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13 actions that will help you achieve work-life balance

A woman sitting at her desk in an office, stretching her arms above her head and smiling.

With the move to remote and hybrid work, our business devices are frequently at our fingertips 24/7. That means it’s all too easy to finish one more task…make one more phone call…send one more email…only to find we’ve added even more hours to our workday.

If you’re wondering where your work-life balance went, here are a baker’s dozen of actions you might want to consider taking to improve it. While they’re not detailed tips, they link to more detailed information and are a good launching pad for living the life you want.

  1. Set your priorities. Make a list of the things that are important to you: family time, hobbies, meditation, exercise, mental health, your career. Then rearrange them in order of priority. And never apologize for what’s important to you.

  2. Say goodbye to fear. Has this thought ever crossed your mind? “If I’m not here working, they’ll replace me.” Don’t let fear take away your right to live your personal life. Fight your irrational fears and reclaim your life.

  3. Be realistic about your to-do list. Do you feel like everything on your list MUST be done before you sign off for the day? It’s not always possible. So take a few minutes each day to prioritize critical tasks…and leave the rest for tomorrow.

  4. Just say no. Is it hard for you to say no to “Just one more thing…”? Time to set your boundaries. Your world won’t crumble, and neither will the asker’s. But you’ll be more focused and less stressed…and present for what matters most.

  5. Unplug during personal time. When the workday is done, or it’s vacation time, disconnect from the work world. Don’t answer calls. Stop checking emails and texts. Just enjoy time with your favorite people, doing your favorite things.

  6. Take your breaks. No one can—or should—run at full speed all day. Everyone needs breaks. Even a few-minutes break can reset us and keep us going. So take your lunch hours and get up now and then throughout the day. You’ll thank yourself.

  7. Ask about flexibility. Are life’s demands overwhelming you? Ask your employer about implementing a more flexible schedule. Don’t wait until you’re so stressed you can’t think straight; give yourself a chance to think through a proposal now.  

  8. Don’t neglect your health. Whether you work in the office or at home, it can be tough to stay fit when you sit at a desk all day. But it’s possible to work fitness into your daily routine. And P.S. Don’t forget to schedule your regular checkups.

  9. Schedule the good stuff. Just as you schedule work-related appointments, block off time for anything that helps your physical, emotional and mental wellness—exercise, meditation, lunch with friends or after-work family events.

  10. Take your days off. If you’re sick, call in sick. If you have vacation days available, take them. Not taking time off is a sure recipe for mental and physical burnout, and even short breaks of a day or two can help.

  11. Do nothing. Have a free evening? Try the blissful art of doing nothing. We’re such a go-go-go society that we tend to feel guilty if we’re not taking advantage of every moment. But doing nothing is doing something—just more quietly.

  12. Remember: nobody’s perfekt perfect. Practice compassion for yourself as you learn how to balance your work and personal lives. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t always go smoothly. But you’ll learn with every twist and turn.

  13. Ask for help. You don’t have to do it all yourself; if you’re struggling with balance in your life, ask for help—from family, from a friend, from your employer or from a professional. Don’t let yourself get to the point of burnout. 

Giving more time to the work side of the work-life balance can take a toll; a long-running UK study of more than 10,000 civil servants showed that people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal workday had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than those who worked no overtime.

While you can’t change the equation overnight, hopefully, the actions above will give you a start toward managing your time and energy in a way that will help you find a true balance—one where you’re able to feel engaged and fulfilled whether you’re on the clock or off.