For most people in the workplace, work-life balance seems about as real as a unicorn. In fact, one study by the American Sociological Review found that seven out of ten American workers struggle to find this equilibrium.
Balance can be especially challenging for those who travel a lot for their career. And, the struggle can take its toll in a number of ways--fatigue, stress, poor health, and lost time with loved ones and friends.
But, as someone who trots the globe for her business, I'm here to tell you work-life balance isn't a myth. It's real! And, you can have it, too.
Follow these nine simple steps and get closer to a happier, more balanced life:
1. Define "balance"
You have to know what balance means to you. Is it being home for dinner three nights a week? Only traveling a certain number of days a month? Climbing Mt. Everest someday?
When you know what you want out of life, you can create a clear plan to achieve these goals.
2. Set boundaries at work
Once you know what you want, you have to set expectations in the workplace to achieve these goals. Maybe you're home early three afternoons a week, but you're available during certain hours after the kids go to bed.
Decide what types of situations you really need to respond to and learn how to say "no" and delegate more to your team. Another option is creating a job-share with coworkers.
3. Be proactive at home
Just as you set boundaries at work, you need to set boundaries at home. Talk to your family and significant other about what's important to you but also address what types of work situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid children or partner resentment when those events arise.
4. Walk the talk
Don't preach about work-life balance and then send emails in the middle of the night, regularly stay late at the office, and text your team members at off hours.
Managers are often unaware how their own behavior unintentionally sets the standard for the team. People may feel they too have to respond in the middle of the night, stay late until the boss leaves, and be responsive at all times during the week.
5. Emit positive energy
One of the best ways to avoid excessive stress is to put a smile on your face. You'll create a more easygoing atmosphere in your workplace and at home. A friendly "good morning" or a "please" and "thank you" can often work wonders for colleagues and family members.
6. Communicate openly
Honesty is always best in the long run. Let your team know what causes you stress, what workload you can master without difficulty, and how much time or help is required on a project. This can ensure your needs are met while enhancing teamwork and decreasing opportunities for stress.
7. Be aware of your limits and take breaks
Lunch at the computer? No, thank you. If you want to fight stress, you need time to recharge. So be sure to plan regular breaks. A brief change of location, fresh air, or a conversation with colleagues can provide new strength.
In an acute stress situation, it is helpful to take a break and to take a few deep breaths.
Humor makes us strong and resilient. Laughing with colleagues is not just fun, but helps us bond with one another. The next stress situation is thus only half as bad because the team shares the burden.
9. Get moving
Even if you feel exhausted after a long workday, just a little exercise ensures a palpable increase of energy and stress relief. Sport wakes us up and clears our minds. We feel more fit and alive. And a positive side effect--with the right exercise, you can avoid muscle strain and back pain!
Finding a balance between the demands of your job and the rest of your life is likely to be an ongoing endeavor, but one that's worth it. After all, this is your one and only life.