Sunday, 21 September 2014

Ten practical tips to improve your work life balance

Balancing the demands of home and family with those of work is never easy. Get it right and you feel great, but get it wrong and you leave yourself open to the negative mental and physical effects of stress.

There are some practical things you can do to help improve the balance between work and home and to make life easier and happier.

1. Accept that doing the best you can is good enough.
There's nothing wrong with having high standards or setting goals but they need to be tempered with what's possible and practical. No-one is perfect at everything, and demanding absolute perfection of yourself will make you feel as if you are constantly failing. As your family and career change, remember to change your goals as well. Sometimes setting time aside to be with your kids is more important than one more hour of overtime or cleaning out the kitchen cupboards.

2. Put personal/relaxation time in your diary.
In one of the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, Rabbit - a control freak if ever there was one - is holding a party. One of the items on his agenda is "3.02 pm: rabbits have fun". I'm not suggesting you go quite this far, but writing in your family commitments (even if it's just a pizza and video night) makes it more likely you will remember to arrange work commitments around them.

3. Don’t let your holiday days stack up and your breaks go by unnoticed. 
If you can, schedule a long weekend or short break at regular times throughout the year. If you are self employed it’s particularly important to take a break from time to time as work can become a 24/7 activity. Put a holiday message on the emails and phone, and switch them off for a day or two. Think about something else!

4. Discourage family from calling you at work unless it’s urgent.
Be honest. You don’t really need to have texted updates on the goldfish's latest antics or check your personal facebook page every ten minutes. When you are at work, focus just on that; you'll get more done in less time without the distractions. Then, when you do get home, spend some quality time with family swapping notes about your day (and the goldfish).

5. Demarcation zones!
Try to separate work and play/family. If you have to bring work home, don’t do it in bits and pieces over the whole evening so you never really switch off. Get it all done in one go, ideally always work in a specific place in the house and shut the door on it when you've done. Some people find it’s better to wear their work clothes, then change out of them when the work is complete.

6. Have a separate phone for work.
Very useful where this is practical. It means you can still connect with friends and family without seeing work stuff as well. Switch your work phone off for at least an hour a day.

7. Learn to say no.
While it’s a good thing to be dedicated to your career, keen to support your family, helpful and accommodating of colleagues and so on, don't let yourself people take advantage. If you find it hard to say no email me at and ask for my fact-sheet on how to say no gracefully - and mean it.

8. Don't think it’s selfish to do what you want to do.
If you need a long bath with aromatherapy 'smellies', a game of football with your mates, or a meal out with your partner, let yourself have it. Learning to switch off and controlling your stress levels makes you more effective in the long run, not less, so everyone will benefit.

9. Pareto's Law …
says that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your effort. Identify which of your activities benefit you most, and focus most of your efforts there.  Try to let go of those activities which achieve the least.

10. Delegate!
The art of delegation is a tricky one, and the key to successful delegation is to delegate to the right people. Trade jobs with your partner: if you prefer to walk the dog instead of washing up, do it. If you can hand some smaller jobs onto the kids do that too (and don’t re-do them afterwards - remember rule 1!). If you need to work longer hours for a while, invest some of the extra cash into paying cleaners or gardeners so you still have quality time with the family.


Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.Find out more on  or phone 01977 678593

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