Work-life balance is a tough nut to crack, period. However, this nut gets tougher to crack when you work irregular hours. In these cases, it can be hard to track the amount of time you dedicate to work and play.
Research confirms that poor work-life balance can quickly take a negative toll on your personal and professional life. Despite that, 33 percent of the employed adults in the US work over the weekends or holidays. No wonder 72 percent of people are not entirely happy with their work-life balance, as per a survey by Brilliant.
So, should you give up your quest for work-life balance altogether if the going gets tough? Not at all. Follow these tips for breathing some structure and calm into your work and play hours:
1. Draft weekly and daily to-do lists — and stick to them.
To-lists are the pillars that keep you afloat when you work irregular hours. They will line up things that you need to get done, so there are fewer odds of forgetting what you have to do. Plan out your week with a master weekly to-do list. On top of that, prepare your daily lists of 'dos the night before. Your brain has limited decision-making ability every day, so you can’t drain it by setting up goals every morning. Preserve your energy by setting goals the night before.
2. Focus on your strengths.
We only have so many hours in a day. The best way to use the available hours is, therefore, by doing what you are best at. Outsource other tasks that aren’t your strong suit. Attempting to do these tasks can wind you down, sipping a lot of your time and energy – a big NO when working with an irregular schedule.
3. Remove distractions.
You need to make the most of the time you spend working so that work doesn’t seep into your personal life hours. To ensure that you’re getting the most done, eliminate distractions. Work in a quiet place or play some music to concentrate. Noisli is a great app for playing natural tunes that can help boost productivity. Guilty of hopping from one site to another? Use RescueTime to block distracting websites.
4. Don’t keep your email open.
An average person checks their email about 15 times in a day. However, researchers suggest that checking your inbox just three times in a day can reduce stress significantly. Consistently checking emails can also drain your productivity as “your inbox is everyone else’s to-do list for you, aligned to their goals and objectives, not necessarily your goals and objectives” according to Carol Tate, author of “Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.” So, pick a time to check your email and then stay away from the incoming messages to conquer your to-do list.
5. Use the pomodoro technique to get work done.
The pomodoro technique means working for 25 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of break. Repeat this four times before taking a 15-minute break. During your work episodes, also known as pomodoros, you need to concentrate only on one task at a time minus any distractions. In other words, you can’t check your Facebook notifications or emails during work periods. If you need to get the scoop on what's happening online, check them during your 5-minute break.
6. Design a workspace and keep away from it during your personal hours.
To separate work and play, you may also need to separate your workspace from your other spaces. Add some green plants to the space to help you up your productivity by roughly 15 percent. Try to keep it clutter-free, and don’t neglect comfortable seating.
Be careful of the paint you choose for your office place, too. Low-wavelength colors such as calming blue and green are known to boost focus and efficiency. Go for yellow for greater creativity and energy. The key pointer to keep in mind though is to stay away from your home office when you are not working so that your mind gets the break it deserves.
7. Create strong boundaries.
This is as simple as not doing work during your personal hours and not thinking about what you’d cook for dinner during your business hours. So, in a way, it’s not about work-life balance, but boundaries, as proposed by Author Carlos Hidalgo.
On the Marketing Smarts podcast, he shared this perspective, “I don't believe in work/life balance, I believe in work/life boundaries...[being] as protective about [our] relationships and [personal] time as we are anything else.”
So, enjoy your work, but don’t forget personal time. You'll be better in both spheres for it.