Since most people rely on work to pay the bills, it’s easy to prioritize work above all else. Yet this is a sure recipe for burnout. To succeed in the long run, it’s critical to create a healthy work-life balance that cares for your physical, mental, and emotional health alongside your career.
Here are some tips to make that happen in the new year.
Start by assessing your own needs and desires, as well as your current work schedule, to get an idea of what better work-life balance might look like for you. Then start working on strategies to get there. But remember, there is no such thing as the “perfect” work-life balance, and there are days when you will need to work long hours to have free time on another day. Work towards creating balance over time rather than within each day.
Find Meaningful Work
Two old sayings that address this topic are: “Do you what you love and the money will follow,” and “Find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Of course, even in your dream job, not every day will be sunshine and roses. Overall, though, you shouldn’t dread the work part of your work-life balance. If you hate going to work every day, it’s time to look for a new job.
Don’t get so caught up in a work-life balance schedule that you start ignoring what your body and mind are telling you. If you feel sick, call into work, or skip your spin class. If you’re depressed or anxious, carve out time to see a therapist. If you’re exhausted, take a raincheck on drinks with a friend. When you’re feeling well mentally, emotionally, and physically, everything else will fall into place.
In today’s always-connected world, it’s common to never quite disconnect from work. You’ll need to actively establish and maintain boundaries such as work hours and project involvement. Tell your boss and co-workers what to expect, and gently remind them of your limitations if you start feeling pressured to answer late-night emails or call into the office during your vacation.
Try to unplug altogether for at least 30 minutes per day, and for a full day whenever possible. Even if you’re not doing work, the constant barrage of text messages and social media notifications can make it tough to relax and recharge truly.
Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, which tend to fade away in the first weeks of the year, set achievable goals. Instead, decide what’s most important to you in each area of your life—work, home, health, social, etc. Then go through your calendar and cut the waste—anything that you’re doing because you feel you “should,” but that has little value to you. Plan your most important tasks for the hours you feel most productive, and try to work a little on each goal every day.
If you’re in a toxic workplace or a corporate culture that demands overwork, it may be time to move on. Finding a company that values work-life balance is an important piece of the puzzle.