Modern life is, for a lot of us, a constant and stressful juggling act.
Whether you’re employed or self employed, with all the work demands put upon us, it can be all too easy to never switch off. Modern technology unfortunately means that we are essentially reachable 24/7 and we often don’t help ourselves when checking work emails at 10pm. We often don’t draw the line at 5pm to enjoy family life; instead we keep one eye on social media and work deadlines.
So, we need to find a way to regain some of our work-life balance, remember that work shouldn’t take up more of our life than our family or indeed ourselves and make a conscious effort to switch off and enjoy some leisure time. But how do we achieve that? Well, the answer does to an extent lie in the word ‘conscious’. It’s not something we can simply hope for, it’s something we need to actively aim for. I know, it sounds like a contradiction: work on having a work-life balance. However, these initial efforts are definitely worth it in the long term. So, here are some tips on how to achieve this.
Firstly, don’t try to be perfect. Nobody has the perfectly immaculate home with no laundry ever in sight, the perfect kids who only ever feast on home cooked meals made from scratch, the manicured garden and well behaved puppy on top of a full time job. Nobody. Whether it’s an unmade bed or an email that has been answered in a short and factual (instead of elaborating on the subject mulling over every single word) way, the notion that everything needs to be just so is piling on an awful lot of pressure that detracts from your free time and the hours of the day you should enjoy. Just say ‘this will do’ and watch how much more time you might suddenly have.
Step away from the computer. Yes, as a freelancer I’m guilty of checking my emails at ridiculous times and looking at social media on weekends. The result? I feel ever so slightly overwhelmed at times when I should be relaxing. There’s only one way to deal with it: shutting down the computer and leaving work at work. Even if somebody does send you an email at midnight, that person simply won’t expect a reply until the next day, so there’s no point seeing it in the first place and then stressing about it. A continuous social media stream on mobile devices can be even worse because there are constant updates we fear we might miss. The thing is, you will miss updates even if you check all through the night, so there’s no point in getting worked up about it. Check the few accounts that are of real interest to you before 6pm and then put the phone away together with your computer.
Not all work is equally important. Make a list of things that absolutely need to be dealt with in order of importance and work through it. The funny thing with lists is that once you’ve crossed off an item, they become quite rewarding because you can actually see what you’ve achieved each time you cross off another bit. You could make a second list of items to tackle “if time allows”, which are not mega urgent. The second list should literally hide underneath the first one so that it doesn’t add any pressure and even if you don’t get to it on that day, you can look at the first one and happily pack your bag and go home at 5.30pm.
Have hobbies. If you have a family with small children, then chances are this will take up a huge chunk of your spare time. That’s only natural. However, you should still make a little time for yourself and pursue something you really enjoy. It can be as simple as a walk in the park or a yoga class, learning a foreign language or joining a baking class. Whatever it is, it should be something that is just for you. Even if it only lasts for 90 minutes, it’s the kind of time that will make you relax, releases stress and lets you know you’re alive.
Be a listener
Listen to your family and/or partner. A low level murmur of ‘you’re always working, you never make time for us, you never really listen’ is a pretty good indicator that something needs to change. You won’t change everything at once, least of all your personality which might be hardwired into working long hours and always delivering perfect results, but taking small steps each day will eventually lead to a better work-life balance which will benefit you, your health and your family. At the end of the day, these are the things that matter, not a missed tweet or an email that can be sent the next day.
Wishing you all a relaxed day.
Carole Poirot is a freelance photographer and stylist who lives and works in London. Originally from France, she has also lived in Germany and uses these influences to help inform her own style and advice. Her ideas are also published on her blog at mademoisellepoirot.com.