According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of employed adults in the U.S. are currently working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone else is either back at the office full-time, or is doing some kind of hybrid schedule. No matter what your situation, we are all struggling with mastering the ever elusive work life balance.
You work hard and deserve a mental and physical break. Many articles will give you super vague advice about how to balance work and life such as: “say no,” “prioritize,” or my personal favorite, “manage expectations.” However, what you really need are concrete actions you can take right now.
If you’re ready to improve your work life balance, and ultimately live and enjoy a better life, you’re in the right place!
What is Work Life Balance?
Work life balance is dedicating a healthy amount of time to both your professional life and your personal life. You need to be able to separate work from home in your brain, and stop yourself from thinking about one when you’re engaged in the other.
It can’t be work, work, work all the time. You need to find ways to take some time for yourself, whether it’s relaxing on the beach with a good book, taking a cooking class, or horseback riding for the first time. On the flip side, you shouldn’t be daydreaming about having fun when you’re on the clock. It can be tough to balance it all!
A realistic and ideal work life balance ratio would be 35% work, 32% off work, and 33% sleep. Aim to achieve this division every single day.
The work life balance ratio for each day should be:
8.25 hours for work
7.75 hours for personal care and leisure. Including:
- Cooking & eating (1 hour)
- Taking care of kids, pets, & family (1 hour)
- Exercising (1 hour)
- Showering and other personal care (0.75 hours)
- Indulging in hobbies (1 hour)
- Other activities like running errands, making phone calls, doing chores, paying bills, etc. (3 hours)
8 hours for sleep
When you break this all down, it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day to accomplish it all. And you know what…there’s not!
By the time you cook, eat, exercise, shower, and take care of your family, you only have at max 4 hours for everything else before it’s time to go to bed. With a long commute, random unplanned situations, and other adjustments to the ratio, that number could really be about 2 or 3 hours.
So what do you do to make the most of your time? It’s all about being realistic! Divide up tasks between all 7 days in a week, and do what you can with the 24 hours you have allotted to you. You don’t have to accomplish everything in one day!
How to Balance Work and Life
The work life balance is difficult for some, but it’s very possible with a few tweaks to your current lifestyle. Here are some easy ideas that anyone can do, regardless of their schedule. Just try one this month, and you’ll be well on your way to a more balanced life!
1: Stick to a Consistent Schedule
I’m not talking about just clocking in and out of work at the same time every day. You should try to do everything around the same time and on the same day every week. This includes:
- Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Doing laundry
- Checking your email
- Running the dishwasher
- Grocery shopping
- Helping kids with homework
- Bathing or showering
- Watching TV, reading, journaling, or any other leisure activities
A consistent schedule gives you peace of mind and helps you keep all the balls juggling. Do your best to make this happen, and your time management will likely improve as a result.
2: Make Time for Meal Prep
Refer back to that work life balance pie chart from earlier, and you’ll see that cooking and eating can take up as much as 1 hour of your free time after work. Your life will be significantly easier if you plan your meals for the week ahead of time. Carve out 1 to 2 hours on a Sunday, buy reusable food containers, chop up veggies, and enjoy all the extra free time you get during the week as a result.
After a long day of work you might not want to bother cooking at all. You’ll want to order pizza or McDonald’s on DoorDash or just call for a pizza instead. In fact, 60% of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout at least once per week. This unhealthy habit will decrease if you precook and plan your meals ahead of time.
3: Use Calendars, Lists, & Reminders
Your phone can be a lifesaver when it comes to achieving a work life balance. Use the digital calendar to keep track of work meetings and tasks as well as personal events like weddings, birthdays, and appointments. And while you’re at it, download an app like TickTick or Google Tasks so you can have a to-do list right where you’ll see it.
You should also set reminders for things you don’t want to forget, even if it’s something as mundane as remembering to thaw the chicken for dinner. The notification sound will help you do things when they need to be done.
4: Take a Technology Timeout
61% of people feel pressure to reply to work-related emails or calls after hours. Your phone or laptop could be impeding on your ability to improve your work life balance, but you really need to set boundaries. Unplug for at least 1 hour every day and use that time for other activities instead.
According to Mayo Clinic, being “married to your work” can lead to fatigue, poor health, and lost time with loved ones. Why sacrifice your own well-being? Put your phone down and stay “plugged in” to the present moment!
5: Wake Up Earlier
Yes, your bed is really comfortable but you’ll be thanking yourself later if you get up earlier. Ideally, on the weekends as well. You, too, can be an early riser – just follow these tips as recommended by healthcare experts.
- Go to bed between 15 and 30 minutes before you usually do, and then set your alarm that much earlier in the morning. Do this every week until you reach a certain goal, which should be at least 1 hour.
- Do not look at your phone, laptop, TV, etc. at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light from screens could mess with your circadian rhythm.
- Try not to eat or drink anything other than water after 8:30 PM.
- Place your alarm across the room so you have to physically get up to turn it off.
- Head outside shortly after you wake up, whether it’s to workout or just sit on the porch and sip your coffee.
A 2020 survey by Amerisleep found that 60.7% of people get up early for work/job-related duties. Why should that be the only reason to see the sunrise? Get up so you can enjoy a little “me” time before you have to clock in for the day.
6: Try Something New
Weekdays and nights can start to feel repetitive after a while. Break out of the cycle by trying something new, whether it’s a Monday night softball league, an archery class, volunteer opportunity, book club, or something you can do at home like an exercise video.
There’s a whole world out there, and you may be missing out on something great. Change up your routine by doing something new, even if you have to pay a babysitter to make it happen!
7: Exercise Your Brain
Jigsaw puzzles, video games, and board games had a moment during quarantine, and for good reason. Game nights can improve your work life balance as they give you an opportunity to unwind and spend more time with the ones you love, even if you end up getting in a fight over Monopoly!
You can also do solo activities like crossword puzzles, solitaire, or “The Legend of Zelda” on the Nintendo Switch if you want some time to yourself. Pop in headphones and enjoy, even if it’s only for 30 minutes before you eat dinner.
8: Rotate Quality Time With Friends & Family
51% of people have missed important life events due to not having a balanced lifestyle. Improve your relationships by scheduling time with friends and family in advance. They’re busy too, so a little heads up will go a long way.
If you have a big friend group or a large family, rotate between everyone. Schedule a pedicure with your best friend, invite your in-laws over for dinner, or go on a walk with your mom. Better yet, mix your crowds by inviting more people to do things together.
9: Work on a Fun Project
Alright roll up your sleeves – it’s finally time to paint the living room! Is a birthday coming up? Make a DIY gift for the occasion. Be creative and dedicate some time during your evenings to some kind of project. Don’t worry – you can do this and still watch the football game or the latest episode of “The Bachelorette!”
You’ll feel more accomplished and ultimately balanced at the end of the day if you tackle a project that’s been on your list. You can do this a little bit at a time, so don’t feel pressure to finish it all in one night.
10: Dedicate Time to Rest & Relaxation
46% of people say they never have time to relax. Well, not to be too direct, but it’s because they’re not making time to relax! Stop trying to be perfect, ignore that inner voice that says you should be doing something else, and indulge in rest and relaxation.
Nap, meditate, read, do yoga, get a massage, take a bubble bath…do whatever you want for at least 6 hours on one day each week. A whole day may not be realistic, but a quarter or half day is totally manageable. Come on, you deserve it!
11: Plan a Vacation
For some reason, it seems as though we don’t want to be paid to take time off work. According to The Washington Post, a surprising 55% of Americans do not use all of their PTO and vacation days. What are you doing?! That’s valuable time you could spend on the beach somewhere!
You don’t have to go to Disney World or on a cruise around the Bahamas unless you have the time and the funds. A simple 4-day road trip will do the trick and will have you feeling just as excited.
12: Combine Activities When Possible
16% of millennials deal with work burnout by watching Netflix, but that time can be used for more than just mindlessly watching like a zombie. Use that 30 minutes to 1 hour to do another task like paying bills, writing a to-do list, or shopping online for a birthday gift.
Aside from watching Netflix while doing something else, there are plenty of other ways to combine activities in a day.
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook while you’re cooking, exercising, driving, or taking a shower.
- Invite a friend to grocery shop with you every week. Waiting at the deli counter will be way more fun with someone by your side!
- Throw in a load of laundry, and while you’re waiting for the cycle, get some meal prep done in the kitchen.
- Plan a fun weekend activity or a vacation while eating your breakfast.
Some articles say multitasking is a big no-no, but the trick is to know when to do it and to only combine activities that aren’t overly strenuous or taxing. After all, does “Love is Blind” on Netflix really require 100% of your focus?
Just manage your time wisely and make sure you’re focusing on the things that matter when necessary. You’re busy, and you’ve got to do what you got to do!
Why is Work Life Balance Important?
Work life balance is a vital part of living a healthy, well-rounded life. The quality of your work and personal life will be diminished if you feel like your time isn’t evenly distributed. In fact, 68% of employees say a poor work life balance impacts their mood and productivity.
Life today can be pretty hectic, but you need to know whatever it takes to enjoy the ride. Everyone is different, so try any of the strategies that work for your particular schedule or lifestyle. You’ll be less likely to think “I don’t want to work today” and on your way to a more balanced life!
Interesting Work Life Balance Statistics
- 66% of American workers do not believe they have a work life balance.
- 48% of adult workers think of themselves as workaholics.
- 72% of job hunters consider work life balance to be very important to their search.
- 1 in 3 adults are sleep deprived due to stress over a work life balance.
- American workers would be willing to sacrifice between $1,710 and $2,820 to have a more balanced life.
- 75% of business executives work during their paid time off and vacation days.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32% of adults work on the weekends and/or holidays.
- You’re 1.66 times more at risk for depression if you don’t have a good work life balance.
- Only 23% of companies believe they are promoting work-life balance.
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