While the later decades of the twentieth century saw more women entering the work force and placing higher importance on their careers, many struggled to balance a full-time job with the realities of managing other responsibilities at home.
Even in our modern society, women are often expected to take on multiple roles, building a career while maintaining a household and even taking the lead in social responsibilities and event planning.
Benefits of Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is easy to understand, though not always so easy to implement. It means creating some clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life. Learning to shut down at the end of the work day and enjoy time away from your job without constantly checking emails or taking work-related calls is important for several reasons:
- Improved focus on things that matter — Work matters, of course. Many women derive a sense of accomplishment and competence from the work they do in addition to the financial reward. When work tasks or thinking about work bleeds over into time that should be dedicated to family, home life or personal time, however, nothing gets your complete focus. Achieving a better work-life balance can improve your performance in all areas of your life by allowing you to apply the full force of your talents on each task, work or personal.
- Increased energy and enthusiasm — Working too much can lead to feeling overwhelmed. When you do not leave your work in the office, that overwhelmed feeling comes home with you, too. Eventually, burnout happens. An appropriate work-life balance lets you leave work stresses behind when you go home at the end of the day. You have a chance to recharge before heading back to work in the morning with a renewed sense of energy.
- Optimal health — Too much time and energy spent on work can cause stress, and that stress becomes pervasive in your home life as well. Prolonged stress can cause disease — everything from mental disorders to cancer. Achieving a better work-life balance will improve your health and protect you from future illness.
- Maximum productivity — Spending 10 hours a day at work may seem like the best way to get all your work done, but it actually is not. Everyone has an optimal number of hours of productivity each day. After the first couple hours, your work tends to slow down. In the middle of the day, you may get a small boost from eating lunch, but then your productivity drops off quickly. People who work shorter days find they accomplish much more in a day.
When the amount of time you spend working decreases, the quality of your work usually increases. Balancing work and recreation keeps you charged up for those tough projects. Your creativity is higher when your brain is not burned out from long-term stress.
Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance
The imbalance in your life between work and home did not happen overnight, and it is going to take some time to unravel your hectic schedule. A lot of it comes down to habit, and habits are hard to break. However, the best way to break a habit is to replace it with a better one. Here are some ideas:
- Schedule your breaks — Put breaks on your schedule the same way you would an important appointment, and do not schedule over them. Think of a break as an important appointment with yourself.
- Use your time efficiently — Instead of spending time at work socializing in the break room or listening to co-workers vent about the boss, do your work. When you accomplish tasks and can cross them off your to-do list, you will gain enthusiasm and mental energy – and you’ll be more likely to be able to leave on time.
- Reduce the busy work — Consider reducing some of your time-consuming tasks by doing things like buying your groceries online instead of driving to the store and standing in line at the checkout. You might also combine errands and do them all at once rather than driving around town every day to accomplish one task.
- Start with a few minutes — Even a five-minute break to clear your mind can make a tremendous difference in your day. If you try to change your work habits all at once, you may not be successful. Instead, take five minutes to stand up, stretch or just close your eyes and think about something that relaxes you.
- Add some exercise to your day — You may think you are too busy to squeeze one more thing into your day, but making time to exercise — even if it’s just for 20 minutes — will help reduce your stress. Make exercise a daily routine, and you will feel better about yourself, more energetic and less worn down.
Achieving work-life balance is important to your life. Women are more likely to take on extra tasks and the emotional sense of responsibility that goes with them. Without a conscious effort to balance your work-life and everything else, you could be pushing toward fatigue, mental and physical illness.