The beginning of a new year often sparks a yearning to make the changes you’ve been wanting to for quite some time. These typically relate to being healthier, getting fitter, starting a new hobby, learning a new skill, or advancing your career.
But if there’s one key thing you should be focusing on in 2018, it’s a better work-life balance. Get this right and the rest will follow – you’ll be healthier, happier and more productive at work.
This year is about discovering a balance that works for me, keeping me healthy and happy without compromising my desire to continue surprising and challenging myself on my career adventure. Here’s how I plan to do this…
I enjoy spontaneity, but lately I have found equal pleasure in organising myself, which those who know me probably won’t believe. With an apparent endless to-do list, I have recently been feeling guilty about stopping work before 11pm to relax before bed, which is pretty absurd.
To bat this guilt away, I want to try booking in time for myself every day. This may be in the form of meeting up with friends, spending time with my boyfriend, or very simply doing something which I enjoy like reading or watching TV. By planning when I do this I hope to be able to truly enjoy it, rather than constantly feeling like the ghost of hard work is spying on me.
Set regular and achievable goals
I used to keep goals in my head, a broad idea of what I want to achieve in different areas of my life but never really knowing exactly how to get there. My goals felt so much more real when I began writing them down and thinking properly about what I want to achieve.
To anyone looking for a planner, I highly recommend action diaries or bullet journals. Both help you organise your life as well as encouraging you to write weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. You write annual goals, but also mini aims within these to help you reach the ultimate objective. For example, one of my goals is to excel in my journalism course and a mini goal is practising shorthand every day.
Plan activities to look forward to
The day-in, day-out routine of work, study, and life organisation can be knackering, but one motivation technique which helps me is to plan fun activities to look forward to. This is important for your mental wellbeing, no matter how busy you are. I always try to make sure I can look back on my weeks and pinpoint the fun I’ve had.
These plans don’t have to be expensive. Hang out with friends, visit family, spend time in the fresh air. Being away from your work desk and out of your routine can make a big difference.
Use the Pomodoro technique to become more efficient
I discovered this simple time management technique last year and haven’t looked back. It’s helped me to get more work done in less time, therefore finding a better work-life balance.
The Pomodoro technique is working solidly for 25 minutes, then having a five-minute break before starting work again. Or if you have a short task to complete, simply working for 25 minutes. This means avoiding answering your phone, going on social media, or doing anything else apart from the task at hand. I began using this at work, then expanded it to studying and work I do at home because it was so effective.
Get up earlier
As a definite night owl, this is not one of my favourite things, but it is something I want to work hard at achieving in 2018. Currently I leave myself just enough time to get ready for work, but I plan to start getting up an hour earlier than I do and study for a while, freeing up more time in my evenings.
If you’re like me and mornings hurt, find a way to motivate yourself to get up earlier. Maybe reading for ten minutes before getting up or preparing a tasty breakfast will help. If you already have to get up ridiculously early for work, think about how else you could use your time effectively, for instance getting some work done during your commute.
Make a study plan
Studying alongside working is a bit scary, but before I started my course I decided the only way to do this would be to organise my study time and start revising early.
To plan my studying around my job, I work out what I need to get done every week and then make a quick timetable on a Sunday night depending on what my week looks like. As far as possible, I try to avoid working on Sundays as it is my only day off. If you are studying or balancing lots of commitments, try to broadly stick to your aims but don’t beat yourself up if don’t get there sometimes.
Ensure high productivity during the working day
Over Christmas, my mum told me about her old boss who demanded that everyone be out of the office by five o’clock because he wanted to leave and didn’t think anyone should need to dedicate more time. Apart from thinking that this manager was cool, I realised that what he said made a lot of sense. You should be able to do your job in your contracted hours, and why work for longer if you’re not getting paid?
Being as productive during your working day as possible will prevent you needing to stay later than your allotted hours, therefore giving you more free time. Having recently started a new job, I am determined to be as productive as possible. The Pomodoro technique mentioned above helps, as does taking a few minutes at the start of your day to plan what you will achieve in the rest of the working day.
Keep an achievements diary
If you’re a workaholic or a perfectionist, leaving work alone might be difficult. Maybe you write unrealistic to-do lists and then when you haven’t ticked off all the items at the end of your day, you can’t possibly go to bed feeling good.
To combat this, I plan to write three positive things I have achieved that day. Maybe I overcame a challenge at work, wrote a piece of content I’m really proud of, or just made a damn delicious dinner. Whatever it is, however big or small, confirming the amazing things you have achieved in your day will help you feel satisfied with yourself.
Spend a bit less time on social media
I love social media. I know the negative effects it can have and have been a victim of them myself, (we probably all have) but I also know the positives it creates and the opportunities it gives us. However, sometimes social media is a way I put off doing something I’m too lazy or reluctant to do, and this is what I want to get rid of in 2018.
To do this, I have told myself to always have a reason for visiting social media before I go on it. This could be as simple as I haven’t checked my Twitter feed yet or as specific as I need to share that article I’ve just written. All I want to avoid is mindless scrolling. Another technique I’m using is to switch off push notifications on all channels apart from Messenger.
Put my health and happiness on par with my career
Lastly and most importantly, I want to work on developing a more equal view of my priorities. Health and happiness should be top, but it’s easy to place these behind working for a successful career. What I want to achieve is a healthy lifestyle which strikes balance and therefore makes me happy and more successful overall.
As well as my above changes, I am working to ensure I have a healthy diet (one that allows me to eat what I want in moderation), exercise regularly, and get around seven hours sleep a night. I will aim to stop working around an hour before going to bed where possible, and ensure I always have lots to look forward to.
Here’s to a more balanced and very exciting 2018! Remember that finding your work-life balance is personal to you. You need to decide what you want it to look like and you need to make sure you achieve that – you deserve it!