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Five Skills that will Help You Achieve a Better Work/Life Balance
Achieving a great work/life balance is one of the most important things you can do.
No one wants to feel like they spent their life working too much, and neither do they want to feel like they didn’t achieve anything.
Having a balance between the two undoubtedly leads to a more fulfilled existence. How to achieve this balance is a different matter, however, and one that can often seem confusing and difficult.
In reality, this isn’t so: there are many skills that are easily learned, all of which simply require investing a little more time in yourself, and which will help you earn your work/life goals.
1. Learn To Say 'No'
This is without a doubt one of the most important skills any professional can have, but it can be the most difficult to learn and get used to using.
Saying yes is so much easier than saying no: you avoid unwanted negotiations, you look good to senior staff, and you can work towards being the go-to person. But saying yes often comes with drawbacks such as tight deadlines, unreasonable requests, and possible late nights. Learning to say no (when it benefits everyone) will revolutionise your working life, especially once you find that people are a lot more receptive to the word than you initially expect.
When you can say no to a project that is too large – or unsuitable for you – you’ll find that your workflow becomes much improved. Instead of focusing on work that is too stressful or difficult, you focus on work that you enjoy. After some time you’ll start to notice that this work is of a much higher quality than that you were previously producing.
2. Better Time Planning
Being on top of your time will reduce wasted hours, help you to keep deadlines and, more importantly, make you look good at work. All of these things contribute towards a better work/life balance.
If your company doesn’t have a good time keeping system, insist they get one. If you work freelance, keep a time sheet. When you’re recording all of your activities properly you become so much more aware of the time it actually takes you to complete tasks. If you find that you are regularly over working, this will highlight many improvements you should make, such as readdressing the way you service clients or the way you’re compensated for the time you actually spend working.
Additionally, planning your down time can help too: making sure you’re active and regularly social can do wonders for your work-related stress levels. Having something to look forward to can make the long hard days seem a little more worthwhile.
3. Learn to Become Less “Perfect”
Leeds-based life coach Melanie Allen emphasises the importance of being less perfect to enjoy a better home life and she couldn’t be more right:
“Sometimes, if you’re overworked, you need to explicitly tell yourself that what you’ve done may not be perfect, but it is good enough.”
She cites the example of a woman who goes back to full-time work and finds that her partner doesn’t do the laundry as well as she used to; he just piles mangled T-shirts with their sleeves still inside out on the radiators. “But she has to let that go because the alternative is she takes on more work when she’s already stressed out. What I’m saying is, don’t put extra pressure on yourself when you don’t need to – at work or at home.”
Learning to accept minor things like mess and unorganised workspaces will help you feel less stressed at work, allowing you to focus on what is important. If you find that things at home are looking a little messy, or are home too late to cook from scratch, give yourself a break. You don’t need to add to your workload at the times when you’re already stressed. Applying this approach to the rest of life will also help you improve your overall wellbeing, making relationships, hobbies, and other activities feel fun and pressure free.
4. Learn to Become Physically Healthy
Mont Rose College believe that being healthier and physically fit can lead to a better work/life balance, and there’s a lot of sense behind the claims.
Two of the most important things they recommend are ditching the fizzy drinks, instead replacing them with water, and undertaking exercises known to relax, such as yoga and mindfulness.
The easiest way to begin being healthier is to take things one day at a time and start small. Instead of going for long runs, start with long walks. Instead of ditching foods completely, eat slightly smaller portions. Working your way up to a more thorough health routine will make the transition period much easier to deal with; before long you’ll wonder how you even got by without being healthy.
5. Learn to Socialise Better
One reason for having a poor work/life balance is finding it difficult to socialise in the hours outside of work. This can happen for a multitude of reasons such as moving to a new town or moving to a new job – especially if your job is very demanding.
Learning to be more social both in and out of the workplace can make your life feel infinitely more fulfilled. In fact, learning to socialise at work may be one of the most vital things you do. If you have friends at work, those long hours may not feel that long any more. Start by taking lunch with those that work around you. Share stories and other anecdotes that aren’t work related; show your human side. Getting to know those in your immediate working area means casual chats and fun throughout the work day, which is a huge improvement over silence.
Outside of work you should make sure you do as many things as you can: join groups that focus on your interests and get together with friends, even if it’s just for dinner. These activities will make your life feel less dominated by work, and – more importantly – they’re fun.
Working on these simple steps will not only help you improve your work/life balance but they will also help you feel much more fulfilled by your work and your personal life. Being healthy and more social at work will benefit anyone – even if they already have a great work/life balance.
If you feel like doing all of these at once will be too much, try introducing them into life one at a time: before long your life will be completely different.
About the Author
This guide has been written for Skills You Need by Matt Jones, who writes about business, marketing and (in his spare time) music.
Matt is currently working with Mont Rose College’s student support services to provide advice on achieving a better work/life balance as a student and on into the workforce.