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Working out the Life Balance

Work-life balance image of business shoes across from casual shoes
The key is balance between work and play

We all know about work-life balance don’t we? Enough time to spend with family and friends, enough energy to do a good job at work, healthy diet, sufficient exercise and plenty of sleep.

All work and no play makes us dull, but too much play makes us dull too, so how do we achieve this magical balance?

By knowing about it, deciding what is most important and making slow and steady changes to achieve it.

There’s no single formula that will balance out everyone, but once you’ve worked out what matters most to you, a combination of the following tips may help. Here goes:

(Bear in mind we could also refer to study-life balance as studying is work – you are working towards a qualification, your vocational training is leading directly to work.)

Start by knowing what you want

A particular job? Time with friends and family? Sporting success? More sleep? The best possible blend of it all? Think about what is most important to you and what can slide for now – that will help you decide how to invest your most precious resource, your time.

Disconnect - from tech and from people

And that doesn’t mean ignore it all, it means focus on the here and now. If you are at a sporting event, fully be present at the sporting event. If it’s a work email, you can check it in working hours. If it’s a study buddy, you can set times with them to discuss assignments, you’ll respond better when your mind is completely on the subject. Remember don’t have to reply to a message as soon as it is received, nor should you expect yours to be answered out of work hours. And if you are reaching for your phone to check social media five minutes after you last did? Stop. Think. Notice your behaviour, you can change it.

Work smarter

You may not be able to cut back on work, you need to do the hours to earn the money or you need to study to achieve the results. But you can work smarter, by understanding when you work best. Are you an early bird, is your house quiet in the mornings? Maybe that is a good time to squeeze in some paid work or study, leaving the afternoon and evening free for family and friends. Maybe you are a night owl, and can work best then. Can you work in focused bursts of an hour or so? Or do you need to be on a task for the long haul? Adjust your schedule accordingly.

Practise saying no 

it’s a powerful word when used appropriately. If you don’t want to go to that thing, or do that activity, or be at that place, and you don’t have to, just say No. It’s OK to turn down a favour request, it’s OK to skip a social engagement, it’s OK to refuse extra work. It leaves you better placed to say Yes when you want to.

Start with small steps

We all know we need to eat well and exercise so get on with it, there are no excuses. No time or inclination for the gym? Take the stairs instead of the lift, take a stroll at lunchtime, follow a YouTube yoga video on the lounge room floor. Too busy to eat a healthy lunch? Bring food prepared in advance at home or prepackaged from the supermarket.

Use transit time to recharge

For example, leaving work you could review your day in your head, think about what you got done, then when you get home you are ready for the next stage of your day, clear of distraction. Or in the morning, make mental notes of what you want to do in work hours. Blasting the music in the car works for some, as does voicing the sharp retort you couldn’t say to that annoying person that time. Either way, get it all out or set it aside before you get home.

Lower your standards 

Here’s a controversial one – lower your standards. This one’s for the perfectionists, whose drive for perfect scores in school may be causing stress outside. You don’t have to be the best at everything all the time. Maybe settle for pretty good most of the time, it works for many people.

Small but mighty achiever

And finally, make it achievable, set small realistic goals for change. You won’t change your diet and get fit in a week, but aiming to take a salad two days and walk home one is something you can totally nail. In a balanced way of course.