Work-life balance: the term is sort of cliché, but all of us struggle with it, don’t we? No matter if you’re working in an office setting full time or part time, you work from home, you’re a stay-at-home mom juggling the demands and schedules of your children, you’re squeezed for time. And, let’s face it, when you’re short on time, self-care takes the back burner.
Are we really busier, or does it just seem like we are? Certainly, technology is hogging a lot of our time. Those smartphones and tablets tempt us to “check in” first thing in the morning, during breakfast, on the drive in to work, during meetings and conference calls, while you’re sitting at your child’s soccer practice and during your evening hours. While technology isn’t the only cause of our work-life imbalance, nobody can deny that it’s a prime suspect.
Ready to reclaim your time and your life? Start setting some boundaries with the following tips:
Become a list-maker
If you don’t keep a calendar of the week’s events, your commitments will pop up on you, catching you off-guard and leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Or, if you’ve forgotten about a commitment, you might end up scheduling another conflicting one. Skip the confusion – keep an online calendar that issues reminders, and make a daily list of tasks. You can even go old school and write your task list, then enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off each item as it’s completed.
Write a letter
It’s all too easy to send a quick email to thank someone for a gift, or to say hello. Challenge yourself to sit down and put pen to paper. This slower process forces you to be more mindful about what you’re going to say, and we can guarantee that your recipient will love that you took the time to write.
Tame the technology beast
Our phones are a necessary evil, but you don’t have to be chained to yours. The constant chiming of our phones – signaling an incoming email or text – puts us on call 24 hours a day. Silence your phone when you arrive home at night. If you absolutely must check it, give yourself a designated time to review and respond to messages, preferably after your children are asleep.
Insist on being present
Feel like you spend your day split in 100 directions, but you’re not really focused on any of them? Turn your phone on silent during meetings, and keep it out of sight. Keep the radio off on the car when you’re driving the kids to school, and bring back the lost art of conversation. Used to eating lunch at your computer? Try focusing on your meal instead. Studies show that distracted eating leads to greater calorie consumption, a sedentary lifestyle and, ultimately, weight gain.
Skip the guilt
Remember: you’re under no obligation to say yes to everything. Particularly if you’re a parent, you’re going to receive numerous opportunities to volunteer at school and during extra-curricular events. And because those opportunities are so plentiful, that’s all the more reason why you can say no often and yes only occasionally – when you know you have room in your schedule. When you say no, don’t offer a reason. A “thank you, but I’m afraid I can’t this time” is sufficient. No explanation needed. (Now doesn’t that feel great?)
And here’s another tip: If you have to grab store-bought cookies for the school party, tell the kids to eat cereal for dinner or pick up take-out for the office potluck, give yourself permission to buy convenience.
Always say yes to your health
You can’t take on the world if you don’t take care of yourself. Whenever it’s possible, strive for adequate sleep, daily exercise, an 80/20 approach to eating (80 percent veggies and fruits, lean meats and fish, nuts, whole grains, legumes, dairy; 20 percent wiggle room), plenty of water, and the appropriate supplements that help you operate at your best.
Maintaining work-life balance is a lifelong struggle, but if you set your boundaries and stick to them, you’ll be happier and healthier for it.