Everyone aims for a good work-life balance and strives to thrive at work while still having time and energy for our other pursuits, be it family or hobbies. But the truth is, on average, everyone works way too long to make room for much else.
However, according to a recent Compass survey of over 1,200 businesses across eight markets in Asia and Australia, over 30% of people work a minumum of 10 hours per day, while more than 75% of people bring additional work home at least once a week. That is an inordinate amount of time spent toiling away at a desk, and the last time we checked, balance implies something closer to a 50:50 ratio! If this is you, don’t worry, here are five changes you can start making today that might help you even the scale.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
First things first – accept that you are only human. Do not set unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as thinking you can work 12-hour days (as around 18% of respondents to our survey who are based in the Philippines do), attend every parent-teacher conference and whip up gourmet dinners every night. Doing so will only add to your stress when you inevitably fall short. In work and in life, sometimes you must sacrifice one element for another, and that’s alright. More important is how you manage in the long run.
Now that you’ve surrendered to your humanity, an important step in regaining a work-life balance is not to be afraid of asking for help. There is no shame in hiring a babysitter to come and watch your kids so that you and your spouse can have a nice dinner. Or perhaps you need to spend a little more money and subscribe to a laundry delivery service so that you can free up time for your hobbies. Accepting help doesn’t make you lazy, it just means you’re prioritising your needs and getting the assistance you need to fulfill them. Remember, you can do anything, but just not everything!
With our phones now tethered to our emails, our jobs literally follow us home in our pockets – something that is a serious issue for around 17% of our Singaporean respondents, who take extra work home with them at least three times a week. If it’s not realistic to completely sever ties between the two worlds, such as using two separate phones and computers, one of which you leave at the office, set guidelines for yourself. Allow a specific time frame during which you allow yourself to check emails, but be strict about turning off your phone by a certain time each night. Phone notifications are also intrusive and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system says Dr. Robert Brooks, author of The Power Of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, And Personal Strength In Your Life , so putting away your phone entirely at the gym or even all of Sunday could go a long way. Failing that, it may be time to consider a short digital detox to help you escape the screen entirely.
Whether you’re at work or at home, don’t think about the client meeting next Thursday while you’re supposed to be finger painting with your daughter. Make a conscious effort to carve out time for family and hobbies, and not just use whatever time is left over from work. Don’t let your professional life encroach on those other arenas. By setting hard boundaries, you’ll become more efficient in both home and work life. As with most things this takes practice, but after a while you’ll build resilience. Before long, you’ll be watching a movie all the way through without having to peel your eyes from your phone.
Especially outside of your usual working hours. This can be difficult as you can often feel guilty that you’re not “pulling your weight”, but continually agreeing to take on more work sets a precendece and soon becomes the norm. Our Korean respondents tended to find this easier than some of their international peers, with around a third stating that they never take work home with them after hours. In his TED Talk on work-life balance, Nigel Marsh said, “It’s up to us as individuals to take responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you and you may not like their idea of balance.” If you’re thinking of following up your refusal with excuses, stop right there, you don’t have to apologize for spending your free time as you choose, and always remember that “No” is a complete sentence.
Follow these straightforward tips and the work-life pendulum should soon swing back towards its centre.
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