We’ve all been there: You’re checking emails on a Sunday morning, waking up in the middle of the night stressing about your to-do list and forgetting whether or not you shampooed your hair in the shower because you’re thinking about work. You’re not bored or unhappy at work; you’re burnt out. One major cause of burnout is poor work-life balance. If this sounds like you, don’t worry — we asked Karen Hsu, VP of Marketing at Badgeville, a company that makes software that allows you to visualize achievements at work, for her best advice.
She says work-life balance isn’t just a luxury for top executives — it’s a necessity for anyone who wants to be as productive as they can be. In other words, everyone. Karen offered us these five solid tips for how to make sure your work-life balance is in prime shape.
1. Recognize your reactions to poor work-life balance. Karen pointed out that there are signs that your balance is off, but you have to know what they feel like. “If you start to see that things are bothering you in a way that they didn’t before, or if you’re agitated and you feel distracted or disengaged, those are clear signs that you don’t have that work-life balance,” she explained. Physical signs of poor work-life balance include headaches and insomnia. Pay attention to how your imbalance manifests itself emotionally and physically so that you can catch it early if it happens again.
2. Plan your work projects by the hour, day, week and so on. The single most effective way to have better work-life balance is to simply make sure you’re getting your work done at work. That means making those hours in the office as productive as they can possibly be. “Develop a plan, not just for today, but what you plan to do for the week, the month and the year. You have to have an understanding of what your goals are in each of those time periods,” Karen said.
“You can use this strategy to explain [to your manager] why you’re doing certain things and why you’re not doing certain things… because there are a million things we could do during the day, but we choose to do the more important things.” Not only will this strategy relieve your stress, but it’ll impress your boss too.
3. Put life appointments on your calendar. Karen suggested taking a break during the work day to think about things you want to do in your life outside of work. “I’ll take my lunch hour, and I’ll actually walk around the block and make appointments for myself, with my friends and for my family. It gives me that time to be like, ‘Okay, there’s more than just what I have to do today. There are other things that I can look forward to.’ And it’s really great, because I come back to work totally refreshed.”
4. Establish boundaries up front — and stay firm. This can be a tough one, especially if you’re working somewhere that has a culture of long hours and no offline time. But Karen explained that you can establish patterns that create a healthier balance for yourself. “People understand non-verbal cues that you make,” she said. “If you don’t want to work on the weekends, don’t send emails on the weekends. If you start looking at email and responding on the weekends, then yes, people are going to send you emails on the weekends. You have to be consistent.”
5. Break up your day with non-desk time. “If you just have long days and you have clients who want to talk to you at 5 o’clock and there’s no way around it, then make sure that you set time aside for yourself during the day and have a break. Whether it’s during lunch or in the afternoon, just take two hours. If you start at 7am in the morning and work ’til 7 at night, that’s really hard to keep up day after day,” Karen said. BUT, she told us, if you give yourself downtime in the middle of the day, you can work around the impossibly long hours. This one’s especially helpful for #girlbosses out there who know the self-employed struggle.