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12 tips to improve your work-life balance & motivation!

It’s one thing to talk about work-life balance. It’s another to achieve it.

Here are 12 practical tips for improving your sense of balance at work and at home.

Improving work-life balance at work

First, let’s look at some ways you can improve your work-life balance in the workplace.

1. Learn to say “no”

Learning how to say no can be one of the hardest soft skills for any dedicated professional to learn and put into practice. But it’s an important part of setting boundaries.

To start, you must first assess the typical demands of your day and learn to articulate and prioritise what you have on your plate.

A great tool to use for this exercise is the Eisenhower Matrix. (Hint: If you’re finding everything falling into the “Urgent-Important” quadrant, try this clever hack).

It can be helpful to recognise that saying “no” to things that are less of a priority frees up time and energy to say “yes” and attend to other things that are important to you.

2. Take breaks

  • Improve concentration

  • Reduce stress

  • Keep you feeling engaged

  • Make your work feel more enjoyable

It’s especially important to be mindful of this when you’re working from home.

MIT senior lecturer Robert Pozen recommends taking a break every 75–90 minutes for 15 minutes. This will allow your brain to consolidate and retain learning.

A study by The Energy Project found people naturally go from full focus to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes.

3. Use your lunch break

If you have a lunch break at your place of work, it’s your right to use it.

This means you shouldn’t be expected to always eat at your desk and work through lunch.

You can take this time to enjoy your meal mindfully. You can also do short meditations or breathing exercises if your stress levels are high or experience chronic stress.

4. Ask for flexibility

Having open, honest conversations about your needs and those of your employer and team can lead to productive solutions.

Those can include flexitime, a compressed workweek schedule, job sharing, and other creative options.

5. Prioritise your health

Recognising the importance of maintaining your physical health, emotional well-being, and mental fitness is the first step to making it a priority in your life.

Use the concept of habit stacking to build simple, supportive actions into your day. Consider habits like:

  • Daily meditation

  • Movement/exercise

  • Social connection

  • A gratitude practice

  • Committing to using your paid time off

6. Practice self-compassion

One of the most important ways to achieve a sense of work-life balance is to let go of perfectionism.

The approach of perfectionism may have brought some success during school and early career. But the stress it causes accumulates over time. The strain on our system and emotional resources increases as our responsibilities increase.

It’s important to recognise that life isn’t always easy. Everyone struggles, and you aren’t always going to get it “right.” Recognising this truth allows you to create a shift toward a more compassionate growth-and-learning approach to work and life. This can help to support a sense of balance.

It can also provide an inspiring model for others who also need to hear this message.

Improving work-life balance at home

Now, let’s look at some ways you can improve your work-life balance at home.

7. Communicate boundaries so you can truly unplug

Set and communicate your work hours to your colleagues and customers so that you have clear boundaries. This should include when you’ll work and when you won’t be available to respond.

One simple way to achieve this is to set up an autoresponder to alert those who contact you via email that you are offline. This message can also let them know when you’ll respond.

This removes the pressure to keep checking work emails.

Consider setting up a system for key stakeholders to contact you in a true emergency so you can rest, knowing you’re not missing something critical.

8. Invest in relationships

Lack of strong relationships increases the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. That’s nearly as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

On the flip side, solid connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity.

Make sure to spend your time nurturing relationships that matter to you. If you took the previous steps to unplug, then you’ll be able to give more attention to the people you spend your time with.

9. Make space in your schedule for family time

For this to work, everyone in your family needs to make this time a priority. Make sure you’re all on the same page. You all need to decide to take the necessary steps to carve this time out.

You can also set this time apart to call family members or other loved ones who live far away.

10. Prioritise quality time

Rather than spreading yourself so thin that nothing feels satisfying, identify what’s truly important to you.

A values exercise, or exploring your Ikigai, can be helpful ways to clarify and articulate this for yourself. Based on what you learn, take an honest look at how you spend your personal time. Which activities and relationships are life-enhancing and which are soul-sucking?

With this information in hand, define for yourself where you’ll devote your time. Make sure to prioritise high-value relationships and activities.

Don’t forget that one of those relationships is with yourself! When you have downtime, allow yourself to enjoy that quality time for yourself to re-energise.

11. Start small

Healthier behaviours can support your sense of personal well-being. These could be behaviours like staying active and or improving your eating habits. But those habits can be difficult to establish.

Who hasn’t experienced the New Year’s resolution that peters out by mid-February? Motivation alone isn’t enough to drive behavior change.

The other key ingredients for success are the ability to do the behaviour and a dependable reminder that prompts us to do it. According to Tiny Habits author BJ Fogg, one way to succeed is to make something so simple and so tiny that you have no excuse not to do it. You’ll be able to do it even when you’re in a rush, if you’re sick, or when you’re distracted.

12. Ask for help

High-achieving professionals are often guilty of taking everything on themselves. They don't want to “bother” anyone by asking for help.

Sometimes this is tied to identity (“I’m supposed to be the one who has it all together”) or feelings of obligation (“Who else will do it if I don’t?”).

Instead, consider that asking for help gives other people the gift of giving — and being part of a solution and support system. This builds the benefits of mutual relationships for all involved.

Make healthy work-life balance a priority

Creating work-life balance and integration is an ongoing and fluid process. You’ll constantly be learning and adapting as your interests and circumstances change over time. It'll require honing key skills, like time management skills.

Let it be fun! And don’t forget to periodically revisit your priorities to see what’s changed. You’ll want to assess whether your priorities continue to line up with how you’re spending your time and energy.

Taken from an article by Judy Wolf, MS, PCC

Executive & Team Coach

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