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The importance of work/life balance

The importance of work/life balance

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To achieve a more realistic balance between these two important areas of life, you first have to examine your priorities and set boundaries. Be firm in what you can and cannot do. Only you can restore equilibrium to your lifestyle.

Your work life may be spilling over into your personal life, blurring the line between your work and your family. Here’s why:

  • Globalisation of business. Work continues around the world 24 hours a day for some people. If you work in a global organisation, you might be on call 24/7 for troubleshooting or consulting.
  • Improvements in communication technology. People can work anywhere these days; from home, from their car and even on holiday - and some managers expect that.
  • Longer hours. It’s not unusual for employees to work longer hours than required and for some, over-time may even be mandatory. If you hope to move up the career ladder, you may find yourself working more than 40 hours a week to keep on top of things.
  • Changes in family roles. Today’s worker is often part of a dual-career couple, which makes it difficult to find time to meet commitments to home, spouse, parents and friends.

If you’ve experienced any of these challenges, you understand how easy it is for work to overtake your personal life.

Work/Life Balance

When you spend more time at work than at home, you may miss out on a rewarding personal life. On the other hand, if you’re trying to cope with marital, financial or legal problems, you may find it hard to concentrate on your job.

To achieve a more realistic balance between these two important areas of life, you first have to examine your priorities and set boundaries. Be firm in what you can and cannot do. Only you can restore equilibrium to your lifestyle.

It’s tempting to work over-time if you’re an hourly employee. By doing so, you can earn extra money for a child’s education or your dream holiday. Some people need to work over-time to stay on top of family finances. Sometimes, working extra hours may not bring you extra cash, but it can help you keep up with your workload. Being willing to arrive early and stay late every day may also help you climb the corporate ladder.

Should you work overtime?

If your company doesn’t require overtime, think it over before you agree to work more than a 40-hour week. Assess the pros and cons:

  • Fatigue. Your ability to think and your hand-eye coordination decrease when you’re tired. This means you are less productive and may make mistakes, which can lead to injury.
  • Family. You may miss out on important events, such as your baby’s first steps or your father’s 60th birthday. Missing out on important milestones may harm relationships with your loved ones.
  • Friends. Trusted friends are a key part of your support system. But if you’re spending time at the office instead of with them, you’ll find it difficult to nurture those friendships.

Sometimes working overtime is important. If it’s not mandatory, it’s a choice you can make to adjust to a new job or new boss or to pay your debts. If you work over-time for financial reasons or to climb the corporate ladder, do so in moderation. Most importantly, say no when you’re too tired or when you have crucial family obligations.

  1. Figure out what really matters to you

    Ask yourself: “If my life could focus on one thing and one thing only, what would that be? If I could add a second thing, what would that be? And a third, fourth, fifth?”

    If you answer thoughtfully and honestly, you’ll end up with a list of your top five priorities, which may include your children, spouse, a satisfying career, education, health, adventure/travel etc.

  2. Drop unnecessary activities

    By making a concrete list of what really matters to you, you may discover you’re devoting too much time to activities that aren’t a priority and you can adjust your schedule accordingly.

  3. Protect your private time

    Your private time should be sacred. Carve out hours that contribute to yourself and your relationship. Guard this personal time fervently and don’t let work or other distractions intrude.

    Protecting your private time often leads to greater satisfaction at work and at home, greater productivity and more creativity.

  4. Accept help to balance your life

    Allow yourself to rely on your partner, family, friends or anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities.

  5. Plan fun and relaxation

    Until you get into the habit of taking time for yourself, set aside space in your diary for relaxation and fun. Plan what you’re going to do and make the necessary arrangements, to ensure you’ll be able to keep your commitment. You are in charge of your own schedule so make the time.

It isn’t easy to juggle the demands of career and personal life. For most people, it’s an ongoing challenge.

Here are 5 tips to help you achieve better work-life balance. Effective stress control enhances both mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise and practicing relaxation methods are the best ways to keep chronic stress in check. You can also practice techniques like controlled breathing exercises when you feel your stress levels soaring. The following exercise in breathing can be done for as little as three to five minutes at a time and is an effective way to halt escalating feelings of anger, tension and frustration.

The breathing exercise

  1. Sit upright in a comfortable position.

  2. Focus on your present state and existence (this is often termed being “mindful”). Block out intrusive thoughts. You may close your eyes if you wish.

  3. Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale slowly through the nose, taking several seconds.

  4. Exhale through the mouth, trying to make the exhalation phase last twice as long as the inhalation.

  5. Continue this mindful breathing for 3-5 minutes.

If you like, you can increase the practice to 15-20 minutes per day. With regular practice, you can train your body to relax in stressful situations using this exercise. This exercise can also be effective in dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, stage fright and fears (such as the fear of flying).

Taking a restorative pause to focus on your breathing can also be a valuable anger management tool.

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