Nobody said that achieving a healthy work-life balance was easy. We get it—you’ve tried everything, from doing yoga to reading more, but nothing seems to work as you try to find the balance in your life that you so crave. If you find yourself being engulfed by your job and losing your sanity, we’re here to help with a few tips that actually work to help you get one step closer to work-life balance. Trust us, there are some tips on this list that you haven’t tried before.
1. Track how you’re spending your time
There’s a strong chance that a portion of your work and life stressors are self-induced. Are the decisions you make about how you divvy up your day having a positive effect on you? Do you procrastinate more than you’d like to admit? Maybe you’re not using your time wisely.
To avoid problems with time management, take a week to log your daily activity in a journal. This includes everything from times during the day you actually get work done to what you do once you get home.
Once Sydnee Lyons, a second year graduate student at Florida Atlantic University, realized that she dwelled on work during her time off after examining her own routine, she made a change. “I like to set aside one day a week where I don't look at work- or school-related things," she says. "This really helps because I tend to always obsess about my to-do lists and I'll find myself working on something during my downtime. By designating one day that's completely work-free, I force myself to avoid any of that.”
At the end of the week, look at patterns and determine what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe you’ll find that you have more time after work than you realize, or that there are certain times in the day when you’re most productive. All of this information is valuable, and will help you become more organized with your time.
2. Make sure your finances are in check
You’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with work-life balance?” Your stress level and inability to achieve balance could be caused by a lack of organization when it comes to your finances.
Like mentioned previously, logging your habits can help you learn a lot about yourself and how you can improve aspects of your daily living. Try taking a tally of how you spend your money in a single week—are you overspending on food and fun activities when you should be putting funds towards student loans and monthly rent? If you’re not the most financially savvy, there are a bunch of budget-tracking apps that are helpful such as Mint, Penny and Goodbudget. These apps can help take the stress and tediousness out of watching everything you spend in a month.
By being more conscious of your spending, you will be more responsible when it comes to the “life” half of work-life balance. You’ll have funds for the activities that you truly enjoy rather than finding yourself broke at the end of every month.
3. Spend your vacation time wisely—and treat it like an actual vacation!
When was the last time you actually took time off? We’re not talking about a staycation, but a real vacation.
In today’s society, we’re so afraid to use all of our allotted vacation days out of fear of appearing lazy. However, we all need some R&R on the path to career success!
At the beginning of the new year, try to pre-plan your time off so that it is spread out throughout the year. You will feel more balanced if you know that you have time off to look forward to on a somewhat regular basis (such as every few months) as opposed to taking off all your vacation at once (but if you want to do that, you do you!).
Marissa Russo, a 2015 graduate working in arts administration and education, forced herself to create a separation from work during vacation by removing work email from her phone. “I think this is a good tip for people to do over long weekends, holidays, or vacations, because you really need that time to rejuvenate and relax, free of work!” she says. “I definitely had the most relaxing and enjoyable weekend I've had since starting this job!”
4. Create a support system, and be the same for others
As hard as you try, it’s nearly impossible to find complete balance on your own. Everybody needs a support system, whether that’s friends, family or coworkers, in order to keep you in check.
Make a conscious effort to be social during the day, whether that means inviting coworkers to eat lunch with you or spending time watching The Bachelor with your roommates after a long day. You’ll find that increased social activity can boost your mood, and you won’t feel as alone when you find yourself the most stressed.
By the same token, make sure that you’re being a good friend to others. We all struggle with work-life balance to some extent! Be a good listener, and with karma you’ll find that your friends will be more open to being a support system for you as well.
5. Do something you enjoy every day
As the saying goes, “It’s a good day to have a good day.” If you don’t like your job or you feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety on a regular basis, find something you enjoy and incorporate it into your day, no matter how small. Even if you DO like your job and like to spend a lot of time at the office, you still need time for yourself.
Alaina Leary, a social media editor, practices this mantra in her own life. She says, “I'll be working all day and going to class at night, but I'll still make even just 30 minutes to an hour to do something I enjoy. I'll usually read, sometimes I'll take a walk. It just depends how much free time I've got!”
Prepare your favorite meal and bring it to work with you. Find a creative outlet outside of work, like taking a painting class or doing a DIY project at home. Bake some cookies with your roommates. No matter the activity, it never hurts to find something enjoyable that takes your mind off of work for a short period of time.
6. Accept that you’re human
This is probably the most important, but toughest, lesson to absorb. There isn’t a “perfect” way to live your life, and no matter how many hours you put in at work, perfectionist tendencies do more harm than good. By accepting your imperfections, it will be a lot easier to let go of some of the stress that might consume you.
Haleigh Kopinski, who works in social media, realized that there wasn’t a perfect or easy way to conduct her work and personal lives, but by limiting usage of her phone, she could take a small step towards balance. “One way that has really helped me (and my relationship) is leaving my phone at home when I go out to dinner," she says. "At least once a month my boyfriend and I plan a dinner date. During this time, we leave our phones at home or in the car so the distraction is completely removed. It forces us to focus on each other, which isn't happening as often as it should elsewhere.”
By accepting that parts of your work life are out of your control and focusing on small things that you can control like using your phone less often, you'll find the challenge of finding balance less daunting.
The journey towards work-life balance isn’t easy. However, there are small changes you can make like those listed above that are just as effective as obvious life changes, such as increasing physical activity.