August 23, 2021

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

An unhealthy work-life fusion can put our mental (and even physical) health at risk. For anyone struggling to find the right balance in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve compiled tips on how to regain your personal time.

Over the past 18 months, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have had to turn to remote working as offices and public spaces closed down. More than a year in, working from home has become the norm for those who are able to - and it looks to be this way for a long time, at least for many businesses. 

While many companies have spoken out unfavorably about working from home, the reality is that, right now, we remain to be doing so. While this means no more long commutes, and the potential to really free up a few hours for ourselves each day, if we're not careful, this new 'normal' can put our mental health at risk.

Men and women across the globe are having to multitask two of the biggest and most draining jobs we will ever have: employment and family life. The integration of work and home have blurred a line that needs to be crisp and clear, and our mental wellbeing is being tested. 

In this article, we explore the best strategies for balancing professional and personal lives so that we can work productively, spend quality time with our families, and most importantly, rest sufficiently.

Working Hard, Hardly Working - Grace Beverley

On Uptime

In this book, fitness entrepreneur Beverley explores the world outside of the toxic work culture. Key to her findings is that Millennials and Gen Z-ers are the most burnt out and underpaid. With more experience comes a salary increase, but the latest working generations have figured out that side-hustles can be a quick way to climb the economic ladder. 

quotation marksI never feel the same two days in a row, but the reality of work is that sometimes you need to get the f*ck on and do something, and sometimes you need to convince yourself that relaxation is the most productive thing you can do.

As a result, their lives revolve mainly around work. This is further accentuated by social media, which often promotes unhealthy and unrealistic side-hustle standards. (But you can read more about stepping away from social media and your smartphone here.)

But what isn’t promoted as much, however, is self-care, and Beverley is keen for us to set aside dedicated time to recharge. Intentionally scheduling time to do nothing allows us to recover and to disconnect from the stresses that we deal with in both our working and personal lives.

Take action by filtering social media and setting aside relaxation time as often as you require it, all while nurturing your passions and having an enjoyable reason to work.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work - Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

On Uptime

Fried and Hansson also critically look at the modern working culture, and remind us to assess our priorities.

quotation marksWhat’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.

To make work seem less crazy, the authors ask us to consider work as a product. Just like software, companies and employees end up crashing if problems aren’t dealt with. Boost your efficiency and you will be able to work fewer hours. Conversely, it’s likely that you’re only less efficient than you can be because you’re working longer-than-necessary hours.

Lengthy meetings, frequent phone calls, and incessant Slack channel messages are all contributors to a loss of valuable time.

quotation marksHow do you know if someone’s working if you can’t see them? Same answer as this question: How do you know if someone’s working if you can see them? You don’t.

Allow others time and space to be productive, and it’s likely they’ll want to achieve - and surpass - goals.

Great at Work - Morton T. Hansen

On Uptime

Now we know what to do, how can we do it?

quotation marksWho wants to work dumb? But many people do in fact work dumb, because they don’t know exactly how to work smart.

Above all else, Hansen wants us to know that being successful doesn’t imply or require overtime, nor should it result in burnout. He compares his time working up to 90 hours a week with a colleague who never left the office after 6pm, nor did she work on weekends. In order to excel, we should evaluate what is worth our time, and what should be delegated. Selectivity and prioritisation allow us to utilise our skills to work more efficiently.

Like Fried and Hansson, Hansen suggests that we collaborate only where necessary, and when we do, that we adopt the ‘fight and unite’ method. Confrontation is essential for innovative ideas to emerge, as it allows a group of people to speak up and compare. The team must then unite to form one central solution. Frequent meetings and team catch-ups, he says, are a productivity killer and a waste of time. Only hold them if you can get something useful out of them.

Rest - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

On Uptime

quotation marksYou have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.

Founder of The Restful Company, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang helps people cultivate a more healthy work-life balance. Society has primed us to believe that the longer we work, the more we get done. For many, this simply isn’t true: productivity plummets after about four hours. He cites a study in which workers were found to be twice as productive working a 20-hour week as those working a 35-hour week. 

For the self-employed, trying this out can be easy. For those working a traditional 9-5 job, less so. As a minimum, we should be avoiding work during our breaks at all costs. Breaks are proven to boost productivity, especially in helping us find a solution to a problem.

Balancing Work and Life - Dave Crenshaw

On Uptime

For this final hack by Crenshaw, we’ve taken a slightly different approach. Rather than analysing a book, we’ve broken down the contents of a course so you don’t have to.

quotation marksWhat I recommend is that we create 'mini-harvests'. These are little steps along the way, where you get to enjoy the fruits of being a business owner, until that day when you finally get to sell or harvest your business.

We cannot change that there are 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. What we can change, though, is how we use each hour. Crenshaw calls this a time budget: put simply, a line in the sand that we use to determine when we stop work and start our personal lives. 

This will be different for every individual’s needs, but it needs to encompass not only work, but family time, down time, exercise and food. Be realistic with how much time you need so that you don’t overrun.

The 9-5 is a dated way of looking at work, and the once admired overtime is now frowned upon. Like a well-oiled machine, we should be working as efficiently as possible, and reducing the amount of hours we put into work if we can. As with employment, we should schedule personal time too.

For more lessons on striking the right balance between work and life, including lessons from Arianna Huffington on why the sustainability of your success is directly proportional to your resting hours, take a deep dive into our Knowledge Hacks on Uptime.

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