When we think of work-life balance, having shorter working hours seems like a pre-requisite. But that’s a myth. Recent studies indicate that inspite of not wanting to, we are actually working for way more than 40 hours a week. Anywhere between 5 to 20 hours more during weekdays, and around 6-8 on weekends. Bottom-line: our work-lives are getting more demanding by the minute. More so with work-from-home options and the omni-present digital revolution.
How do we approach or define work-life balance then, with work seemingly becoming our life? Here are some ideas.
Think week, not day. Our tendency is to plan for 24 hours at a time, because it seems more manageable or achievable. But experts weigh in on planning for the entire week, by listing all our priorities – personal and professional. Can work days on Tuesday and Thursday be shorter to accommodate dinner with family? Would Wednesday be a good day to focus on the big project deliverable for Friday? According to Vanessa Chan, the founder at re.design studios, consider your entire week and ask, “What am I putting off and when can I do that?”
Know where your time flows. As much as we all need to manage our time, it is a skill in itself. Which is why, interviewer Paula Pant, Afford Anything Podcast, recommends even keeping track of your personal time. Not just the 8 hours of your work. The idea – to know what activities give you energy in your non-work time, as opposed to tiring you out. Can your internet browsing time be reduced by 15 minutes, to accommodate a quick jog? How about a power nap?
Make work fun. We hear this one a lot. But how many of us are able to make it happen? We may not always luck out on the exact project we like, or have flexible hours. But in what other ways can we make our work hours more enjoyable? The ideas are numerous – good peer relationships, a desk tailored to our tastes, energizing conversations, sharing/ receiving appreciation, or having lunch/ coffee rituals. This is important because our personal lives are influenced by the experience of our professional lives.
List your non-negotiables. With piling demands of work, it is easy to forget what matters to us. That hour of yoga, cooking dinner with family, maybe even a weekend of digital detox. List down all the things that help you recharge, and feel more in control of your time and energy. Then protect them fiercely. It could be something as simple as going to bed at 11.00 PM! If you don’t lobby for them, no one will.
The bigger picture when it comes to work-life balance: not all your hours will look the same. December can be a lean month, while June can feel stressful. There is an inherent balance at play. Tune into it, make it work.