We live in a time-poor era where everything has to be done yesterday and our to-do list is ever growing.
Achieving work-life balance is an everyday challenge for many of us and it sometimes feel more like a dream than a reality can be realised. In the pursuit of a less frenetic life, I found simply the ability to get out of the office early can be of tremendous help to achieve a minimum quality of life outside work. After all, no amount of yoga, meditation, massages or escapades to paradisal destinations would keep us feeling rejuvenated for long if we barely get enough hours in a day to relax or sleep.
Having spent the bulk of my career in Tokyo where work days often merged into wee hours of the night, I had a lot to learn when it comes to leaving to work on time. Since relocating to Sydney where work-life balance is an integral part of everyday life, I picked up practices from my Australian colleagues to wrap up each work day at a decent hour no matter how busy. Below are five of such habits, which I found highly effective for me and I hope they’ll help you too.
1. Push back unreasonable deadlines and negotiate for a feasible timeline
Some days at work can feel like a race against the clock to meet seemingly endless requests in time to leave the office on time. It’s important to manage the demands of our internal and external stakeholders, such as our co-workers and clients, so that we do not have a plateful of deadlines and end up letting work eat into our restful nights. Make it a habit to say ‘no’ to unreasonable or overly tight deadlines and counter offer with a more feasible timeline.
2. Plan activities after work or dinners with family and friends
Human beings are habitual creatures. When we’re used to leaving work at a certain hour, we’ll stay in the office till our usual leaving time even when we’re done for the day. To motivate ourselves to leave work at a reasonable hour, plan after-work activities such as yoga, theatre performance or a movie or dinner with family/friends to get us out of the office. Alternatively, push yourself to wrap up work at a decent hour by imposing a penalty and donating the money to a charity of your choice each time you fail to abide with this new habit during a non-busy period at work.
3. Make the most of lunchtime for me-time, exercise and nourishing food
It may be counter-intuitive to take breaks when trying to power through a busy work day but the rewards of doing so are immeasurable. Using the lunchtime to reset and rejuvenate oneself is like taking a wonder pill for productivity. Make use the precious 60 minutes to carve out some me-time, connect with friends, nourish your body with wholesome food or move your body via a walk or a quick workout.
4. Reduce needless extra work by leveraging on existing materials
How often do we take a moment to reflect and plan before plunging headlong into a new set of tasks? By taking a step back and recount what existing work we can use, we save ourselves the effort of creating additional work when we didn’t need to. As a bonus, by doing so, we’ll produce a refined and improved version of previously created work in a shorter time if we had started from scratch.
5. Set clear expectations that you’ll leave work on time
Make it a point to leave work at a set reasonable hour every day after having completed your important and urgent tasks. If there’s any reason why you can’t finish your work in time, communicate to your colleagues, manager and/or clients and leave after receiving their understanding and arriving at a compromise. Strive to get the people you work with accustomed to the working hours that you’ve set.
Do you struggle to achieve work-life balance? What’s holding you back?
Which of the above tips would help you the most? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment below. 🙂