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Find your optimal work-life balance

30 January 2012, 12:13

It can be very difficult to balance the pressures and expectations of work with the need to let loose, spend time with friends and family, and stay healthy.

Having healthy priorities in both your work and private life is vital. Define what is really important to you and then adjust your other expectations from there, being aware of the potential compromises. If work is your main focus for the time being, for example, you should realistically expect that you won’t be able to spend as much time on hobbies as you’d like. On the other hand, if you’d rather stay home to raise a family, you won’t be able to earn as much money or progress as quickly in your professional field.

Every big priority necessarily comes with setbacks – that’s life. This is why it’s so important to be clear on what you value most.

That being said, it’s still vital that, within this system, you find time for a range of other activities. While these activities will depend on your personality and preferences, it’s generally good to take part in quality time with friends and family, hobbies, guilt-free relaxation and health-boosting activities.

Say no to stress

One of the biggest drains on your time and energy is stress. Whether you’re panicking about deadlines, working with an unpleasant colleague or staying up until the early hours to get everything done, stress makes the entire process that much more tiring and unpleasant.

Take the active decision not to allow stress to affect you and set clear boundaries – for example, banishing thoughts of work when you’re not at the office.

Find a stress-busting technique that works for you and use it whenever you begin to feel tense – deep breathing, taking a walk, exercising or even making a manageable list of things to do could help.

Make the time

Most people feel they simply don’t have the time for a balanced life – commuting, working and doing chores sucks up every free minute. However, there are usually a few small lifestyle changes you can make to free up a surprising amount of extra time.

For one, switch off the TV and computer when you get home – these devices suck up a lot of time because we get drawn in to them without realising it. Even if you like relaxing in the evening in front of the TV, pick at least one evening a week where you don’t switch the set on and do something else relaxing instead – practice some yoga, read a book, invite a friend over for a quick coffee and catch-up chat.

Another good tip is to choose a “life” focus for the week – for example, if you feel you haven’t seen your friends in a while, devote a week of evenings or free moments to social pursuits.  Next week, you can focus on, say, writing a short story you’ve been meaning to get down on paper, and the week after that can be a time to get your home admin and bills in order.

Picking one aspect to focus on for a whole week will mean you’re more focused on the activities, and you’ll probably get a lot more done than if you spread it out over a few months.

And don’t forget your lunch break. You’re entitled to an hour off every day so use this time to its fullest. Take a stroll around the block, meet a family member for a drink, or sort out your shopping to free up your evening for other things.

Double up

One of the quickest ways to boost your work-life balance is to double up on the activities you want to take part in. For example, invite a friend to go jogging to cover your social and exercise needs, listen to some audiobooks while you’re driving to work to get your entertainment fix, or brainstorm some work ideas during your pottery class.

If you maximise your time in this way, you’ll find that you get much more done, and you free up time into the bargain – which you can spend guilt-free reading magazines in the bath, or playing card games with friends.

- For more visit getsmarter.co.za.

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