Before 2012, I had never heard of work-life balance but that was probably because this was when I first stepped into corporate America. I would often hear this phrase tossed around the office as it was strongly encouraged by my employer at the time. So what does work-life balance mean?
Work-life balance – proper prioritizing between “work” and “lifestyle.”
I provided a textbook definition above, but in Sanura’s terms, it means not letting your job get the best of you and being your end all and be all. Our jobs and the income they provide keep the roofs over our heads, the clothes on our backs and the food on our tables. Because of this, we often allow our jobs to take up more than the 40 hours we already dedicate to our careers weekly. Slowly but surely we start skipping the gym, canceling those after work happy hours, and holding off on taking our well-earned vacations. But simply put, that’s not okay! What good are we to our employers if we’re running ourselves into the ground from working too hard?
I remember on my first corporate job, I was so focused on climbing that ladder that I had no problem being the first to arrive and the last to leave. Working weekends and bypassing happy hours so I could get to bed early to get to work early. Needless to say, I was miserable and being bypassed every time promotions came around didn’t help matters either. I found that I was putting in all this work, only for it to go unnoticed and my personal life suffered as a result. I realized that I could still do my job well without impeding upon MY time, and this was when work-life balance stopped just being buzzwords, but a practice that I regularly implemented in my life. To successfully achieve the work-life balance you have to take stock of your behaviors inside and outside of the office and make adjustments accordingly.
INSIDE THE OFFICE
Leave work on time
If you work a full time, 40 hour a week job, almost 24% of your week is spent at work. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a lot of time. And every extra second, minute or hour you devote to your job outside of your core schedule, cuts into your time. Now, I’m not saying cut corners at work and leave things unfinished, but if you work 9-5, it’s okay to leave work and work related things within that timeframe. If you find that you’re having a hard time doing this see my next tip below
Assess your workload
I am a self-proclaimed multi-tasker and over achiever, and these two traits are the perfect recipe for taking on more than I can handle. When I do, something undoubtedly suffers and as someone who takes a great deal of pride in their work that just will not do! So now and then I have to re-assess my workload. I decide what I need and don’t need and what I can delegate to someone else. What does this have to do with work life balance you ask? Well, the more manageable your workload, the less likely you are to be stressed and the more likely you are to be able to get your work done within your core schedule.
Leave work at work
Once you have your head wrapped around your workload, and you’re able to get everything done within your schedule, or, at least, be productive, leave your work right there, AT WORK. When you leave the office for the day, you’re allowed to switch gears and start focusing your energy and thoughts towards the things you have to do FOR YOU. Whether it’s what you want to prepare for dinner, going to the gym, or meetings friends for dinner and drinks. It’s your time to do whatever you want. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen someone log off their work computer and walk out the office only to instantly begin scrolling through work emails on their cell phones. Don’t be that person. Those e-mails will be there in the morning, and it’s okay to take comfort in knowing that and putting work related things on the back burner until you return to the office.
Eat lunch away from your desk
This is small, but I’ve come to find that is SO important. I take my lunch at 12 o’clock every day and every day I grab my purse and step away from my desk for an hour. Sometimes I’ll walk to a nearby restaurant to grab lunch and read, or I’ll find somewhere to sit and watch a TV show I missed from the night before on Hulu. Regardless of what I do, I do it away from my desk. Even though you’re eating lunch, sitting at your desk will compel you to do work, and that midday break is necessary mentally and physically. When I take that hour to myself and unplug from work and plug into something that I enjoy, I return to work revitalized and ready to tackle the remainder of the day.
Take a vacation
I wouldn’t be much of a travel blogger if I didn’t tell you to take a vacation, now would I? A survey conducted by Skift found that 41% of Americans did not take a single day of vacation in 2015. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why one would leave the vacation they earned on the table. Yes, you will return to an inbox full of emails. Yes, you will have to play catch up. Yes, you will have to get back into your groove. But, so what? I assure you the relief, clarity, and fun you’ll experience on vacation will outweigh any excuse you can use to talk yourself out of taking a vacation. If your workload is what is keeping you from taking a vacation (1) see what I said about assessing your workload above and (2) take a shorter vacation. A three-day vacation could be just as effective a weeklong vacation. Lastly, don’t believe the hype. Skipping vacations and working overtime will not get you that promotion and if it does at what expense? So put that time off request in and go somewhere!
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Protect your “me” time
I remember when I started this blog, all my free time was spent working on it. At first, I thought this was okay because it wasn’t work in the traditional sense, but I soon found that the time I used to spend reading on the train or listening to music was now spent checking site stats and social media, and it started to feel like work and not fun. I knew some changes had to be made. I needed to protect my “me time” and make sure nothing impeded upon it. I told myself that the hour spent on the train would be spent reading listening to music or something that I enjoyed. It is up to us to carve out time for ourselves. Because there are so many outside forces competing for our attention, we have to be the gatekeepers that say “No, not now. It can wait.”
Make self-care a priority
We’re living in tough times right now. It seems as if we can’t turn on the news or read the paper without hearing about another tragedy. This coupled with the pressures one may face at work can eventually take its toll on one’s wellbeing. This is why I am a strong advocate of self-care which is deliberately setting time aside for you and immersing yourself in the things you love. It could be a day at the spa, relaxing on the couch with a good book, or traveling to a destination you’ve long dreamed of. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you will benefit from and enjoy.
Eliminate the guilt
This last tip applies to inside and outside the office. Do not allow anyone or anything to make you feel guilty about creating this balance in your life. Step one to creating work-life balance is acknowledging that your wellbeing is important and your time is valuable. Once you acknowledge that, you’re going to start making some changes. I remember one time I submitted a time off request to my manager, but before he approved it, he felt the need to let me know how bad my timing was. Guess what I did? I got on that plane and went on vacation. I was not going to allow anyone to make me feel guilty about taking the vacation I earned. So, when someone hits you with the guilt trip, tell them to save it because you already have travel plans.
You have to commit to creating work-life balance and that means being tough sometimes and becoming comfortable with saying “no”, “not now” or, “I’m taking off!” (Do you see what I did there?) I created this blog with the working professional in mind. For that person who loves to travel but still has to punch a clock somewhere. As I’ve looked over the posts I’ve shared so far, I think I’ve neglected to share tips on just how to balance the two. I want I’m Taking Off to be more than a source of nice pictures and itinerary recaps. I also want this space to be a resource for figuring out how to achieve work-life balance so that you can easily navigate the space between work and wanderlust and this is only the beginning!