How to improve your work-life balance

The effect of overwork

The pressure of work can impact your long-term mental and physical wellbeing. According to 2010 figures from mental health charity Mind (reported in The Independent), work-related stress, anxiety or depression can cost the economy up to £26 billion a year, a hefty bill for employers.

Learn to say ‘no’

Being available 24/7 does you no favours. It’s tempting to always say yes when you’re revving up your career, and to ‘show willing’, but life coach Melanie Allen explains in the Guardian that setting tougher boundaries works in your favour.

“If you tend to say yes without thinking when you’re asked to do something extra, stall. Don’t answer straight away. Say you’ll get back to the person asking, then use that time to think clearly about whether to say yes or no. Don’t justify your actions or give excuses”.

Work smarter, not harder

Let’s clear up a myth: Being productive does not mean working longer hours and getting less sleep.

Working smarter means finding efficient ways of getting more work done in less time, which gives you time to do more meaningful things. Focus on ruthlessly prioritising essential tasks, and don’t be afraid to down tools at home time. Presenteeism is not productivity!

Think of your health

‘Burnout’ is a common term for work exhaustion, and results in taking endless time off sick due to stress and illness. Look out for the early warning health signs including tiredness, lack of concentration and increasing stress levels. Take action by doing regular bouts of daily exercise before or after work; it can boost your mood and vitality. The NHS says that regular healthy activity can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer.

Ditch the deadwood

Making good use of time and energy means recognising timewasting: things that don’t benefit your life or health. Health website WebMD outlines several strategies for doing this. Marilyn Puder-York, a psychologist and coach says, “Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value – for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping”.

Identify the drains on your time, then spend less time on them, or cut them out altogether.

Need help?

It’s good to talk. When it all gets a bit much, get advice from trusted colleagues or managers who will be able to understand and help.

It’s not easy, but not suffering in silence can be more productive in the end. You can work out ways to help organise and share your workload, and get the breathing space you need to refocus and recharge.

Family time

Aviva’s research of 2,000 UK adults revealed the average family spends only 36 minutes of quality time together each day, no thanks to lack of sleep and poor diet resulting from increased stress and anxiety at work.

That means you can miss out on a whole heap of important life moments with friends and loved ones, not to mention neglecting your own personal growth and development.


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