5 Ways to Get Work-Life Balance Even When It Seems Impossible
by Liz Alterman
Everyone strives to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, but thanks to the blessing/curse that are our electronic devices (er, leashes), it can be harder and harder to disconnect and focus on the world beyond your career.
"The irony of prioritizing a work-life balance is that it's incredibly hard to do when you're in the headspace of having no balance," says life and career coach Caitlin Graham of Unapologetic Coaching. "It's almost impossible to get a clear picture of what's really important when you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed out."
Graham suggests making a list of activities that "are crucial to making you feel like a person and living what you consider a full, fulfilled life, on a daily basis." She says the best time to do this is when you're on vacation so you're not susceptible to feeling like everything on your to-do list is pressing.
Here are 5 tricks to getting that work-life balance you so desperately crave.
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1. Commit to going "device-free" for certain parts of the day. Whether you choose not to look at your phone until after 8 a.m. or you vow to turn it off (and we don't mean simply switching to "silent") from 7 to 9 p.m., pick a time to put down the devices and connect with your family at home. Trust us, those emails and texts will still be there when you plug back in.
2. Just say "no." Just because someone asks you to co-chair your second-grader's school's annual plant sale, don't feel compelled to agree to take on the job. (The task will no doubt prove to be exponentially more challenging than anyone initially lets on -- I speak from experience!) Even if you find yourself with free time, don't feel pressured to fill it with something you won't enjoy just because someone has asked. Guard your downtime like the precious commodity it is.
3. Outsource. Do you feel your blood pressure skyrocketing when you inadvertently get behind a shopper with 72 items on the Express Lane at the grocery store because it swallows up 15 minutes of your day? Consider placing your weekly order online and either have it ready for pick-up or brought right to your door.
Some dry cleaners and pet groomers also offer pick-up and delivery service. Think about finding vendors who will come to you to save you time and effort.
4. Enroll in a class. If you take the time to sign up and pay for a class, whether it's yoga or DIY Halloween decorations, chances are you're more inclined to go. Join with a friend and you'll feel even more accountable and less likely to ditch when work threatens to get in the way.
"Exercise is one of the things that tends to fall by the wayside most when we're struggling to achieve balance in our lives," Graham notes. "For me, time was often an issue. Maybe the classes I wanted to take at my gym were an hour long, and I only had a half hour to spare -- or the classes were offered at times I just couldn't make."
Graham, an entrepreneur with two of her own businesses as well as full- and part-time jobs, ended up quitting the gym and working out at home. A healthy compromise.
"The challenge in that is finding things that are rigorous enough but that you can still do in your living room," she said. "I highly recommend signing up on a site like DailyBurn.com and doing their videos. It's just like taking classes at the gym, and there's a ton of variety. There is also no shortage of free workout videos on YouTube."
And making time for yourself and doing something enriching will make you feel more energized and creative afterward.
5. Plan ahead. Taking a moment to get organized can save you lots of time down the line. Whether it's planning out a week's menu on a Sunday afternoon to avoid ending up at the grocery store at 6 p.m., (see tip #3) or picking up gifts for multiple birthday parties in one swoop, start thinking ahead.
Also, make sure to schedule in plenty of activities designed to provide you with personal fulfillment. Make a date with a friend for lunch, dinner, or even just coffee if you're pressed for time.
"It's tough to find the time to simply talk to a friend on the phone," says Graham. "Spending just a couple of hours with a good friend who isn't your spouse is key to reminding yourself of who you are."
What's your secret to achieving work-life balance?