For many of us in the workforce today, the concept of a “healthy work-life balance” seems like a laughable, magical myth—a hyper-capitalist fairy tale, maybe. How on earth are we supposed to find balance when technology makes us accessible 24/7? In a world where Sunday morning conference calls and late-night work emails have become unfortunately commonplace, how the heck do we truly disconnect? How do we put just as much quality time and effort into our relationships, hobbies, and self-care as we do into our jobs? This may seem impossible, but trust us, you’ve got this. While work-life balance certainly means something different to everyone, there are a few key things to do, to carve out a system that works for you.
Okay, so maybe adding another commitment on top of your already-packed-to-the-gills schedule doesn’t sound like the best way to achieve a more peaceful, balanced existence. But hear us out: According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, people who volunteer versus those who don’t actually have fewer work-life conflicts and better positive mental health. Researchers polled 746 full- and part-time workers in Switzerland (35 percent of whom volunteered regularly, or at least a few times per year), and they found that volunteering, while time-consuming, “may contribute to a greater sense of balance for workers which might in turn positively influence health”. Considering the myriad of benefits that volunteering offers, we’re not exactly surprised by these findings.
Take more tech-free mental health days.
When was the last time you took some time off (an hour, a day) to just totally rejuvenate? No, you don’t have to jet off to Hawaii for a week to unplug and refresh. All you have to do is take a tech-free mental health day (or even just a tech-free lunch break!) every once in a while, to gain clarity and feel more energized. Because here’s the thing: People who truly maintain balance are able to turn off their tech devices and enjoy uninterrupted time doing things they enjoy. Get on it!
We know, we know: Maybe it’s not the most fun thing to hear, but as it turns out, getting regular exercise is nearly as crucial as eating healthy foods and getting good sleep. Dedicate a few solid chunks of time each week to a form of exercise that you love (or at least can tolerate) is essential if you want to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Not only does exercise help keep us healthy, in this crazy, crazy world of ours, it keeps us sane.
Quit wasting time.
Are you on Hour 3 of scrolling endlessly through Instagram videos or your Facebook feed? No judgment—social media as self-soothing is all the rage these days—but it’s probably time to put down the phone. To help cut down on wasted time, identify activities and people that you hold dear, things you want to prioritize and devote time to. Make a list! Then, establish some rules for yourself when it comes to time-wasting activities, like Twitter and checking your email every five seconds. Take social media notifications off your phone, use a productivity app like RescueTime to stay on task, and do whatever you need to do be able to focus on the people and activities that matter most to you.
No one “achieves” a perfect work-life balance and then stays in that perfect, pristine place forever. Like most things in life, finding the ideal balance between work and play is a constant ebb-and-flow. Just like a long-term relationship, figuring out your ideal work-home life situation requires consistent attention and care. But in the end, if it means less stress and better overall health, it’s 100 percent worth the effort.
Justine Harrington is a freelance journalist, essayist, and copywriter for travel and lifestyle brands based in Austin. Her work has appeared in Fodor’s, Backpacker, USA Today, the Austin-American Statesman, Austin Monthly, Austin Woman, Misadventures Magazine, and elsewhere.