Anyone who works is apt to struggle in one regard or another. For some, it’s a matter of dealing with a bad boss or obnoxious coworkers. For others, it’s perpetual deadlines. But the single greatest challenge workers faced last year was none other than finding a better work-life balance, according to LinkedIn.
If you’ve had a hard time juggling a job along with a personal life, you’re clearly in good company. Here are five steps you can take to improve your work-life balance this year.
1. Set priorities
As mere humans, we can’t do it all–either at work or in life. As the new year kicks into gear, pledge to do a better job of setting priorities for yourself so that you’re spending your time meaningfully and don’t end up feeling bad about the things you ultimately have to say no to. For example, if you’re interested in three new projects at work that will eat up much of your time, choose the one that’s most likely to help your career, and get involved there. The same holds true on the personal front–you might want to coach your daughter’s soccer team, join the PTO, and volunteer for your favorite charity, but if you don’t have time for all of those things, choose the one that’s most important to you, and do it well.
2. Establish work-free hours during the week
In today’s technologically powered world, many of us are pressured to always be “on” when it comes to work. And while there’s nothing wrong with checking job-related emails after-hours or sometimes logging on during weekends to keep up with deadlines, if you’re looking for balance, there comes a point at which you have to force yourself not to work. This year, help yourself by establishing preset “nonwork hours” during the week. That could mean no checking email after 9 p.m. or banning job-related tasks on Sundays and reserving your waking hours for family time instead. Setting those boundaries will help train your brain into letting go and enjoying some downtime.
3. Plan for busy periods on the job
Many of us have our busy periods at work–those weeks or even months when our loads pick up and the pressure inevitably mounts. Rather than dread those periods, plan for them so you’re not totally stressed out at the time. If March and April, for example, are notoriously hectic at work, lighten your social calendar during those months and avoid committing to too many weekend plans in case you’re needed at the office. At the same time, find ways to make your schedule more manageable during that period, whether it’s asking friends to help out with childcare or budgeting extra for takeout so you don’t have to stress about cooking meals when you’re super busy.
4. Work from home on occasion
Some folks lose hours to their commutes each day. If you spend a chunk of your time in transit, working from home a few days a week might help free up space in your packed schedule that makes it easier to tackle the many responsibilities you’re tasked with. Of course, not all jobs lend themselves to telecommuting, but if you have one that can be done remotely, it pays to ask your manager to give a partial work-from-home arrangement a try.
5. Use all of your vacation time
The purpose of vacation time is to give yourself a break from the grind and get an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Yet Americans are surprisingly bad at taking vacation, so much so that last year, more than 1 in 5 admitted to having left days on the table. Using your vacation time can help you connect with friends and family or just plain feel like a person, so this year, be smart about taking the time you’re entitled to. Schedule your days off in advance so that work deadlines don’t impede you from getting that break, and work with your colleagues to cover one another so that you’re all able to take time off without stress.
The better work-life balance you find, the more content you’ll be on the whole. Follow these tips, and with any luck, you’ll have an easier time succeeding at work this year, all the while upholding your personal obligations and maintaining your sanity.