Getting the perfect work-life balance isn’t easy. With modern technology, you can be contactable just about every hour of the day, so it can be hard to switch off. According to the Office for National Statistics, the average number of hours worked per week (for full time employees) is around 37 hours.  But that may not take into account hours worked from home, let alone the time we spend thinking about work, or travelling to and from work! Sometimes the answer isn’t juggling your current work commitments with your leisure activities, but changing jobs entirely. 

This will often depend on how demanding your employer is, and whether you’re able to take steps in your own life to improve your work-life balance. You’ll probably find this more challenging if you have kids, or other big commitments outside of work. So how do you try to improve your work-life balance? We’ve listed five tips to help you get started below:

1. Switch Off 

It may sound like basic advice, but it’s actually pretty hard to follow! Technology offers lots of benefits, but things like having your work emails on your phone mean that you’re constantly accessible. The work day is never ending. This is why it’s important to completely cut yourself off from technology every so often, and just enjoy the moment. 

Once you get into the habit of distancing yourself from work communications, it will get easier in the long run. And if you’re able to stop using electronic devices for an hour or so before you go to bed, you may end up sleeping better too! According to a number of studies, the blue light emitted by various devices interferes with our circadian rhythms, so we don’t feel sleepy when we’re tired. Creating a screen-free routine before bed could do wonders for your sleep cycle.

2. Meditate and Practice Mindfulness

You’ve probably heard about the positive effects of mindfulness and meditation, but may not have actually started implementing them. You can start small - perhaps just some deep breathing exercises for five minutes in the morning. As with anything, once you get into the habit of doing something, it gets easier over time. 

If you’re not sure where to start, Headspace offers lots of helpful advice, with articles on meditation, stress, sleep and mindfulness. Their Guide to Sleep was also released on Netflix in April 2021, if you’d rather watch a series than read articles! 

3. Exercise

If you were pressed for time, you’d probably still factor in necessary activities like eating and bathing into your routine. And yet exercise, which is something else our bodies need - for health reasons and to reduce stress - is often neglected. Exercise has been proven to induce feel-good endorphins and lift your mood. So when we talk about achieving an ideal work-life balance, exercise has to play a part in this. 

You don’t have to commit too much time to an exercise routine either - it’s best to start with a few hours a week, and work your way up. Just like meditation, exercise can help you clear your mind, so is a helpful tool to practice mindfulness and reflect on the direction you want to be heading in life. 

young woman meditating and listening to music

4. Delegate and Outsource 

No matter how much you try, you can’t do everything by yourself. No man is an island and all that. This applies to your working life, as well as your life outside of work. If you take on more responsibilities than you can realistically handle, you’ll end up incredibly stressed and wonder why there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. 

Loosening the reins a little can also be beneficial for the people around you. Not only will there be less worry about you overworking yourself, passing on responsibilities to coworkers and loved ones can offer them the opportunity to grow. They may pick up new skills or discover new activities they enjoy, from a particular kind of paperwork to meal preparation.

5. Strive For Excellence, Not Perfection 

A common issue a lot of people have when it comes to relaxing outside of work is obsessing over the tasks we’ve performed that day. Could we have done them better? Is there anything we can do the next day to improve our efforts? These people have constantly tried to reach for perfection, but there’s no such thing. You therefore need to learn not to take thoughts of work home with you. If you’ve tried your best that day, don’t be too hard on yourself later. 

Stressing over the little things will bleed into other facets of your life too. You may not be able to get a good night's sleep due to worry. Or perhaps you’ll put off a more enjoyable task in favour of finishing just one more tiny thing for work. When answering the question of ‘how to balance work and life’, the answer is in the question. It’s all about balance. Striving for perfection will consume you, so it’s important to aim for excellence instead, and allow yourself to relax.

It’s also important to bear in mind that finding the balance should be a gradual process. For example, if you were to decide to start exercising five times a week to clear your mind, but previously did little to no fitness activities, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure. Start making small changes and build these up until you’ve found the balance that suits you.

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