5 Strategies for a Better Work-Life Balance

5 Strategies for a Better Work-Life Balance
In a not-so-distant past, the arrival of 5pm meant you clocked out for the day, left the to-do list behind, and ventured into the world, carefree and unencumbered until 8am the next morning.
That time may have existed—but it certainly doesn’t any longer. So much for a society that embraces work-life balance

Now, many of us check our email right before we go to bed and first thing when we wake up. I, for one, have found myself typing email responses at 4 in the morning, checking my inbox during date nights, and planning upcoming projects on many a Sunday afternoon. And I know I’m not alone. 

Many women keep themselves on high alert like this—available at all times and determined to prove their worth. And while none of these things are inherently bad, if you do them for long enough, you’ll find yourself anxious, overwhelmed, and increasingly less creative. I did.

So, after realizing my habits were putting both my health and my creativity at stake, I began seeking out new patterns of behavior that would allow me to put a bigger barrier between work and the rest of my life. Here are a few of the things that help me set a more distinct work-life boundary:

1. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone

Terrifying, I know. Purchase an analog alarm clock and start charging your phone in the kitchen instead of beside your bed. Place a few candles and a dimmable lamp in your room, turning it into a space where you can retreat from the world and completely relax.

2. Set a time in the evening when you stop working—regardless of how many things are left on your to-do list

You may have that one big project each year that requires you to work through the night, but for the most part, you don’t actually need to work during the evening hours, and your productivity the following day is often compromised if you do. So pick a time of the day when you’ll call it quits. No "I'll just finish one thing," no checking emails at stoplights on your way home, I mean it—full stop. Right before you walk away from your desk, write a list of the things you weren’t able to complete—that way, the following morning you can pick up right where you left off.
Unless your boss has specifically asked you to be available 24/7, you don’t need to be.

3. Create a morning ritual that doesn’t involve scrolling through your email before you’ve even gotten out of bed

The first hour in the morning really sets the tone for the day to come, so instead of allowing yourself to be inundated by tasks, negotiations, and problem-solving as soon as you open your eyes, try starting your day with a walk outdoors, meditation, or quiet hour of writing. It’ll help you still your mind and approach the day’s tasks with clear, steady thoughts.

4. Log out of your work email on your phone

Unless your boss has specifically asked you to be available 24/7, you don’t need to be. Not only will logging out of your email be good for your sanity, but the quality of your communication will actually improve when you stop sending the abbreviated, blunt responses that most of us tend to send from our phones.

5. If you work for a corporation, negotiate for more paid days off. And, if you run your own business, build vacation days into your business plan.

You don’t need to plan a 10-day trip to Florence to take time off. Take a random Monday as a personal day and go for a drive to a small town a few hours away. Or take a Friday off to walk through your local museum and get a massage. These days are so important to our creativity, productivity, and ability to innovate. Don’t think that you're doing your company a favor by never taking your personal days. It’s very likely that the quality of your work is actually suffering if you aren’t taking enough time for yourself.

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While it’s easy to agree that these ideas may be good changes, the truth is, it’s really hard to continually practice them. So cut yourself some slack as you start weaving them into your life. Maybe pick one that you’ll focus on first and build from there—always keeping in mind that your work will actually be stronger and more sustained if you take more time away from it.
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What are some tricks you use to establish a work-life balance?