you return refreshed and renewed with new ideas!

Discover and harness times when you’re most productive

Nearly every job is comprised of multiple tasks—some of which are more difficult than others. If you do your most difficult tasks when you’re tired or worn down, you’ll end up spending more time on them, which means more time at work. Instead, figure out when you’re more productive and save your most difficult tasks for that time.

For example, if you focus the best first thing in the morning, consider getting up a littler earlier to get started. If you work better in the afternoon, do simpler tasks in the morning and save working on that big project for after lunch.

Find ways to eliminate things that waste your time

A few minutes here and a few minutes there can really add up when you’re engaging in activities that just waste your time. A few of the biggest time wasters in the workplace include:

  • Checking and responding to emails
  • Unnecessary meetings and events
  • Online distractions
  • Colleague interactions

Look for ways to reduce or eliminate things that waste your time. Consider creating canned responses so you can work through your emails more quickly, request to attend a meeting virtually so you don’t have to drive, and don’t be afraid to ask a chatty colleague to save their story until your lunch break.

Work on ways to be more mentally present for your family

Just because you’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of time you spend on work tasks doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job being present for your family. If you’re spending a lot of time thinking or worrying about work when you’re not on the clock, your family is going to notice.

Try and be as mentally present for your family as you can. Find activities to do together that take your mind off of work, meditate to clear your mind before spending time together, or write in a worry journal just before bed.

Accept that balance isn’t what you think it is

There are a lot of myths surrounding work-life balance. For example, it’s easy to feel like you’re failing if you don’t spend 50 percent of your time at work and 50 percent of your time with your family. The truth is that work-life balance isn’t necessarily what you think it is.

It’s not about dividing your time equally each and every day. Some days you’ll spend more time at work, and other days you’ll spend more time with your family. You might focus on your career for a year because you’re new to your position, but choose part-time work once you’ve established yourself. Think about achieving balance in the long-term instead of the short-term and you’ll feel better about your day-to-day life.

Work life balance isn’t about spending the perfect amount of time at work and with family each and every day. Instead, it involves looking for ways to prioritize the things that matter most, when they matter most, so you can feel fulfilled in both areas of your life.

About Susan Melony

susanm@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

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