In our fast-paced modern world, it can be a challenge to find a work-life balance routine that, well, works. Between juggling job responsibilities, family commitments, social plans, and that seemingly elusive “me-time,” creating a work-life balance routine and staying with it can feel like work in and of itself. Routines can be difficult to maintain for many reasons, and psychology tells us that it largely has to do with decision-making. After a long day at work, we simply don’t have the same mental capacity to make decisions that we did at the start of the day. We are therefore more likely to opt for the path of least resistance which, in the context of your work-life balance activities, may mean heading straight home from the office instead of going to that workout class you’ve been wanting to try. The good news, though, is that, there are specific things you can do when planning out your routine to help make it stick. Below are some tips for how to make your work-life balance routine work for you:
In the workplace, the ability to multitask is often considered a necessity. However, it has actually been found that multitasking is less efficient than previously thought. Dividing our attention between multiple tasks at once may prevent us from investing the proper time, care, and focus required to do a good job. Instead, it is recommended to try ‘unitasking,’ or dedicating full attention and energy to one task at a time, and then moving onto the next. Unitasking allows us to be more present, aware, and engaged in the task-at-hand– in other words, to be more mindful. So how will this help you with your work-life balance routine? First, unitasking at work may help you to perform better and check more items off your ‘to-do’ list, which will free up time in your schedule for some non-work related activities. Second, and perhaps most importantly, unitasking encourages us to be ‘all in’ with what we’re doing. This means that instead of checking emails while out to dinner with friends, for example, we commit to being fully present for the duration of the meal. This allows us to actually enjoy what we are doing, which means we will see its value and likely take the time to make it a regular occurrence.
Schedule “We” Time and “Me” Time
A sustainable work-life balance routine should incorporate both some time for socializing, and some time for self-care. Socializing has many physical and mental health benefits, and spending time with friends and family can help us take our minds off of work-related stress. In addition, when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, doing it with others can help hold you accountable. A great way to make sure you stick to your health and fitness goals is to find a partner to join you. This not only makes it a more enjoyable social activity, but you will also be more likely to turn these behaviors into recurring habits if someone else is depending on you. On the other hand, it is equally important to carve out some quality ‘me’ time where you can check-in on what you need. From your boss and coworkers in the office, to significant others, roommates, or children at home, you may find that the majority of your day is spent interacting with others. If this is the case, then it is important that your work-life balance routine includes an activity that is just for you. Whether it’s finding a quiet moment for meditation and self-reflection, or lounging in a cafe with your favorite book, dedicating some time for self-care will help recharge your battery so you can be motivated for the rest of the week. Do you find it difficult to allow yourself to enjoy some free time away from your ‘to-do’ list? Try scheduling your ‘we’ time and ‘me’ time on the calendar like you would a regular meeting. This way, you can commit a specific amount of time to spend with yourself or others, and make it a priority.
Stay Flexible While Turning Your Goals into Habits
If you are looking to create a routine that you can consistently maintain, then it’s important to turn your goals into habits. Routines are comprised of habits, and you can turn your goals into habits by performing them consistently, regardless of how much time you spend. Perhaps you want to attend an hour-and-a-half long yoga class each morning, but it conflicts with your children’s school drop-off or the train schedule for work. Instead of giving up on this goal completely, try making adjustments that still allow you to incorporate it into your day in some capacity, such as attending a 30-minute session during lunch. When it comes to out-of-work activities, it’s easy to revert to an ‘all or nothing’ mentality where we either do something a specific way, or not at all. However, if you want to create a habitual work-life balance routine, it’s helpful to be creative, flexible, and open-minded. If you only have 20 minutes to go to the gym, go and make the most of it–you’ll still feel better than if you didn’t go at all, and you’ll be more likely to go again the next day when you do have more time. Just the act of doing something consistently is enough for you to make a mental commitment and to turn it into a habitual routine over time.
Work-life balance is crucial for mental, physical, and emotional well-being, and by following these steps, we can more easily create–and stick with–a work-life balance routine each day.