This week I read this stat that people employed full time report working an average of 47 hours per week, which is apparently about an hour and a half longer than what was reported a decade ago. G.E. Miller argues that the United States is the most overworked developed nation in the world. In his article “Why Do Americans Have Less Vacation Time than Anyone Else?” Steven Mazie writes, “[T]he United States is the only OECD country that does not require employers to provide even a day of paid leave to its employees.” There’s no requirement for vacation days, sick leave, or days off for holidays in the states.
There’s clearly an issue in the United States about defining a healthy work-life balance. You may not be able to give yourself more vacation days, but there are some aspects that you can control. Below are some ideas to get you inspired and happy!
1. Defining balance in “work-life balance”
Sujan Patel describes in “Adopt These 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance” a situation of when you try to balance on your feet and how that connects to your work-life balance:
“Now, lean over significantly to the right. Are you still standing? I hope so! You haven’t lost your balance—even though your right foot is taking significantly more weight. This just goes to show that ‘balance’ doesn’t mean ‘equal.’ Sometimes, either work or your personal life takes more weight, depending on what’s going on at the moment—and that’s OK.”
I love this comparison because life can’t always be perfect, and it depends a lot on where you are in your life. When starting out a new business, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on that. If you decide to have a family, that new baby is going to take time and energy, too. It’s important to be flexible depending on what is happening at the present moment.
2. Leaving work at work
Stuart Jeffries suggests in “Ten tips for a better work-life balance” to leave work at work. For example, before you head out to the time clock and go home, you should write down everything that you’ll need to do at work for the following day and then just leave it there. Don’t worry or stress about it at home. He writes, “Closure is a big theme among those offering tips to a healthy work-life balance: the Mental Health Foundation says that if you do happen to take work home with you, you should try to confine it to a certain area of your home—and be able to close the door on it.”
But what about freelancers or those working from home? You can do the same thing! Try to keep your work in one room of the apartment or house, and don’t let it seep into other areas of your home.
3. Exercising, meditating, & mindfulness
In “6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance,” Deborah Jian Lee says, “Even when we’re busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat. We go to the bathroom. We sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs—exercise—is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up.” However, exercise and meditating can help you reduce stress and be happier at work and in your personal life. If you’re interested, you can check out my article “How to Practice Mindfulness at Work” for more tips.
4. Scheduling in downtime
Jen Uscher’s “5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance” first point is to build downtime into your schedule. Uscher explains, “When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends, and activities that help you recharge.” Additionally, by scheduling downtime, it incentives you to manage the time you do have better.
5. Setting expectations
By setting expectations with your boss or clients, they’ll know what you value and what works best for you. Jason Price suggests using “no cell phone calls after dinner or stating you won’t be checking email at night” (“5 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance”). If you’re clear up front about your work hours, most people will try to be respectful.