We’ve all heard of the term ‘work-life balance’ and, indeed, many of us strive towards creating one. We’re all becoming busier in our working lives, more demands of our time and extra pressure and stress to get things done. All this has an enormous effect on us mentally as well as physically and can have an adverse effect on our health. In a survey by PwC, two people in five have taken time off work or reduced their responsibilities due to their health.
A life-work balance
The thing is, when we talk about a work-life balance, we still place work first. What if we created a life-work balance instead? How would that be for you? Ultimately, we need to look after our health and wellbeing and if we’re not performing at our best, we’re going to struggle to get stuff done. How about if we put ourselves first? What if we looked after our own health, we would likely have more energy to do everything we need to do and we would achieve more in a shorter space of time. So, how do we create a better life-work balance?
1. Exercise in the morning
Set the alarm clock for half an hour earlier, get up and move more. This could be going for a walk, a run or some basic exercises. This gets the blood flowing but also gives your head space to come up with a plan for the day, solve problems from the day before so by the time you start work, you may already get a lot of stuff done in the first 20-30 minutes that might normally take you an hour or two. Many people struggle to fit time into exercise in a day and it can be easy to put off a workout later in the day to get a piece of work done so getting it done first thing will set you up for the day and anything else you do later in the day becomes a bonus.
Try these exercises to begin with:
2. Go to bed earlier
In order to get up earlier to exercise, you need to go to bed earlier. As tempting as it is to stay up late to finish some work, the quality of that work may not be as good as it would be if you did it earlier in the day. This about when you need to get up, count back at least 7 hours so you know when you need to go to sleep. From there, switch off emails and the internet an hour before and read a book or have a chat with your partner, or a mix of both. This will allow you to unwind, let your brain relax and not only will it help you get to sleep but also reduce the chances of you waking up in the middle of the night.
3. Eat and drink better
The biggest problem for most people I see is irregular eating times and poor food choices. A lot of this comes down to the lack of a plan and eating as a response to the time available. When you’ve had a long day, the appeal of a salad becomes less compared to something that’s quick and easy. Planning meals in advance, even if it means creating a big pot of something at the weekend so you can just heat up on the day will be better for you than a takeaway or something you grab and heat up. An option that works well for many of my clients is to fill a lunchbox with chicken (or other protein source) and veggies, a small tub of nuts and seeds then graze on it throughout the day. This keeps you feeling full, maintain a balance of energy so that you don’t get a slump during the day and reach for an unhealthy snack. Try to keep the coffee/tea to a minimum and drink lots of water to help maintain clarity.
4. Keep Notes
Get a notebook and take it everywhere you go. This can be to take notes from a meeting, jot down ideas or add tasks to your to-do list. I get lots of work-related ideas when I’m out for a run and as soon as I get home, I jot them down in my notebook otherwise I will forget them. It’s always useful to have beside your bed so that you can jot down some notes before you go to sleep so they don’t prey on your mind and wake you up. Jotting things down on paper often has a better connection with the brain than making the same note electronically.
5. Make an appointment for yourself
This is important. Always make time for yourself each day, whether its to exercise in the morning or spend time with family or friends. A loved one, whether it’s your partner, a family member or a close friend help you become the great person you are so taking that time out and giving them your full attention will help you relax, remind yourself of who you are and may also help you learn more. Even if its 30 minutes a day, those 30 minutes may just save your life.
6. Try a new experience
Life is about the number of memorable experiences we have. No-one remembers the emails they sent or the projects completed. Try new things that will challenge you mentally as well as physically. Go somewhere different on holiday, go hill walking, take up a different sport, volunteer for a charity, help out at Parkrun. Do something different that will get you out of your comfort zone. This will not only help develop you but it will also feel like you’re working towards something bigger than yourself, feel like you’re making a difference to someone or something else. THAT is what makes life more meaningful
There are lots more steps you can take but these are a good place to start and become good at. Placing yourself first doesn’t mean that you’re neglecting work and making your to-do list longer, it means that you will likely achieve everything much quicker and better. Think of how much better you feel and achieve things when you feel more relaxed and not sat staring at a screen all day.
If you were to do one thing today that would help give you a better life-work balance, what would it be? Make that one change, do it consistently for a week then make another one and repeat.