15 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance

By POPSUGAR Smart Living on 6 February 2012 (Updated 24 February 2012) 4 comments

Staying on top of your A-game and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can feel like an oxymoron. Most of us experience an uneven pull between our social lives and work commitments, which isn't surprising considering the current economy and fact that employees everywhere are working overtime to show they're an indispensable part of the team. Nevertheless, it's important to establish a healthy harmony between your job and personal life. This doesn't just mean working overtime to please your boss and boyfriend; it means creating a balance of time spent working, playing, and pleasing yourself.

RELATED: Work-Life Balance Tips for Newbies

Foster Healthy Weekday Habits

If we're not careful the weekdays can become one big work blur. Instigate healthy habits by taking a trip to the grocery store (save on groceries with these tricks) on Sunday and planning the meals you will make at home during the week, or challenge yourself to visit the gym four nights in one week. The time away from the computer and work worries will clear your mind, allow you to focus, and likely inspire you to be more productive when you are at the computer.

Learn the Value of Saying No

Most SavvySugar readers admit they have a hard time saying no to work and social invitations, which means many of you are getting roped into projects, parties, and events you'd rather say "no way, Jose!" to. Next time you are invited to something, weigh the benefit and cost before saying yes. If you think the event or project will have a positive impact on your productivity, career, and networking without disrupting your non-work schedule, go for it. If you think your personal life will suffer because of it, say no.

Remember, don't be too "nice" or you may not be able to get ahead at work.

Set Calendar Reminders

Set goals, appointments, lunch dates, or even eye breaks or gym appointments in your work calendar. The little office notification will pop up and force you to stop what you are doing and focus on your goal.

Put Family First When You're Home

Your family and loved ones will come to resent you if you keep your eyes on your laptop or phone every night. Make quality-time dates with your family or significant other after dinner to distract you from your workload. The work will always be there in the morning, or after Glee. Savor your at-home time while you can.

Get Your Zzzs

When you're running up against the clock and finishing a high priority project, it's easy to lose track of time and pull an all-nighter. But chances are you won't produce your best work at 4 a.m. after 20 hours in front of the computer. Don't compromise your sleeping schedule or ignore the power of your beauty rest. The pile will still be there in the morning, and chances are your co-workers won't respond to their email before 9 a.m. anyway.

Having trouble waking up? Use these tips to wake up and get out of bed fast.

Know When to Unplug

While most of us can't finish all our tasks while we are in the office, it's crucial to set boundaries. If you carry your laptop home with you at night and often work on it while watching TV or hanging out at home for more than an hour, stay at work for an extra 45 minutes instead to finish critical tasks and leave your computer at the office. If you carry your BlackBerry with you everywhere and check work email every five minutes, make a rule to only check it once or twice an hour. You'll be more productive and still be able to relax and focus on your non-work life.

Sign Up For a Class

If challenging yourself to cook or visit the gym isn't doing the trick, sign up for a class you can't miss. If you pre-pay for a yoga or French pastry class you will be more likely to show up and detach from work for those few hours.

Take Personal Breaks During the Day

Unless your employer asks you to clock in and out for breaks, you should assume responsibility for your time. Make sure you've scoped out your manager's take on personal breaks and then make a schedule to give yourself 15 or 20 minutes of break time during the day. Take a walk around the block and call your mom or BFF. Make a list of errands you need to accomplish during the week and then sit outside Starbucks for 15 minutes while you make your phone calls. Your fellow employees will appreciate you not making personal calls in the office and you will feel as though you've taken a work break and taken care of your personal items.

Leave Work at a Decent Time

Employers pay attention to the time you commit on the job, but that doesn't mean you need to stay until dark every night of the week. Stay late when you need to finish a project, but don't be afraid to make plans during the week that will force you to leave the office at a decent time. Getting outside at a healthy time will boost your mood and make you happier about resuming your work in the morning.

Schedule "Work Hours" at Home

If you must work at home, set some time limits. Make dinner with your family, wind down with a little TV or a chapter of a book, and then work for an hour or two and return to "me time." Better yet, work for an hour before dinner and then spend the rest of the night worry-free.

Keep Work (and Your Laptop) Out of the Bedroom

If you do work at home, make sure to establish "no-work zones" in the house. In my mind, work, laptops, and smartphones shouldn't be allowed in the bathroom or bedroom. Set up a definitive work area at the dining room table, your home office, or the coffee table.

Figure Out How to Be Happy at Work

Being happy with your work life is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Make a friend at the office and invite her to lunch once a week, or grab your work BFF and the new gals from the department upstairs and indulge in an ice cream or happy hour. The better your relationships with colleagues the more likely you'll be to turn to them for project support or advice if you need it.

Challenge Your Partner or a Friend

If you have trouble detaching from work and unwinding from a stressful day at the office, challenge your partner or friend to get out of the house too! Plan weekly runs or walks through the neighborhood, a new dish you can make together, or simply commit to sitting and talking for two hours about anything but work. You'll quickly find you have a million things to talk about other than the annoying girl down the hall who keeps undermining you in meetings.

Drowning? Speak Up!

If the projects keep piling up and you're physically incapable of finishing all your assigned tasks during work hours (and all the overtime you put in!), sit down with your manager and explain the situation. Let her know how many hours you have been working overtime and discuss other team members who may be able to assist you or the possibility of hiring an intern. Chances are your manager is fully aware of how hard you have been working (or should be!) and can help you devise a better time management plan.

Reward Yourself

After challenging yourself to focus on your work-life balance, don't forget to reward yourself for making an effort to change. Send yourself flowers or treat yourself to a manicure. You'll feel proud every time you look over at the flowers or your fancy nails and be motivated to keep your new healthy habits.

This is a guest contribution from our friends at SavvySugar. Check out more useful articles from this partner:

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Nora Dunn's picture

Nice tips! Saying NO is a big one, and something many of us have a lot of trouble doing. Its almost counter-intuitive for us!
Here's another take on work-life balance:
http://www.wisebread.com/the-secret-to-time-management-and-work-life-bal...

Guest's picture

Nice tips! The culprit - corporate marketing - has infected society's desire for natural enjoyments herding most in a commercial and artificial direction. We may try to compete with the life styles of others at work, in the neighborhood and in public; and they with us. If we have been conscripted to the consumption style of existence, the need to acquire more money will keep us wrongly occupied. Others may need to keep up with us and we may feel required to keep up with them, all to the joy of the corporate marketers.

Turning off all advertising is a great first step to getting off the merry-go-round and living life as it should be lived. MUTE it!

Guest's picture

I have discovered that one of the most efficient ways to get real productivity done in the day is by using the pomodoro technique, and stopping work at a specific hour everyday.

Not to mention that one should never work on the weekends.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the article! With everyone being connected constantly it's hard to ever shut off from work, sometimes we just need to remember how.