You’d think that with all the calendars, organizational apps and on-the-go wellness techniques out there, work-life balance is something we’re all consistently achieving. On the contrary, it seems that balancing a day or week’s worth of professional and personal priorities is harder than ever. All's not lost, though: A few small changes can go a long way toward more inner peace.
SET YOUR PRIORITIES
Before the week begins, take some time to make a short list of things you really want to accomplish. Keeping the list itself to no more than five items or so forces you to really make choices about what you want to get done. The items might be big, like meeting an important deadline at work. But they can be smaller tasks, too: When you finally drop that wedding gift into the mail, or write the thank-you note you’ve been putting off, you’re clearing “little stuff” off your plate that looms large on your consciousness.
COMMIT TO A MORNING ROUTINE
Starting the day from behind is a recipe for stress at home and at work. Choose a wake-up time you can generally stick to all seven days of the week. Sure, it feels great to get extra sleep on weekends, but depending on it means you’re likely overtired Monday through Friday. Also build in time for something you love. Whether it’s a few minutes of yoga, sitting down with coffee and scanning the paper, or taking the dog on a short walk, knowing you’ll start your day with one activity that makes you happy sets the tone for everything after.
SET CLEAR WORK BOUNDARIES
Protecting yourself from feeling tethered to the office 24 hours a day might feel daunting, especially in work environments where it seems everyone else answers emails at all hours of the night. Reasonable boundaries are OK, though, and they don’t have to be broadcast. Decide that you are going to leave the office by a certain time, and that you’re not going to check email after another time. Dedicate yourself to those two promises and you’ll quickly feel a change.
Whether it’s a few minutes of yoga, sitting down with coffee and scanning the paper, or taking the dog on a short walk, knowing you’ll start your day with one activity that makes you happy sets the tone for everything after.
BUILD IN DOWNTIME
Begin by identifying the days with the greatest number of obligations, and take a look to see where you can find a 15-minute window to turn off your devices and hit an emotional reset. During this downtime you can squeeze in a quick trip outside, or even eat lunch at an actual table instead of at your desk. It’s easy to get lost in the meeting swirl, but to remain clear-headed, it’s critical to make time for you in the day.
RE-THINK YOUR RSVP
Everyone’s received an invite to something they don’t want to attend. Instead of putting on a good face and showing up, politely decline if the event doesn’t work for you. Excuses (especially ones that aren’t entirely true) aren’t even necessary. Try responding along the lines of, “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I won’t be able to make it but I look forward to hearing all about it.” Social obligations should not literally be an obligation; choose to do what works for you.
Don’t cringe! If you’re already stressed and over-scheduled, finding time to squeeze in a trip to the gym or a class seems insurmountable. So start small: Go for a quick walk, try doing a 30-second plank or a few pushups when you get drowsy. Exercise your brain and relax by downloading a meditation app. Over time, the positive changes made by a little bit of exercise will help motivate you to keep it a part of your normal routine.