Regardless of how busy you think you are, taking time out for yourself is crucial to your mental health and continued productivity at work. You might be thinking something along the lines of “More holidays? You don’t need to tell me twice!” but maintaining a healthy work-life balance isn’t always as simple as that.
While actually taking your holiday allowance certainly does come into maintaining a healthy work-life balance, it’s more the little things that can really add up. For instance, think about the last time you left right on time at the end of the day or actually took your lunch break away from your desk, not to mention the time spent outside of work thinking about all the projects you’ve got on.
This is especially true of those starting out in a new role. You may well be anxious to get stuck into work and take on as much as possible to impress your employer, but most organisations recognise the importance of a good work-life balance among their team. Think about it this way: if you were an employer, would you prefer have staff who burn themselves out in the first 6 months from working too hard over those who steadily grow and become more productive over time?
Burnout is a very real problem in the working world. It’s effectively a fancy word for being overworked to the point where you’re unable to be productive anymore. At its worst, employees experiencing burnout may need to take long term sick leave to recuperate – and nobody wants that.
So how do we make sure we’ve got the headspace and energy to bring our A-game at work? Here are our pointers for keeping your work-life balance in check:
You know that feeling when you get to the end of the day, you haven’t stopped for lunch or even a toilet break and you’re only halfway through your to-do list? Not to mention you’re all lightheaded, irritable and all you want is your bed? It looks like you may be starting to show the tell-tale signs of a stressed-out mind and body - ignore these symptoms, and you could find yourself on a one-way ticket to burnout city.
Many of us struggle to notice the signals until it’s too late and we’re already feeling crummy, if you’re one of these people then set reminders in your calendar every few hours to go for a short stroll around the office or close your laptop for a tea and biscuit break.
If you’re constantly finding yourself taking work home because you don’t feel like you’re able to finish it in time, you could benefit from being a little stricter with how you prioritise tasks.
We’re not saying you haven’t got a lot on, but a little long term organisation can go a really long way. Try creating a timeline for the next month either using a project management tool like Trello or Monday, or simply on Microsoft Excel, to map out all the work you have to complete. Be sure to also plan in your lunch breaks, family commitments and downtime, try your hardest not to deviate from your plan and stick to deadlines.
You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save simply by playing a game of diary Tetris at the start of each month.
This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many people can’t resist checking their emails before bed or just finishing off that report while dinner is cooking. This may seem like a smart way to get ahead of tomorrow’s tasks, but you’re actually doing yourself a real disservice by not having that downtime we all need.
It’s crucial to have a clear boundary between work and home, not only for your own sanity but also for what colleagues and clients will come to expect if you’re constantly replying to emails out of hours. Once you start, it’s hard to stop and you’ll soon become their ‘go-to’ person when nobody else is working. If you can’t relax at home, where can you? Make sure your home is a no-work zone to allow you to properly switch off and give your brain a well-earned rest.
It never feels good to let people down, but sometimes you just have to be honest about whether or not you can realistically accept a task without totally putting yourself up against it. Being afraid to say no will ultimately only hurt yourself when you have to put in those extra hours to get it done.
The truth is, people respect honesty more than people-pleasing – and they won’t always be aware of how much it has put you out to get everything done. So be firm, and say no when you genuinely can’t fit something into your contracted hours.
In a world where we’re constantly connected, this one might be slightly tricky. But taking time away from your emails, yes that includes on your phone, is really important. Notifications from your phone seriously interrupt your relaxation time and subconsciously create an undercurrent of stress as you come to expect a work email or call.
Turn your work phone off completely when you’re not at work, and if you’re unlucky enough to have your work emails linked to your personal mobile – then simply turn off email notifications until you’re back in work. We promise you won’t regret it!