You may love your work – even adore it – but no matter how much it thrills you, keeping a balance between work and your physical, mental and emotional well-being is vitally important. It’s widely acknowledged that happy workers are more productive workers, so maintaining stable relationships with your family and friends, making time for relaxing and fulfilling activities and taking a break from work is just as important to your employer as it is to your quality of life.
Recent surveys conducted in Australian workplaces have found that the balance between working life and personal time is deteriorating for many people. Four in 10 people surveyed indicated that they are working longer hours with the average full-time employee contributing an average of a massive six hours of unpaid overtime per week. Job insecurity and employer expectation are the main reasons for working longer hours according to the survey results.
What’s the danger here? Well, sacrificing your personal time for work can have serious implications for your health, including your mental wellbeing – and have negative implications for your relationships with family and friends. When work becomes your life you risk serious burnout.
Burnout is where we find ourselves sick, tired, irritable and unable to do much beyond take care of our basic survival needs – and sometimes we will be in denial that it is even happening!
Anyone who has had burnout knows how dangerous it is for your work and life. But how do we maintain this delicate balance in an era of increasing demands, shrinking workforce numbers and 24/7 emails and smartphone access? Take a look at these five tips for ensuring that the balance of your life doesn’t tip towards “my work is my life”!
1. Factor in downtime
Scheduled activities are far more likely to happen than random promises of “making more time for yourself”. Downtime gives you time to recharge your batteries and fulfil other important parts of your life, keeping your emotional life, creative needs and physical fitness requirements in check. To scheduled downtime, think about weekly or monthly catch-ups with friends or clubs, daily exercise sessions on the beach or at the gym, or a regular weeknight dinner date with your partner.
2. Reassess your time-sapping activities
If gardening or housework take too much of your time and you can afford to get professional help, organise it. If you have way too many tedious errands to run, such as laundry or dry cleaning to pick up, dogs to walk or post office visits to make, perhaps hiring someone to do these tasks will be money well spent.
3. Emotional vampires – avoid at all costs
It’s surprising that even social connections can contribute to burnout. If you feel you have a buddy that is constantly bringing you down or leaving you feeling exhausted, it may be time to separate yourself a little bit from them. Similarly, if you’re involved in a regular work activity that leaves you feeling like you deserve a medal by the time you complete the task, see if you can let it go.
4. Stay active, stay fit
Yes, we know. It always feels counterintuitive to go for a run in the park when work is piling up. But never-ending hours in front of the computer screen will not help your productivity. Short breaks, fresh air, and physical activity work wonders! Maintaining physical fitness also holds real benefits in regards to your energy levels and mental focus, so get out there and get moving.
Like exercise, relaxation will help with your work productivity. Even small relaxation breaks can help. You can try two-minute or five-minute meditations at your desk, a 30-minute meditation session at lunch or before work, or find anything else that you know will hit the spot. Simple tip: try yoga!
Stress is cumulative, and burnout is nasty, so taking steps to keep it at bay through a healthy work-life balance may be one of the kindest things you can do for your body.
Sage Institute of Education – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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