Work-Life Balance: A Guide to Surviving the Stress
If you feel that you’re always dragging your work home with you, and you can never truly be “off the clock,” you’re not alone. There are positions where it’s normal to work ten-hour days. Long hours can leave you feeling unfulfilled regarding your personal goals, hobbies, and family life. All the time that you spend feels like a trade-off for something else you could be doing. That’s where incorporating work-life balance into your life comes into play.
Keeping a work-life balance refers to the decision to prioritize reserving energy for the time that you spend outside of work. It’s commonly believed that the work-life balance movement is an abstract millennial lifestyle craze, yet this is hardly the case. Finding a balance between one’s life at work and life at home has aided working parents and entrepreneurs alike.
The idea of work-life balance could be considered a response to how our lives and work habits have changed due to the unyielding presence of technology in the modern workplace. Technology allows work to reach employees around the clock and everywhere. As such, we might always feel like we’re tethered to our jobs. Yet this isn’t helpful to work performance, as working too much causes a dramatic decrease in an individual’s average productivity. John Pencavel of Standford University found that up to forty-eight hours a week, your productivity is proportional to the number of hours you work. Anything beyond forty-eight hours may not be worth the time you put into it.
Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires that people set aside time to unplug and engage with their families, friends, and themselves. It requires that people set goals toward creating healthy habits in their everyday lives. Work-life balance prioritizes recharge time and time spent doing what one loves.
A healthy work-life balance helps you push past the limitations that you may feel. Dissatisfaction in one part of your life is likely to breed dissatisfaction in the other. For example, spending too much time at the office could make someone feel less patient about the time they spend with their children. These feelings of frustration and resentment may then be carried back to the office. Balance is crucial for advancing not only your life goals but your career goals as well, as you bring into your workplace those same positive attitudes that you have cultivated at home.
Work-Life Balance Tips
When it comes to work-life balance, people have different ideal lifestyles. The common thread for everyone, however, tends to be finding enough time in the day for activities that allow you to recharge. With proper time management and prioritization, we can carve out time for ourselves to unwind and recharge in spite of our busy schedules.
Create a Balanced Schedule
Many of the stress and anxiety triggers associated with time management are related to not knowing where your time is going. Scheduling helps you keep track of how you spend your time, and how long your goals take you.
Prioritize tasks so that you can tackle high-priority goals first and stressful deadlines don’t loom over you while doing other things. This will also make it easier for you to not overcommit yourself, so that you don’t schedule too much back-to-back.
No matter who you are, you can’t do it all. And you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Planning out your time can help you to see what parts of your life need restructuring and where you can delegate or leave behind some of your tasks. There are many apps designed to schedule your tasks such as ToDoist or Focus List. For those who prefer a more tangible calendar, a weekly scheduler can help you keep your assignments in hand. Many have even begun experimenting with the creativity of scheduling and planning with Bullet Journal planners.
Author Kate White explains that instead of multi-tasking, she planned out overlapping tasks: “Best example: When my kids were little, I had no time for hobbies, but I was dying to try bird watching. So I introduced it to my seven-year-old son, thinking he might like it, too. He was hooked, and so we started doing birdwatching together. It became the perfect overlap of time together with a hobby for me.”
When you’re scheduling, remember to create downtime as well as space in your schedule for spending time with your family and socializing. Don’t wait for the weekends to reward yourself. Join a weekday social group and give yourself time for your hobbies and personal goals.
Tracking your time can help you to develop appropriate expectations for yourself. Rather than feeling stressed and punishing yourself for a task that took a longer time than you expected, whether its a work assignment or learning to cook a new recipe, take it as a learning experience. This way, you can budget the right amount of time for yourself the next time you attempt it.
Task tracking varies from person to person but tends to be a combination of these options:
– Start a task tracking journal. For digital natives, this can be a notebook that you sync to all your devices like Evernote. For the more analog-minded of us, it’s nice to pick a notebook for this purpose and stick with it.
- Get it all out. Reduce your mind-clutter by making a list of all the little to-do things that are on your mind. They can be things you need to do this day, this month, even this year. As long as you feel that you still need to hold them in mind, they will distract you from focusing, so write it all down. If you’re in a time-crunch, you can turn the page and go back to organize later.
– Keep daily expectations and tasks. On its own page, write out your daily expectations for yourself. These can be anything from a complicated project with multiple sub-tasks to something as simple as getting groceries. Leave plenty of space for additional notes.
– Keep track of your time. Timers can be small and unobtrusive, and they do not intrinsically judge you. Keep a timer while you do a task. If you’re going to the grocery store, find out how long that takes. If you’re cooking a dinner or meal-prepping, keep track of your time. Then put this in a note on your task list. This gives you data for planning your day in the future.
– Use the data you collected to plan reasonably. Now that you know how long some of your tasks take, try not to set unreasonable daily expectations. If you only have four hours of time left when you get home from work, try not to plan five one-hour tasks. Instead, pick just two of those and let yourself enjoy them.
– Use a habit tracker. Habit trackers can be both analog and digital, and they help you build daily habits by giving you a space to mark off doing your habits each day of the month. This helps you to see and analyze when you best reach your habits. Some common habits include playing the piano every day, drinking 32 oz of water every day, going for a 15-minute run, and spending time planning or journaling. Habit trackers also help you evaluate what habits are feasible for your schedule. For instance, if someone only manages to go to a yoga class once a month, maybe it’s not a feasible habit for their schedule.
Smart Food Choices
Some of our favorite foods can cause us to experience bad moods. These include foods high in caffeine and trans fats, sugary snacks, refined carbs, and alcoholic beverages. The strange thing is, these tend to be the foods we turn to when we feel stressed and are looking for an outlet. Instead of grabbing sugary snacks and processed foods, you can improve your mood by eating more omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, walnuts, and grass-fed animal products. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also a great option.
For many people, cooking at home and ridding their routines of processed foods is a form of self-care. Cooking can be a meditative process. The emphasis on using one’s hands to nourish oneself can combat some of the mental and cognitive fatigue that many of us feel when we get home from work. Homemade meals can satisfy us emotionally because we feel responsible for what we’re eating.
Developing a scheduled meal-plan can help you to free up time (and save you some money) by taking the guesswork out of what to fix or purchase each day, preventing additional shopping trips and the need to cook extra meals. Meal planning also promotes healthy eating choices, because having healthy food available makes it less likely that you’ll reach for the quick and processed alternative.
Delegate at Home
Time is your most valuable resource, and you can buy yourself more of it by delegating some of your home tasks to keep your life in order. Delegating at home can include hiring a household cleaning service, having someone help you run basic errands, laundry services, and for some people grocery and cooking services.
If you’re worried about the cost of hiring additional help, remember that having downtime will actually make you more productive with your work, increasing your opportunities for job advancement. If you can afford it, it might be worth it.
Delegating doesn’t always mean hiring someone from outside your house. In many cases, family members can better delegate chores among themselves in a way that helps everyone out. This can include delegating some of your tasks to your partner or your children.
Rather than trying to share chores, instead, split them up so only one person is responsible for each chore in the house. This will help you hold everyone household accountable while also identifying the specific strengths of each person in the house.
Become Less Dependent on Technology
Certain forms of technology, such as smartphones and web browsers, have been identified as addictive.
You can start to wean your addiction to technology by going off the grid for 15 minutes each day. Turn off your phone, keep the computer away, and live without any connections, if only for a moment. To begin with, it can be eye-opening how often you might reach for your phone to text someone or check a social media site. However, the more often you give yourself a break, the easier and more relaxing it becomes.
Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School says
“There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment.” Brooke explains that phone notifications can cause unnecessary stress during your free time.
In some cases, it can be helpful to install productivity software such as Freedom, LeechBlock, or RescueTime, which can help you track and block applications that waste your valuable time.
Taking yourself off the grid allows you to pay more attention to what your loved ones and family say and need. It will also help you take inventory of your own needs.
Make Time to Exercise
Exercise is one of our most crucial and easiest to ignore bodily needs. Exercise helps to reduce stress by releasing endorphins throughout the body. It has amazing effects on individual self-confidence, which can help inspire us to take care of ourselves in other aspects of our lives. It also boosts your active and resting energy by speeding up your metabolism.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. Some people prefer to jog around town, take a hike, mountain climb, swim, dance, surf, try slacklining, go for a long walk, or do yoga. All of these activities are outlets for stress. They can take your mind off of work and nurture your physical ability to self-express.
Every individual’s idea of self-care looks a little bit different. Some people treat themselves to a spa day. Others take time to meditate or set aside time to read a book. Some will reorganize and declutter their space to find more peace. Creative pursuits, such as painting, crafts, and playing the guitar, often require the kind of intense focus that rewires you from the distraction-filled workday and helps your brain to recharge from the day’s stimulation.
Just be aware that releasing yourself from perfectionist tendencies is important for picking up new hobbies. These attitudes and unreasonable expectations will only add stress to time you should be using to unwind.
Stress in the Workplace
Long working hours, punitive deadlines, and demands that pile up on your precious time budget can bring feelings of stress to an alarming pitch. As workers, we give our time away to our employers for not only compensation but stability. We work beyond the required amount because we want to seem invaluable. We fear being laid off, and we feel the pressure to meet expectations even as they intensify without specific rewards.
Sometimes we cultivate feelings of stress in our lives out of the misguided sense that this stress will make us stronger and more productive. We think of stress as the psychological equivalent of lighting a fire under us. Small doses of stress really can give us the feeling of an adrenaline high. These effects make us feel energetic, focused, and ready to face challenges.
However, excessive stress can lower our productivity and performance. When we are feeling too stressed, we tend to feel drained rather than focused. It can also have major impacts on physical and emotional health, including muscle tension and respiratory problems. In extreme forms, these symptoms are associated with panic attacks or acute stress which can increase the heart rate and blood pressure to the point of escalating cardiovascular problems. Prolonged stress has also been known to cause nervous system problems that inhibit focus, create fertility problems in men, and cause irregular menstruation in women.
Symptoms of too much stress can include anxiety, irritability, and depression, which affects individuals both in the workplace and at home. Someone suffering from intense stress might also find themselves losing motivation in their work, losing sleep, and losing focus.
Good mental health is important for helping you to remain competitive in your workplace. People who are visibly working at capacity may show signs of wear, such as slumped posture, exhausted verbal responses, and negative attitudes. These individuals may not seem as competitive as those who are ready to move onto a new project.
Tips for Reducing Workplace Stress
Develop a support network. Talking to your peers and seeking support can help you begin to diminish workplace stress. This can mean engaging with your colleagues and coworkers, confiding in friends and family about what’s going on, and trying to build new friendships outside of work.
Delegate responsibilities. Along with wanting to feel invaluable and irreplaceable in our work, we also like to control those projects that we feel ownership over. Unfortunately, attitudes like this mean that we might often get in over our heads and not know when to delegate or trust others with responsibility. To reduce stress, try to let go of the desire to control every part of the project so that you can spend more of time on yourself and your family. This will make you more comfortable delegating tasks and only keeping for yourself what you can handle.
Establish boundaries for when you’re off work. In order to be able to reset and give our all to work when we’re there, it’s important to have routine periods of time when we’re not working, thinking about work, or checking work emails and calls.
According to a survey by Direct Line Insurance, seven hours is the ideal amount of free time in a day. However, most workers are constantly connected to their work through technology and the expectation that they answer emails, phone calls, and text messages eat away at their free time. Matt Owen of Direct Line explains that “The perfect work/life balance relies on being able to switch off once we’ve finished work, which is difficult in this ‘constantly connected’ age.”
Habits without boundaries, such as being available to answer emails during your free time and being on call twenty-four hours a day will make you feel like you’re working all the time. This can contribute to decreased motivation during those times when you are specifically supposed to be working.
Mitigate unreasonable expectations. Perfectionism and unrealistic goals can cause us to fall into slumps and negative thinking when we feel that we’ve fallen short of our goals. Instead, be realistic about your goals and aim to do your best. The self-confidence that you create from feeling capable of succeeding in your goals will help your projects excel.
Tips for Individual Contract and Self-Employed Workers
Individual contractors and self-employed workers experience the contradiction of having very flexible schedules which are also limited by clients’ deadlines and expectations. Burnout can come easily when you are the only one holding yourself accountable and motivated.
– Build a strong support network. The more honest you are about the realities of your job with your peers and loved ones, the more they will be able to say the right words and offer the right support to help you.
– Keep looking ahead of yourself. Even for self-starters, it can be easy to stagnate when you’re working along. Self-motivation often comes from looking toward the future of your business and planning ways that you want to improve. Sometimes this means acquiring new and different jobs in advance that you can look forward to. You can also do this by planning further education to learn new skills that interest you and expand your business.
– Don’t skimp on your own free time. Just because no one is making sure that you leave the office, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to.
– Without PTO many individual contractors take as little time off as possible. To give yourself much-needed breaks, put aside a downtime and vacation fund. Sometimes you just need to take a good trip.
Tips for Office Workers
In many cases, the stressors of office work are interpersonal. They might have to do with a worker’s boss or coworkers. They might also have to do with the feeling of not being able to get enough done, or having too much to do.
– When working in an office setting, it’s necessary to carve out the proper space to focus. Some people have difficulty focusing while others are talking. Do whatever you need to in order to make sure your workday is as productive as possible, even if that means isolating yourself.
– It’s understood that office work puts many people in close proximity for large slices of time throughout the week, and this can cause disputes and discomfort with other workers. If you’re stressed out about other workers, whether they have a negative attitude or a tendency to be distracting, you can institute quiet work hours, or try to engage with them as little as possible.
– Use your resources. Many offices have human resources departments which can help them with interpersonal problem-solving, as well as helping workers to find effective forms of stress-management. However, in some cases, HR might not be the best place to confide personal stress problems. As an alternative, you can check to see if your health plan allows you access to personal therapy or group therapy sessions for stress management.
Stay Focused at Work
Staying productive at work is a matter of silencing disruptions, quelling our addiction to technology, and staying on task.
The ability to multitask was in high demand a few years ago among employers. This trend started because companies needed to downsize in the face of the economic turn in 2008, causing the remaining employees to pick up more and diverse tasks. Companies began seeking digital natives who could, it seemed, do many projects at one time, and the buzzword bloomed all over resumes in response.
It turns out that what we refer to as multitasking is really switching between tasks. Switching tasks lowers our productivity, and wastes hours of our day, undercutting our productivity by 40 percent. Think of adding 23 minutes every time you check you email in the middle of a task. This means that a task which should take you an hour could take you that hour and an extra 23 minutes.
Our brains are incapable of focusing on multiple things at once. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we are multitasking, but we are really only switching very quickly between tasks. Working on multiple assignments at one time is also known to cause us stress. The more tasks we try to work on at once, the more we get the feeling that we won’t be able to catch up.
Tips for Staying on Task:
– Eliminate distraction when it’s time to focus. You can disable text and email notifications (as well as phone and desktop apps) and politely make yourself unavailable to idle chit-chat from coworkers.
– Know what the task is. It can help to plan out your task before you go into deep focus mode since the act of finding out what you need to do can leave you open to inbox browsing and distracting online research. Plan out your task beforehand, so when it comes time to focus deeply, you don’t have a habit of breaking your focus.
– Schedule times in the day that you will check your inbox. Rather than being a constant checker, make a habit of checking your inbox at certain times, so that it doesn’t feel necessary to check when you’re working on something else.
– Plan your day to tackle one thing at a time. What managers are really looking for when they talk about multi-taskers is people who are able to prioritize their tasks. Prioritizing allows you to pick up one thing at a time, focus on it, and finish it, so you are able to move on to the next task.
Try Out Pomodoro Time Management
The Pomodoro Technique chunks your day into deep focus times. Begin with picking a task which you’ll devote your full attention, then set a timer for 25 minutes and work on the task until the timer rings. If you suddenly realize that you have something else you need to do, simply write the interruption down, put it aside, and continue focusing. When you have completed the time cycle, take a five-minute break. When you have completed four Pomodoros or spent two hours on your task, take a twenty to thirty-minute break.
There are many variations of this time management system, such as working in four hour blocks and taking one or two hour breaks. The important thing is to find what works for you and practice it consistently. When planning your time management system, remember to give yourself breaks and downtime from your intense focus periods.
This system plans short breaks into your day to give you time to relax and recharge. This blank time allows your mind to process what you’ve been working on, and is necessary for making connections and generating ideas. It’s good to get up and walk around in this time, meditate, have a conversation, or something other than your primary task.
There are many Pomodoro trackers available as desktop apps and phone apps. For instance, the smartphone app Forest is capable of blocking you from using your phone for other applications while you are tracking your time.
How to Reset
Health retreats refer to time off that takes you out of your everyday life and helps you to reach your goals in a conducive setting.
Some common goals include detoxing and cleansing, fitness and wellness retreats, sport retreats, yoga retreats, artistic and creative retreats, spiritual retreats, and retreats that help participants work through specific psychological states including stress management and grief management.
These retreats can often be guided or allow you to choose your individual activities. Most retreats will give you tools, whether these are mental tools, meditative, or exercise-oriented to take back into your everyday life for continued processing toward your goals. Here are a few tips for choosing the best health retreat for your needs:
– Know why you’re going. Health retreats should help you focus, so if you find that you’ll be doing a little bit of everything on the retreat it might not be worthwhile. Instead, ask yourself what you want to develop on the retreat, and then make sure that the retreat will address this focus.
– Pick where you want to go. The destination is a big part of the retreat. Pick somewhere that will be inspiring so that you are more engaged with the benefits of being on the retreat.
– Weigh your ideological and ethical options. Ecotourism can be a big motivation for a retreat or travel. Whether or not earth conservation is your focus, there are many eco-conscious retreat spots that will keep problems like wasteful consumption off your mind.
Weekend camping trips can reset your body clock and take you off the grid to adjust your focus. Anyone struggling to wake up in the morning in their daily life should try camping for a weekend. It’s difficult to sleep in when the sun is rising. Campers can experience 13 times more light than someone living primarily indoors. This causes their melatonin levels to rise earlier in the day so that they fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier too. Even just a weekend can reset your circadian rhythm to improve your alertness, mood, physical strength, and endurance.
Spending time in nature, such as backpacking, camping, and hiking is has been known to relieve stress, sharpen thinking with improved short-term memory, and improve concentration and creativity. Additionally, spending time outside and under the stars is something that you can do with your children to get in touch with your family outside of the grasp of technology.
In many climates, where you don’t need a lot of expensive gear, camping is also feasible on a limited budget.
Taking a Vacation
Sometimes all it takes to reduce your stress and reorient your habits is a getaway. As a culture, we are very familiar with vacations and the idea of traveling to relax away from work.
Some tips for a stress-free vacation include:
– Plan it out. Take care of the details, schedule, and photo ops ahead of time, so that you aren’t sorting things out while you’re on vacation, then keeping in the know about the logistics of your vacation can make it a lot easier to enjoy the free time it offers.
– Pack accordingly. Research the location and make a list of what you will need.
– Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t stop just because you’re on vacation. If you need sleep, get sleep. Allow your body to adjust to any altitude changes. And always drink plenty of water, especially if you’re more active on vacation than you normally are.
Staycations refer to staying near or around your home while taking time off. These are sometimes thought of as more budget-friendly vacations, but they do have valuable stress relief benefits, by making it less necessary to plan out the logistics of the vacation.
Staycations are great for taking time to spend with your family and exploring your own home region. However, you will be a lot more likely to reconnect with work during your vacation. Make a concerted effort to disconnect from work and you can have a relaxing staycation.
Extended Work Breaks
Aside from the sabbaticals prevalent in academic circles, talk about taking an extended work break is rare. The average person doesn’t feel comfortable asking to take over a month off to hike the John Muir trail, finish their book, take on a creative residency, or other forms of long-term unpaid leave. It’s possible, but it can be daunting to ask for that time off and still feel confident that your job will be there when you return.
Extended work breaks for many people come in between the stages of a career switch. They can take a few forms such as travel, volunteering abroad, taking a course or going back to school, teaching English abroad, and paid work abroad. A long break can feel risky, but it is a transformative option for someone who needs to completely reorient their life.
Morning and Evening Routines
The iconic figure of the morning routine was Benjamin Franklin, who reported to spend his morning nude while reading, writing, and thinking. Nor was he the only one to develop a personalized morning routine. Tchaikovsky, Victor Hugo, Immanuel Kant, and Beethoven all report that they would begin their day with some form of tea or coffee. And the 19th-century French poet and essayist Paul Valery explained how he woke up every morning at 5 to write in his journals.
Morning routines can give you a sense of stability while allowing you to feel like you’re starting your day productively. Taylor Pearson, entrepreneur and author of The End of Jobs, encourages individuals to design and practice a tailored morning routine that highlights a “small win” based on each of the goals you are serious about moving forward with. According to Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology, these morning routines are just the wind-up to prime our brains and warm our bodies for the time of day when it will function best. Kay explains that
“when it comes to doing cognitive work, most adults perform best in the late morning.”
Checking Your Email in the Morning
Whether or not to check your email in the morning depends on your preferences. Some people see this as a violation of the careful boundaries that they set between work and life, while others see it as a productivity move to help them better prioritize their tasks for the day. Much of this has to do with a person’s position in a company, but it is also up to you whether it helps your mental health to delay reading your emails or to begin your day alert to what you need to do.
CEOs are frequently among the 8 percent who rise at 5 a.m. or earlier in the case of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who wakes at 3:45 a.m. every morning. They commonly begin their mornings by checking their emails. Tim Armstrong, CEO of Oath Inc., describes his morning routine as immediate emailing: “I usually get up at 5 or 5:15 a.m. Historically, I would start sending emails when I got up.”
Heather Rabbatts, the director of the Football Association, is an outlier as she reports that she does not begin her day with emails. Instead, she appreciates a more personal morning routine:
“If I’m in London, I start the day with a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. If I’m home in Kent, I feed my two spaniels, have a cup of tea and defend my digestive biscuits from being snaffled by my crafty dogs.”
Common Morning Routines
Standardize when you get up. This is possibly the most important part of your morning routine. No one is saying that you have to get up early. Many successful people sleep in past 5 am. Nonetheless, to live your healthiest life, it’s best to wake up at a standardized time every day.
Having consistent sleep patterns means that you go to bed at around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Consistent sleep patterns were found to be as important as the number of hours that you sleep for improved performance. Consistent waking times are correlated with better digestion, immunity benefits, improved concentration and productivity, and emotional stability.
According to Edison Research, twenty-three percent of Americans wake between 6 and 6:30 am, and another 26 percent rise in the following hour between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Whether you’re a bright-eyed early riser or a bed-headed night-owl, your body will thank you for picking a time to rise and sticking with it.
Make coffee. Up to four cups of coffee, a day can increase memory, mood, energy, reaction times, and cognitive function without risking dehydration. This is also the best time to drink coffee since, in the interest of preserving your sleep cycles, it’s not recommended for the average person to consume coffee six to eight hours before going to bed.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Whether you like to start out with a full meal of just a simple breakfast of yogurt, water, and fruit, eating breakfast can help you look forward to your routines. Morning breakfasts also make it possible to eat lunch later, thus prolonging your productive time before the after-lunch slump.
Groom yourself. You daily hygiene routine probably involves washing your face and brushing your teeth, but when you carve out the time, it can also include practices such as giving yourself a careful shave and using a face mask.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation refers to being presently aware of sensations, emotions and thoughts. Meditation literally helps you to rewire your brain to be less reactive and promote emotional control. Meditation can help you manage fear and stress as well as increase focus and pain tolerance.
Read a book or newspaper. Adding reading to your morning routine will make it more likely that you will read throughout the day and keep your mind engaged. For some, reading is a form of self-care that invests your time in your own mind, education, and imagination. For others, it is a necessary step to staying abreast of all that’s happening in the world.
Write in a journal. Writing is a therapeutic way of organizing your mind and producing ideas. Journaling has been proven to reduce stress by allowing you to understand and learn from your emotions and clarify your thoughts and priorities. Even if you are ready to get in touch with your feelings, your morning routine is the perfect time for routine scheduling, working on a gratitude journal, writing down your goals, and prioritizing the rest of your day.
Exercise, do yoga, stretch, or go jogging. If you find that a light work-out, yoga session, or jog in the morning is the best way to get your brain firing, this is because it is a quick way to warm your body which improves your working memory, alertness, and concentration.
Evening routines should relax you and allow you to move easily to rest. Late-night time-sensitive work can interfere with you getting a healthy night’s rest, and in most cases, it should and can wait. The truth is, you’re going to be less productive when your body is exhausted. And losing sleep interferes with your daytime productivity, meaning that those extra hours of sleepy, less-productive work that you do at night are stealing the alert productive hours from your day.
Focus your nighttime routine on soothing activities, such as reading, listening to soft music, or other low light activities such as meditation. Just as with waking up, a consistent bedtime will help you to rest better.
Try to turn off screens one hour before bedtime, including your TV, smartphones, and computer screens, or activate nighttime modes. Blue lights from tablets, computers, and TV screens keep your body from producing melatonin, thus disrupting your sleep cycle. Many screens have nighttime color schemes that do not disrupt your sleep cycle. You can also opt for something without a backlight function, such as an e-reader tablet.
Much of work-life balance is about forming positive habits in your daily life. These habits can be productivity hacks. They can also be measures that you take for self-care. Whatever your goals are, habit-forming is based around consistently taking the time that you need for your tasks while being less wasteful with the time you have.
When you begin building habits, your new focus can feel like a burden. Sometimes setting a timer for yourself to go to bed at night seems like a bad idea when you could be getting things done instead. And when we start to form a habit of waking up earlier, we can feel a little groggy and surly in the mornings. However, dedicating yourself to these habits will help you to level out and free up time for a healthier, happier life in the long run.
When it comes to forming habits, give yourself time. Start with focusing on one thing at a time. Changing your whole life at once will make the habits that you’re trying to form feel impossible. Instead, get used to one thing, such as starting a morning routine or scheduling a time to unplug after work, and slowly add from there.