Five Tips for Improving Work-Life Balance

The Automated Insurer | Leadership

By Mike de Waal | 27 September 2022

Key Points

Many people, especially in the “always-on” age of smartphones, may have a very fuzzy boundary between their work and personal time. 

This article covers some tips on reclaiming work-life balance:

  • Set boundaries;
  • Get a move on;
  • Make taking time off a goal;
  • When at work, focus on work;
  • and devote some personal time to ME time.

Your smartphone buzzes…

Already juggling several requests and a looming deadline, you answer it anyway, ensuring your long list of tasks will take even longer to get through. Then, like a domino effect, the length of your work day begins to inch past 5 pm, slicing away, creating an imbalance between work and your personal life one buzz at a time. 

Sound familiar?

If it does, here are a few tips to get your work life back into balance.

1. Set Boundaries

Whether you work 7 am-3 pm or 10 am-6 pm, make your decision and stick with it. If you allow your workday to impact personal or family time outside of office hours, it’s hard to get out of this routine. 

Instead, tell your co-workers that once you finish work, you won’t be available until the following day. Setting and communicating your work hours to co-workers and clients can help establish direct boundaries. This includes when you work and can’t get back to them. 

An easy way to enable this is to set up an auto-responding alert on your email tool to notify people when you are offline and online. Such practices eradicate the pressure to check emails outside of working hours. 

However, working overtime isn’t the death of your work-life balance. It’s more about defining when your personal time is going to be and sticking to that. Even if you work twelve-hour days, you can set aside two hours for your personal life and feel much more fulfilled.

2. Get a Move On

Consistent exercise is not just good for your physique: it helps alleviate stress, keeps you focused, and boosts energy levels, all of which are essential to developing a healthy work-life balance. 

The key to regular exercise is finding the time. You don’t have to run 5 km, join a CrossFit class, or go to the gym to exercise. Any activity counts, and they all add up! 

If you can’t go to the gym, try finding neighbors or a partner to meet up with a few mornings of the week before work for a 30-minute walk. If you’re not a morning person, try taking a brisk walk at lunchtime.

Check out my other article, Six Fitness Tips for Leaders and Entrepreneurs for more ideas on how even the busiest people can stay active.

3. Make Taking Time Off a Goal

It may be counterintuitive, but taking time off can actually make you more productive when you go back to work!

One study finds that if you plan ahead, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94% of vacations have a good ROI when it comes to your energy and outlook upon returning to work. When you neglect to take time off, you may be missing out on physical and psychological health benefits such as lower stress levels, higher motivation when returning to work, and lower burnout rates. Even a “staycation” offers a valuable opportunity to relax, recharge, forget about work and spend time with family and friends.

Making vacation as significant as other goals you work toward means you’re much more likely to achieve it. One of the ways you can accomplish this is by scheduling time off on your work calendar the same way you would any can’t-miss client meeting.

4. When at Work, Focus on Work

One of the most critical components of enjoyable personal time is not feeling guilty about taking it. Of course, you’re much less likely to feel guilty during non-working hours if you devote yourself entirely to work during office hours. 

However, distractions are everywhere. 

One study finds that 98% of the workforce says they are interrupted or distracted at least 3 or 4 times daily.

There are many ways to improve focus while working. For example, organizing and cleaning your workstation can improve your habits and personality. On the other hand, if your office space looks like it got hit by a tornado, that’s precisely how you will feel at work: distracted and lost. 

Understanding what distracts you and using it as motivation to work throughout the day is another effective way to limit frequent interruptions at work. Whether it is scrolling through social media, watching a YouTube video, or calling a friend, use these distractions as rewards on your break rather than multitasking (hint: look up the “Pomodoro technique” for an example of one popular approach).

5. Devote Some Personal Time to ME Time

While much of your time may be devoted to family, friends, and children, it’s just as essential to make some of that personal time strictly about you. Find ways to be self-centred about some of your personal time and focus on highly personal goals you want to accomplish or hobbies you enjoy. This could mean spending time training for a marathon, learning how to dance, baking, or attending group events for a cause you care deeply about. I like to reward myself after a business win with some sailing or skiing with the family.

Start Planning Your Work-Life Balance Strategy

Many people, attached to their smartphones and unable to ignore its ring,  may have a very fuzzy boundary between their work and personal time. 

If we want to be at our peak effectiveness at work and get the most out of our personal lives, we must create a balance between our careers and private lives. Consider using some of your smartphone tools and features. For example, I like to have my phone automatically set to silent during meetings on my calendar.

Creating a healthy work-life balance isn’t about any specific ratio. It’s not about the percentage of time you have to yourself—it’s about the quality of your time in your personal life. To improve that quality, you must create proper boundaries and respect them.

Your smartphone buzzes …

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Mike de Waal

Mike de Waal is president and founder of Global IQX, an Ottawa-based software provider of AI-driven sales and service solutions to employee benefits insurers.  He has deep experience in both software development and business management skills. Early in his career, he worked as a computer programmer and then went on to become a financial planner and a benefits consultant with giant Manulife Financial before becoming a tech entrepreneur.  He can be reached at [email protected].