This past year has been one of the busiest of my career. While the work has been rewarding, I’ve developed some bad habits. I routinely sit at my desk for up to 12 hours a day and sometimes I work on weekends too, leaving my husband with the kids while I toil away in our home office. Not a healthy lifestyle and what’s worse, according to a study by the American Cancer Society, sitting for hours on end can take years off life!
After realizing I had to do a lifestyle overhaul, I started to take small steps toward improving my work-life balance. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing that have really helped make a difference and improved my well-being:
1. Get moving
Sitting all day is sometimes necessary for a job, but there are ways to sneak in some physical activity to break up a long day. For instance, I’ve started riding my bike to meetings. Putting in a solid 45 minutes on a bike at least 3 to 4 days a week has given me a lot more energy. Or try going for a walk during your lunch break — even if it’s only for 15 minutes, you’ll feel better just being out in the sunshine. Make walking part of your regular commute — if you’re taking public transit, get off a few stops before or if you’re driving, park your car further away from the office and walk the rest of the way.
2. Email stops at 5:30pm
I’ve always kept my iPhone close by, often checking emails while preparing dinner or when I’m playing with the kids. With one eye on the phone, I wasn’t really present in the moment and work was still on my mind. Keeping the phone off and out of reach has really helped set a boundary between my work and personal life.
3. Better communication
It’s important to let clients and colleagues know when you’re available and when you’re not. If you need to go for a walk or you want to spend the afternoon with the kids, use your out-of-office notification or change your voicemail and specify when you’ll be checking messages. Doing this means that (hopefully!) your inbox won’t fill up with panicked messages from clients wondering where you are.
4. Cut out the guilt
My mother always said that guilt is a useless feeling. It’s true — and it’s also incredibly draining. Which is why I am learning not to beat myself up on those weekends when I do end up needing to work.
5. Make time for your friends
A few months ago I wrote a post on the top regrets of the dying. One of those top regrets was that they didn’t stay in touch with friends. Everyone gets busy but it’s important to make the time to see each other. That is what I do with all my girlfriends now — even if I have to make plans a month in advance, it’s better than not seeing them at all.
6. Taking personal time
This is by far the hardest thing for me to do. My kids are ages two and four and they’re highly demanding, so most days personal time just isn’t on the agenda. But last week, I made a small step: I booked a half day off during the week to go shopping and have lunch with my mom. We had a blast and I felt like a million bucks afterwards. Whether it’s taking time to read a book or to sit in the garden and admire your flowers, it’s important to take time for you.
7. Vacation time
Whether or not you have a vacation planned, book time off in your calendar for some holiday time — it could be a week long vacay or even just a long weekend. I booked the first week of July off even though we have no plans. I know that if I don’t book it, I won’t take the time.
Your turn: What are your strategies for finding work-life balance? What has or hasn’t worked for you?