This blog post was originally published Nov 11 2013.
With emails, text, work mobiles, and the internet, the lines between professional and home life have blurred. More people are working from home or accessible after they leave work. This can make it difficult to disconnect from the stressors of work while at home.
Effects of poor work-life balance
If you work in an office that is currently experiencing lay-offs and pressures to cut back on their budget, you might find yourself feeling pressured to work overtime and show how needed you are in the company. Unfortunately, not being able to disconnect from work and constantly working more and more hours can be detrimental to your relationships and health.
Having a poor work/life balance can lead to higher levels of stress, which impacts sleeping patterns and immune functioning. It can also lead to increased expectations by both yourself and your boss. The more hours you work, the more your employer may start expecting that level of work and give you more work and responsibilities. Additionally, the more time you spend at work, the less time you are spending with friends and family. This can make it difficult to foster relationships and lead to missed milestones and family events.
Getting balance back in place
When work starts to outweigh home, there are a few things you can do to bring work and life back into balance.
Make a schedule
At first keep a list of what you do each day, and how much time you spend doing it. Once you have made a list for a few days, go back through and see what is taking up most of your time. See what can bet cut out, moved around, or delegated to others. Also, see if your day can be structured differently. If you tend to get called into meetings in the afternoon, do tasks that need long attention in the morning. Don’t forget to build downtime into your schedule!
Keep a list
It sounds simple, keep a to-do list of what you need to accomplish; but keeping a to-do list can do wonders. Break down each thing that needs to be done into its smallest possible component. Instead of “prepare for meeting,” write down what needs to be done to prepare for the meeting. Do you need to research a topic? Write out your bullet points? Review a PowerPoint with a work colleague? Breaking each thing down will allow you to pick up where you left off more quickly, and allow you to see just how much progress you have actually made throughout the day.
During your newly scheduled down time, take a few minutes to do some deep breathing or stretch your legs. This will allow you to help maintain lower stress levels throughout the day, and to provide a break from working on the same thing for extended periods of time. When working on a presentation or project for a long time, it’s easy to get stuck and not see the forest for the trees. Taking a short break may lead to perspective.
No matter how hard we try, nothing will ever be perfect. Sometimes, there are also not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Learning to accept imperfection and incompletion will make it much easier to leave stressors at work instead of bringing them home. Just do what you can with the time you are provided. It will be there for you when you return the next day.
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.