Living at your optimal potential often means walking the tightrope between constant, unrelenting work or catching up with friends and family. When you devote too much time and energy into pure productivity, you’ll burn out pretty quickly and your motivation to succeed will fall rapidly.
On the other hand, you won’t be getting any closer to your ambitions if you spend too much time on yourself and don’t take your work seriously. Instead of adhering to one of these two extremes, you need to strike the right balance between your career and your non-workday life.
In other words, what you need is balance. With a bit of strategy and compromise, you will be able to do your work well and have enough time to train for your 5K run, make your significant other’s birthday extra special, and help mom and dad get on Facebook. To ensure that you make the most of your time, steer clear of the following traps:
Unhealthy Sleeping Habits
It’s no secret, we all need a healthy dose of sleep in order to be both productive and happy (recent studies suggest an average of eight hours is necessary for normal adults). If you go through your day feeling tired and lethargic, you certainly haven’t been getting the optimal amount of sleep. Not only will this affect your working habits (decreased productivity and increased errors), but it also effects your health and stress levels – one of the most important aspects of having a successful work-life balance.
If you find you are getting into bed at a decent hour, but just counting sheep isn’t quite working, you may need to change your bedtime routine. Instead of check emails right before getting into bed, do this an hour before you lay your head down, no excuses! Get rid of the electronics altogether before you get into bed. Instead of playing Flappy Bird on your phone, pick up a book. This has been shown to promote sleep.
If changing your routine doesn’t seem to be working, your sleep environment may be the problem. If your budget and space permits, change up your bedroom. Rearrange your furniture, change your linens (cheap dorm room bedding here, more expensive Italian linens here), strip your wall decorations, and paint your room a cool, calming shade of blue. These elements could be the only thing standing in the way of a great night’s sleep to rev you up for the next day in the office.
Overworking to Pay for Unnecessary Spending Habits
Working overtime during the holidays or when you’re saving up for a big purchase is a great thing – it not only shows your employer that you’re willing to work hard, but I also shows you have the ability to see long term. However, if you’re overworking to pay for bad habits or pointless spending you can cut, this can not only be having an adverse effect on your bank account, but also your working life.
Not only could the extra money be used for more important purchases or be put into savings, the time you spend working could be spent for some much needed “me time”. Consider using apps or services like Mint to keep track of the extra money you make working overtime or odd jobs. Don’t spend the extra money you make and record the time it takes you to make that money. Visualize what that dollars could be used for or what you could do with the extra time over a two month period, and you’ll begin to see the potential in thinking twice of the extra spending.
Failure to Set Boundaries with Co-Workers and Boss
Are you constantly volunteering to take on new projects or help out co-workers? While this may show that you are a dedicated and empathetic worker, you could also be sending the wrong message. Having a reputation as the workhorse of the office could lead to having too big of a workload on your back, causing extra stress. What’s more, if you are loaded with too much work and fail to meet increasingly difficult goals or deadlines, it will only make you look worse.
DO offer help and volunteer to try one-off projects at work, but DON’T forget to set boundaries and make it clear that you can’t be constantly be responsible for areas outside of your expertise. Setting boundaries will ease stress at work and free up time to focus on your personal life and goals.
Allowing Your Work to Follow You Around
Are you still working after you leave the office? Does your work follow you wherever you go? If this is indeed the case, you it’s obvious that your period for rest and leisure is obviously tainted. Even though it’s important to keep track of what’s happening with your clients on the weekends, devoting your limited time off to emails does not make for a healthy work-life balance. Try limiting looking at your email to once a day.
If you’re aware there will be issues brought up during the weekend, devote a certain period of time to your work (for example, from 12 PM until 2 PM on Saturday), and commit to not exceeding this specified stretch of hours.
No clear goals
If your goals for the next year – or for the following few years – aren’t clear, you’ll get stuck in the rut of working aimlessly and to no purpose. This, in turn, will mean that you will be less energetic and not as ready to take on the day. Concisely define what you’re working towards such that you have a driving reason to go to work – beyond just paying the bills and buying tickets for that football game.
Consider these possible traps that you may have fallen into, and take the steps to escape from a work-life cycle that is negatively impacting your overall well-being. Remember, if you don’t take the right steps now, you’ll keep digging yourself deeper in. Keep in mind, too, that an optimal work-life balance will allow you to take in every moment and have a healthy mental attitude.