Achieving Work-Life Balance

There’s nothing wrong with working hard–but you’re quite right to be concerned about the possibility of overworking yourself. While we all want to do our best at work and in school, there’s a limit to how much our minds and bodies can handle–and research shows that when we hit this wall, our personal and professional lives can suffer.

It’s called “burnout,” and its wide-ranging symptoms include everything from simple boredom to physical exhaustion. When we fall victim to burnout, our work suffers right along with us: we’re less productive, and we may make uncharacteristic mistakes. And, since we’re less motivated, we may not take full advantage of our opportunities.

Burnout is only the most extreme example of a broader phenomenon. Even if we stop short of a full burnout situation, we’re robbing ourselves of productivity when we choose to work too hard for too long. Counterintuitive though it may be, studies have shown that taking more time off of work can actually make us more productive. And this same phenomenon exists at smaller and more intimate scales: we can be more productive when we work regular hours and carve out times in our lives that stay free of work and work-related obligations.

It’s clear, then, that the work-life balance you’re looking for is important. It’s important for our health, our careers, and our relationships with our families and friends. But knowing that work-life balance is important is different from being able to achieve it. In a high-tech, fast-moving, competitive world, finding balance can be very tough indeed.

Part of the problem is that we are more able than ever to work at unusual times and in unusual places. That can be a good thing: the rise of great video conferencing software and distance-working technologies has made it easier for people to work from home, which eliminates commuting times and can actually help work-life balance in a lot of ways. But the same technologies that make it easy to work remotely can also encourage us to work when we should be relaxing. Our tablets and smartphones are more powerful than ever, explain experts who run AT&T stores in Georgia, but how we use that technology is up to us. And just because you can answer an email in the middle of the night doesn’t mean that you should.

In fact, experts recommend that you don’t. Establishing “working hours” and–more importantly–personal time is a key part of work-life balance, experts explain. It’s also important to set up spaces for work and relaxation.

The reason is mental: our brains react to our environment. That’s why it’s so important to have a well-designed living space, say home builders in Queensland. Your bedroom and your home office are both important, but they serve different purposes. If you work from your bed, you may find that you react to that space in the wrong way when it’s time to sleep. You may not find it relaxing, soothing, and worry-free. Similarly, if you work in the same place that you use to play video games, then you may find that you aren’t as productive as you would like to be!

For these reasons, setting time and space boundaries for your work is the most important daily battle that you’ll wage for work-life balance. It helps to develop a set of rules and follow through–work-life balance isn’t necessarily something that you can achieve while playing things by ear, so don’t be afraid to set up and even write down specific rules about when and where you will and won’t work!

It’s important to remember the big picture, too. While limiting your work to reasonable hours and certain times and places is a big part of work-life balance, it’s also important to take more significant periods to time off on occasion. Yep, we’re talking about personal days and–in particular–vacations.

When done right, say vacation experts, your vacation can recharge you and return you to your work with renewed motivation and energy. Your time on the beach or your experiences in Vicksburg, Mississippi aren’t just important because they make good memories, of course: they’re important because they present you with a different daily reality than the one that you’re used to at work. You don’t need to take a break from thinking or moving, of course–it’s just that you need to focus your attention and energies somewhere else for at least a short while. That way, when you return to your usual work tasks, those tasks seem fresher and less tiresome (because, of course, you yourself are fresh and less tired)!

It is obvious that all of this is a bit easier said than done. And experts understand, of course, that not every situation is going to be ideal. As a young professional, you will certainly find that there are times that you must work later than you would prefer to. There will be times when you must answer an urgent email during off-hours or even during your vacation. But by knowing the basics of work-life balance and understanding the importance of setting rules and sticking to them, you’ll be better prepared to take whatever steps are within your power to reduce your fatigue and chances of suffering from burnout. As your career progresses, look for new ways to set limits and use your success to gain more freedom and work-life balance. Research suggests that doing so will only make you even more successful.

“It’s all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.” – Philip Green

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