Back when we were saving up for our first trip, I was working in a museum and putting in every hour I possibly could. I worked six days a week and Monday was my only day off. But it was worth it because I knew we were going travelling and I knew it wasn’t forever.
But as you settle into your career and adult life, you quickly learn how important work-life balance is, even if you’re chasing a dream.
Why is balance so important?
There’s a famous quote out there which says ‘nothing worth having comes easy’. And while this may be true, it also doesn’t mean you should work yourself into the ground. It is possible to chase your dreams, earn money or build your career whilst also living your life!
Getting that balance is important for both your mental and physical wellbeing. Becoming over-worked can lead to stress, fatigue and eventually burn out. So you need to be able to draw a line somewhere.
In my job I am very lucky, no one is expected to work overtime or answer their phone out of hours. In fact, we get in at 09:00, have an hour lunch break at 13:00 and leave at 17:30. You are not expected to do any more than that.
And I never realised how important work-life balance was until I had it. I could no longer face working uncertain hours, six days a week! Now I work my set hours and my spare time is free for me to do things I enjoy (like writing for this blog!).
Work-life balance is important for your happiness, but it also helps to make sure you’re working to your best ability when you are in the office. You can work every hour under the sun, but it’s no good if you’re tired and unproductive.
How can you achieve a good work-life balance?
So if you find your life is consumed by work, it’s time to take your life back! Here are my top tips for achieving a good work-life balance and enjoying your free time.
1. Don’t have access to emails on your phone or tablet
Technology makes it all too easy to access our work emails or shared work drives from almost anywhere, at any time. But you need to avoid doing this if you hope to get the balance right! Make sure your emails aren’t synced with your phone, and if they have to be, then make sure you don’t allow yourself to check these repeatedly outside of work hours. Also be careful not to take work calls after hours.
2. Don’t always arrive early or stay late
There will be times when you have a big project on or you need to get something ready for a tight deadline, so you put in a few extra hours – and that’s OK! But this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. If you’re always the first person in the office and the last one to leave, it could be time to re-think your work-life balance. We live in a culture where we feel guilty for getting up at the end of the day and going home. But remember, it’s OK to leave on time.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
It’s easy to feel guilty if your boss asks for help or a colleagues asks you to cover their shift. But sometimes you just have to say no. You’re only human, and you can’t do everything. Especially if you’re already putting in over your contracted hours. So don’t be afraid to say no sometimes and take your time back for yourself.
4. Work smarter
You don’t need to work harder, when you work smarter! Be sure to stay on top of your workload, organise your calendar or to-do list so that you’re always one step ahead of the game. This means you won’t find yourself chasing your tail and putting in extra time to try and get everything done.
5. Use your annual leave
Make sure you’re using your annual leave. Again, we can often be made to feel guilty for taking time off. But your holiday allowance is there for a reasons and you need to take time out to refresh and re-charge.
If you’re self-employed or don’t have a set holiday allowance, you need to make sure you’re setting time aside to get away from work. Particularly when you’re self-employed you can feel like you’re taking time off, but you’re still attached to your laptop – even when you’re on holiday! You need time to properly switch off from business.