These days, most professionals in the US are well-aware of the need to maintain a healthy work life balance. Of course, knowing the importance of work life balance is not enough. For someone to enjoy the benefits of balance requires taking action to achieve such balance. It can be difficult to do so for many, but that does not make it any less necessary. Work life balance statistics show that balance between work and non-work time is required for those who want to experience both mental and physical health.
Why Work Life Balance is Important
Without quality time away from work, it is impossible to foster positive relationships, nurture a family or be a part of a community outside of work. Work life balance is also required for rest and rejuvenation, which is the only way one can perform at his or her best. So time away from work is necessary both for personal and professional quality of life.
Employers are coming to appreciate and emphasize the importance of a work life balance. More and more companies are encouraging employees to work only when scheduled, to take breaks and to use their vacation time. According to one study, the most productive employees worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17 minute break. The breaks allowed them to let their minds wander, which encouraged creative thinking. Earlier studies demonstrated similar benefits to taking breaks while working, so regardless of exactly how they are timed, the advantages of including time to not work are clear.
How to Achieve a Better Work Life Balance
Making the transition to a better work life balance takes some time and planning based on individual circumstances – but it is definitely achievable for most people. Some effective steps to improving work life balance include:
1. Schedule non-work time.
Many professionals find that applying scheduling practices they use for work to their personal lives makes it easier to commit to unwinding. Those that treat their non-work schedules as seriously as they treat their work schedules are able to get in to time that they need with friends and family, exercise, relaxation and other important personal time.
2. Truly disconnect from work.
The connectedness that brings so many advantages can also make disconnecting from work a real struggle. The only way to truly step away from work and into personal life is to turn off notifications from work – or ignore them, which can take considerable resilience. Work life balance is only achievable if one can be fully present while away from work, which is why many professionals avoid contact with work while away unless a major emergency occurs.
Exercise is one tip that seems to pop up on every list focused on improving one’s life, and for good reason. Getting even a small amount of exercise does great things for the human body and mind. It improves cardiovascular health, elevates mood, aids sleep and seems to make everything else in life just a little bit easier.
4. Get enough sleep.
As with exercise, quality sleep offers a range of health benefits. Busy professionals are quick to dispense with sleep to get a job done, but research has repeatedly demonstrated that failing to get enough sleep will do damage over time. Lack of sleep makes it difficult to perform at one’s best, both at work and at home. A balanced life includes around 8 hours of restful sleep each night. Individual sleep needs vary, but 8 hours is a good starting point to learn how much sleep one really requires.
5. Focus on tasks that make the biggest impact.
Many professionals worry that putting off work to pursue personal time will cause damage or atrophy to their careers and/or business. One way to combat this fear is to carefully consider what work tasks really make the most difference. Once one looks closer at how he or she spends each work day, it often becomes apparent that only a few tasks are most important. It is easy to fill a workday with things to do, but many times those things are not integral to progress – they are just there, seem to need attention and inevitably capture the time of the worker. Focusing on the most important tasks, those that make the biggest impact, can lead to more progress with less time devoted to work.
6. Indulge in “me time”.
Free time can seem ideal to focus on other things that are not getting done, but it is important to indulge oneself periodically. Going to see a movie, reading a book, visiting a local attraction, eating at a nice restaurant – anything that makes one happy and allows one to turn off completely from work is not only OK, it’s required for work life balance. Without taking time to do “unimportant” things periodically, it is impossible to really unwind.
Meditation can seem like a waste of time to personalities who are highly focused on getting things done. It seems to involve doing nothing, and therefore can appear to serve no real purpose. But the benefits of meditation for stress reduction are well-known and enjoyed by many. Taking a few minutes to sit still, breathe and gently focus one’s thoughts can be challenging. However, many professionals discover that meditation lets them be more present in their day-to-day lives and makes it easier to maintain the work life balance they need.
8. Accept that getting it all done perfectly is impossible.
Most people can accept that perfection is unattainable, but that does not seem to stop them from trying to attain it anyway. The roadblock that professionals run into is that life only gets more difficult with each passing year – there is more to do, more to take care of and more to think about than ever. Trying to do everything perfectly is unreasonable. The more completely one can accept this fact, the easier it is to enjoy life.
Work Life Balance – An Ongoing Journey
Work life balance is not something that is achieved overnight. In truth, it is an ongoing journey that requires constant readjustment. Fortunately, the benefits are worth the effort. With care and attention to building a better life, anybody can improve their life experience by learning to value both work and time away from work.