There is a lot of talk about work/life balance these days, but achieving a better balance between the hours you work and the time you spend with family and friends is often easier said than done.
Why we need a better balance
There are two good reasons for improving your work/life balance. The first is for the sake of your health. Too much work not only makes Jack a dull boy, it can also make him a sick one. There’s plenty of research to show that spending too many hours working can result in stress, sleep deprivation, depression, being burnt out and ultimately a shorter life span. We need a good balance between work and rest to give our bodies time to replenish themselves.
The second reason we need to slow down a bit is for the sake of our families. Too many children grow up these days hardly knowing one or both of their parents due to the fact that they are always working. Children grow up too fast as it is, so we need to spend as much quality time with them as we can.
How to achieve a better balance
The purpose of this article is to offer suggestions on ways you can not only work less but also how to work smarter so that you have more time to enjoy the good things in life. Obviously, your own particular circumstances will determine which tips will work better for you.
One of the main factors will be whether you work for yourself or for somebody else. If you work for an employer, then arranging a better work/life balance may be more difficult. Fortunately, there is now more legislation than ever before to help those who wish to work more flexible hours or remotely from home.
Working for an employer
If you work for an employer, these tips may help:
- Before asking for shorter hours, make sure you can afford to do so, otherwise you could find yourself working harder than ever trying to hold down two part-time jobs.
- Before approaching your employer, make sure you know what your entitlements are. Do some research online and find out what your rights and your employer’s obligations are.
- When negotiating with your employer, be prepared. Expect a knock-back and negotiate a lesser agreement if necessary. Try and point out the benefits to your employer as well as to yourself.
- If part of your problem is that you have too much work, learn to delegate if that’s an option or ask for help if it’s not.
- Take your holidays, don’t try to stockpile them. If a long vacation is out of the question, then take odd days here and there to make long weekends and shorter working weeks.
Working from home
Many people work freelance or remotely these days, and more are joining their ranks all the time as the number of full-time jobs diminishes and part-time and casual jobs become more prevalent.
While you would think that working from home would give you much more time to yourself, the opposite is often the case. When your home is also your office, the lines can become blurred to the point where you seem to be working all the time.
If you work for yourself or remotely from home, these tips can help you to reclaim some down-time for yourself and your family.
- If you work in a home office, make sure it is separate from family life; ideally in a separate room. Treat it like an office and only go in there between certain hours (i.e. nine to five), then come out and close the door until the following day.
- Get organised. If you take control of your time and monitor it closely, you will soon start to see where it is being wasted and find ways to do things faster and smarter. Prioritise your time and only do the things that need to be done.
- Use technology. There are lots of shortcuts available online, including online shopping, bill paying and even video conferencing, so rather than wasting time running errands and attending meetings, use the tools technology offers and save time every day.
- Outsource where possible. Most people who run their own small business soon discover that they’re good at some things and not so good at others. So, rather than wasting time wading through tax forms or trying to balance the books, outsource those tasks to the experts and give yourself more time.
- Work to your strengths. If you’re a morning person, get the majority of your work done before noon and enjoy some down-time in the afternoon. If you’re a night-owl, do the opposite.
- Don’t overbook. When you work for yourself, there’s a temptation to fill your schedule as much as possible to keep the dollars rolling in and to make up for the inevitable quiet times. But, it’s much better to have a steady flow of work than to take on too much at once and risk burning out, and this can be achieved if you choose your clients wisely and learn to say ‘no’ to unreasonable demands on your time.
- Plan to have time off. Keep a diary and mark down important family commitments such as school plays, holidays and outings, plus time for yourself for things such as golf or fishing trips. Then arrange your work schedule around these commitments.
Hopefully there are suggestions here that can help you reclaim more of your time from the workaday treadmill. The secret of achieving a better work/life balance is not really a secret at all. It’s simply a matter of doing things smarter, prioritising your time and making time for the most important things in life.
As author Michael Altshuler is famously quoted as saying, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot”.*