I am a firm believer that even the negative events that occur in our lives can yield unexpected blessings, or blessings in disguise. One obvious example—and one of the reasons I’m a career coach in the first place—is that getting laid off from a job can start you down a path to find something far more rewarding than what you were doing before. Even if you switch from one job to another within a similar field, transitioning between jobs is an opportunity to reclaim a healthy work-life balance that perhaps you lost or never even knew before.
Many people who find themselves between jobs notice something important during that in-between time: They have a life outside of work. They have a family, they have friends, they have things they love to do. When we’re locked in the “rat race” of making a living, it’s easy to let our job take over every aspect of our lives. We work late, we bring work home, or we’re distracted to the point that we aren’t really “present” when we come home to our families. But when the job is suddenly no longer front-and-center, we are reminded of some of the priorities that we’ve forgotten about—the people and the lifestyle we’ve been working for but rarely get to enjoy anymore.
If that describes you, what happens when you get that new job offer? You now have a choice: You can go back to the way things were, or you can allow this to be a teaching moment. You shouldn’t have to choose between your job and your life. There’s room in your world for both if you will make it a priority to balance them. Here are some tips for finding a better work-life balance.
Nurture Time Management Skills
Making space in your world for work, family and friends is a discipline—it doesn’t happen automatically. Adopt a time management system that works for you: for example, Getting Things Done, the Franklin Covey System or the Pomodoro Technique. One simple technique I use, especially when trying to accomplish a project, is to make an actual appointment with myself on my calendar to work on that thing. I’m a stickler for keeping appointments, so this little hack helps me stay on track.)
Whatever works for you, plan your days and stick to your plan. Just the act of doing this will help you be more focused and productive during work hours because you know psychologically there’s only so much time before the next thing on your agenda. In addition, the more repetitive tasks at the office that you can automate or delegate, the more you can make your time at work count so you’re not pressured to work late.
Know Your Own Rhythm and Plan Around It
We all have times during the day when we are more alert and have more energy than at other times. When managing your time, pay attention to these rhythms and try planning your highest-concentration tasks at times when you’re most alert. For example, if you’re a morning person, schedule your most intensive tasks in the morning.
Guard Your Down Time
Work-life balance is all about boundaries. When we don’t set firm boundaries around our “down time,” it’s too easy for work to consume us can cause burnout. Even if you’re behind on work, decide that when work hours are over—they are over. Come home, be with family, do something you love—whatever you do to hit the reset button. Leave work at work.
In today’s hustle-and-bustle society, many people are discovering that certain mindfulness techniques (e.g., meditation, yoga, breathing exercises) make it easier to maintain an internal sense of balance. The simple act of stopping and breathing can help you refocus and learn again how to live in the moment—a key element of a work-life balance. Find some sort of mindfulness technique that suits your lifestyle and belief system and practice it diligently. Over time, this mental discipline makes it much easier to put work away when it’s time to do so, and to embrace the family, friends and life that are in front of you.