Flashback to about 18 months ago. Picture me with a scattered brain, unwashed and untrimmed hair (yep, gross), bags under my eyes, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, thinking I was actually getting something done and done well at my job. I would wake up every morning with a crippling anxiety about work as I rushed through my morning routine, filled up my coffee tumbler, and hurried out the door with purse (and sometimes keys after the first try) in tow. I was working nearly 50 hours per week and feeling totally burnt out. I loved my job, but I had absolutely no idea what a balance looked like between my work and my life, and I let my occupation consume my life as my relationships (including with my husband, friends, family, and God), health, and overall well-being fell to the wayside.
Here’s the thing – we crave balance. We were created to live a life of harmony and peace, but sin got in the way and we now live in a chaotic world full of people similar to how I used to be, feeling like we can never achieve an equilibrium. If only we took just a little time to incorporate a few small steps in our routine, we would be able to truly maximize our enjoyment of life in general!
Here are a few tips that I hope can help you achieve a harmonious life that doesn’t feel consumed by your job:
1. Give yourself time in the morning. Doesn’t it feel awesome when you get to take your time in the morning before leaving for your daily commitments, eat a slow breakfast, sip some coffee, read a little, and look at the clock and see that you still have time to spare before it’s time to grab your keys and go? Why do we tend to rush? Waking up, checking work emails, and grabbing a granola bar and coffee to-go so you can rush to work is not healthy, and it doesn’t get you off to a good start. Practice waking up 30 minutes earlier to give yourself enough time to wake up, make yourself breakfast, reflect, and get ready without feeling in a hurry. After you’ve mastered waking up 3o minutes earlier, wake up 30 minutes earlier than that, and slowly wake up earlier and earlier until you can wake up without the fear that you’re running late. This is such an easy step to take to help your life feel like it’s not revolving around work. And even if you’re not a homemade-breakfast-and-devotional kind of person, then at least give yourself enough time in the morning to lay in bed with one eye half-open and scroll through all your social media until your heart is content and you’re ready to start the day!
2. Don’t skip lunch. Working straight through lunch or grabbing fast food to munch on while you eat is also not good for you. This also applies to you self-employed, work-from-home folks! Get up, get out, and spend your lunch break away from what you’re doing at work. Sometimes it helps you psychologically if you physically remove yourself from the place you are getting all your work done. If you can, get outside and have some fresh air. Maybe in the morning (after you’ve mastered tip #1, of course) you can prepare a healthy lunch to have during your break that will help you feel refreshed and re-energized for when you return to your work!
3. Practice good time-management. One of the biggest reasons I feel consumed by work is because my time management skills are not on par 100% of the time when I’m at work. The best thing you can do on the job is keep up with a to-do list and tackle each task in a timely manner. Prioritize the bigger tasks and the ones with a closer due date, then work your way down your list. Before you know it, you’ll have everything checked off, and that will leave you feeling productive and satisfied before you even clock out!
4. Set boundaries. Probably the one thing we have all struggled with at some point, but also probably the biggest key to finding a work/life balance. It’s a hard truth, but nine times out of ten, no one is forcing you to do anything. You’re the one agreeing and saying yes even when you know you shouldn’t (all the other people-pleasers in the house say amen!). So learn to say no when you have to – and no, you’re not obligated to explain why. Stop thinking that it’s selfish. Your time and well-being are precious, so don’t be afraid to stand up and have the confidence to put your self-care first sometimes. If the person asking you for your time/efforts is a good friend/family member/coworker/person, they will understand. Take some time for yourself (see tip #8) and when you have been sufficiently refilled, you can get back in the game and say yes!
5. Don’t link your work email to your phone. This goes hand-in-hand with tip #4. I say this as I currently have my work email app installed on my phone, so I definitely need to learn this one myself. It’s the easiest way to take work home with you and blur that line between work and life. If you’re not getting paid to respond to emails at home, and especially if you’re off the clock when you’re doing it, don’t do it! This seems so simple but it’s something many of us struggle with because of our fear of missing out or simple perfectionism. Your work will still be there when you clock in. Don’t bog yourself down with job duties when you’re supposed to be enjoying your time off.
6. Keep up with a hobby. Don’t forget that you have a life outside of work. What do you love to do? Set aside some time to get that done. I’ve recently realized that I’m more motivated to do things outside of work when I actually take the time to develop a hobby, and the more I focus on things besides when I clock in next, the better I am at my job. This blog has helped me to look forward to things after work, and it’s up to you to find your personal motivator!
7. Don’t forget about community. We are creatures who crave community and fellowship, and we suffer when we don’t have it, even if we don’t notice it at first. As an introvert (with extroverted tendencies, mind you) who works a very, very extroverted job, most days all I want to do after I clock out is go home, crawl into bed, and talk to no one for the rest of the evening. And sometimes that’s okay, but loneliness and disconnect ensue when those days outweigh the days I spend building relationships with others. Get involved with your community, your church, or your friend circle and invest in others outside of work (even if that means going out with work buddies – as long as you don’t spend all your time together discussing work stuff). Having healthy relationships is key to feeling like your work isn’t consuming everything else.
8. Self-care is key. Take a break sometimes. Schedule vacations in advance so you have something to look forward to (you get those paid vacation days for a reason!). Don’t get sucked into feeling like you can’t miss work because of how much you will have to catch up on when you return. It doesn’t have to be a crazy expensive vacation, either. Love to hike? Mark a weekend on your calendar to head to your favorite park and hike your heart out. Is painting your thing? Groupon always has deals on painting classes, so give yourself a day to participate in that and expand your hobby (boom, tip #6!). Even if you don’t have the resources to take a mini-vacation, at least give yourself time at home to rest and rejuvenate, even if that means binge-watching Netflix in your underwear and eating nothing but junk for a day. You do you. Whether it’s a lazy Saturday spent indoors or an extravagant vacation miles away from work, make the best of it and don’t waste your time off by worrying about what you’ll return to once you clock back in!
9. Remember that you work to live, not live to work. Picture yourself in 30 years – what will you wish you had done better? Hopefully your answer is not to have put in more hours at your job. Don’t forfeit your life and experiences now because of your work. Don’t get me wrong, if you love your job and you’re living out your calling, that’s wonderful – but loving what you do does not grant you immunity from prioritizing your job over your well-being. You are not defined by your occupation – take time to develop who you are outside of work and achieve that fine balance!
What are some ways you work to achieve your work/life balance? Are there any tips you can offer that would help others find that balance? Let me know in the comments!