For many of us the summer will have provided an opportunity to slow down, take a break and spend time doing the things which we enjoy. As we approach autumn and the run up to Christmas, life will begin to get busy again and the relaxed pace of the summer will soon be forgotten.
When we have deadlines looming with lots to do, making time for ourselves will be low down on the agenda. The consequence of neglecting time for ourselves is increased stress and ineffectiveness. Because we do not achieve more by working more, we are most effective when we are rested and happy alongside our work.
Here are my 10 essential work and life balance tips for busy professionals.
Tip 1 - Evaluate where you are - how happy are you with your work and life balance?
A healthy work and life balance does not mean giving equal time to each area of our lives. It is about having a balance of different activities which we need to feel happy and fulfilled, alongside our responsibilities. Being aware of what is working well and identifying what you would like to change is the first step. You can then move on to identify anything which is missing which you would like to bring to your life.
Tip 2 - Be aware of how you spend your time
We all have busy days when we can't actually recall what we did! A good tip is to map out your daily activities to really see how you spend your time over a typical week. This will help you to find any patterns of behaviour which are unhelpful and allow you to move on and find ways to reduce time-wasting activities and be more effective.
Tip 3 - Make a daily to-do list
When we carry the things we need to do in our heads, we feel overwhelmed and unfocused. Writing a daily to-do list is a good way of capturing what needs to be done each day and provides the focus needed to get things done. An effective to-do list needs to be realistic with clear priorities.
Tip 4 - Minimise distractions
We live in a world of fantastic technology where social media is available to us 24/7. The downside is that we can find it hard to escape constant news and are unable to switch off. It is essential to limit these distractions, to allow us to to get more done, but also to have time away from technology. Scheduling time for checking your social media and email, will help to minimise distractions and keep you focused.
Tip 5 - Find ways to switch off and take a break
When you are busy, and particularly if your job has unclear boundaries (such as for headteachers and clergy), it can be hard to know when to stop working and take a break. It is really important to have times when you can switch off and let your mind be free of stress and distractions. Any one of these activities such as reading a book (for fun not work), going for a walk or taking a lunch break (not working at your desk) are all ways which can help you to switch off and can be easily slotted into your day.
Tip 6 - Make time to do things which you enjoy and give you energy
Doing the things which we enjoy gives us energy and makes us happy. When we have more energy we are more effective. Spending time with friends, doing a regular leisure activity or exercising are all ways which could help us. Make time for your hobbies.
Tip 7 - It is OK to say no!
This is one which constantly comes up in coaching sessions, which is the difficulty of saying no! Most of us find it hard to say no due to feeling guilty, wanting to please, being flattered, or just to be helpful. But it is OK to say no. In fact sometimes it is important to say no, to prevent ourselves from taking on too much or doing stuff which really should be someone else's role.
Tip 8 - Set boundaries and stick to them
This is really important, particularly for those with jobs with fluid boundaries. We need to set good boundaries which limit our work time and provide space for other things with proper time off. It is important that we set good patterns and then stick to them where possible. This will gives us the energy needed to get things done and sustain us during particular busy times.
Tip 9 - Look after your health
We all need quality sleep, to eat healthily and to exercise. When we are busy these can be the things which are neglected. However there are simple things you can do to help, such as taking a short walk, packing a healthy lunch, setting a realistic time to go to bed and limiting how much time you spend working in the evening. There may be times when this is difficult, but if our health is neglected, then we risk burn out.
Tip 10 - Get some perspective
There are times when we need someone to help us to have a different perspective. It is good to talk to a friend, colleague, mentor or coach. Knowing when you need a different perspective will help you to seek the right kind of support.
Why don't you take some time to think about your work and life balance and see how you can make improvements.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog
My name is Diane Benson and I work with busy professionals with a people focus, such as headteachers and clergy. I provide coaching and training workshops, supporting personal and professional development, for a healthy work/life balance, reduced stress and increased effectiveness.
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