So much has been said about maintaining a work-life balance in recent years it’s taken on the mantle of a cliché. But a cliché becomes a cliché through frequent use, and frequent use suggests a real underlying issue that has been frequently felt by innumerable people.
And so it is, perhaps largely due to technology, the lines that once existed between work and life outside work are somewhat less distinct now. Does it matter? Maybe not so much if you’re one of those fortunate people who have found a job they love and can make a living from it. But for many who aren’t quite in that enviable position, there’s a very real need to feel a sense of separation between work-life and life outside.
For the sake of well-being, health and relationships it is necessary to have some sort of strategy that at least goes some way in keeping them separate. Here are seven suggestions in how to do just that.
It’s not necessarily true for everyone, but for many the motivation in working is simply to make money. Now and again, ask yourself how much money do you really need to be financially secure? The answer depends on a host of variables, of course, but often times it may be much less than you’ve been led to believe.
Can you make your life a little less complicated, so you don’t need as much? Can you cut down costs on things such as eating out? You probably can. Cook at home instead. Stews and soups can be extremely nutritious and can be cooked very cheaply. They can be surprisingly tasty too with a few spices added.
Other things you can do to cut down on spending include timing your trips to the supermarket or grocery store until late in the day when the prices have dropped, and buying food nearing expiration date. Eat it soon after purchase and there’s no problem. You will make a saving mounting up significantly over time.
Consumer culture – stay away
Companies spend eye watering sums of money on advertising. Why? Because they know beyond all doubt that it works. They know the power they have to influence you and your desires by clever advertising techniques. How can you limit your exposure?
Switch the adverts off. Install an ad blocker. Of course, you won’t escape it completely unless you become some sort of hermit on a desert island, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. So, be aware of those manipulative influences and learn the art of living with less.
Live to work or work to live?
Avoid feeling guilty because you have a life outside of your job. Many countries, especially the UK, don’t do as well as, for example, Sweden and Denmark in this department. These countries have earned the enviable reputation of having cultivated a healthy separation between work-life and life outside.
In the UK it is almost a given that people talk about work when out socially. In certain Scandinavian cultures such a conversation is hard to hear. Why talk about work when you have left the desk hours ago? Realize there are things above and beyond what you do for a living. Learn to think beyond work, and don’t judge others or yourself simply by what you or they do for a living.
Family and friends
In addition to recognising there are things beyond work, ensure you prioritise family and friends. No matter what others may tell you, work should not take precedence over family. Many look back on life after having built what is perceived a successful career only to realise, perhaps when it is too late, that they have neglected friendships and loved ones.
Don’t be so consumed with achieving things and reaching targets and goals that you become blind to people around you. People are in the end more important than career progression.
Smartphones – bane and blessing
While mobile devices can enable more flexibility with life and living today, caution is required. Many work-related tasks can be carried out on a smartphone these days offering a tremendous level of flexibility. You can literally write a report or input data anyplace you find an Internet connection giving rise to an ever-burgeoning tribe of digital nomads that roam the earth making a living as they go.
Sounds great. On the other hand, smartphones have created a stressful expectation that there is no escape from work and that you ought to be available no matter the time or place. As with other things, learn how to switch the thing off.
Just as a side note to this issue, a recent study carried out by the University of Michigan and Illinois State University found that that parents prone to be glued to their smartphones instead of spending time communicating with their children, may breed a growing sense of frustration in their children resulting in behavioural problems later on. So, recognise what’s important and prioritise.
Judicious use of social media
If you use social media, keep work related accounts separate from private accounts. Have dedicated accounts for reaching out to business contacts and have other accounts for private use.
To make the separation more real, you could try using different social media platforms for business such as Linkedin, and use Facebook or Instagram or something similar for private use. It may be helpful to let your social contacts know your preferred social media platform for social contact so as to avoid confusion.
All said and done, research suggests trying to keep work and life completely and totally separate is unrealistic and may actually increase stress rather than diminish it. Being too strict with boundaries may lead to developing an unnecessary and an unhealthy sense of guilt when, for example, having a work related thought or having a great idea during a time set aside for other things.
No need to feel guilty. It may be more helpful to think of balancing work and life outside rather than being fixated on the idea of trying to keep them both separate in airtight compartments. Don’t be unreasonably strict. Don’t turn the setting of boundaries, something supposed to enhance life, into something that makes life more difficult.
Like anything that requires balance, from riding a bicycle to tightrope walking, you’re bound to tilt one way more than the other at times. By implementing these suggestions you may just go a long way in equipping yourself to find your centre of balance when it comes to work-life and life outside.