9 Ways to Protect Your Personal Time From Work and Be Happier
Consider yourself fortunate if you enjoy your work. There are probably millions of people who go to jobs that they hate each day, which makes for a long, frustrating work week. And if the salary isn't commensurate with the level of responsibility, it's like tossing salt on an open wound. (See also: What to Do When You Want to Quit Your Job)
But if you're happy with work, you may eagerly give your boss 110%. You may accept assignments with a smile on your face and help out wherever you can. However, work can take over; and as a result, you might spend less time with family or have less time for yourself. If you're unable to find a work-life balance, this can affect your happiness.
Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy the best of both worlds: a job you love and adequate personal time. Here are nine ways to protect your personal time from work and be happier. (See also: The Key to Managing Your Time)
1. Use Your Vacation Time
A recent study found that only 25% of American workers used all their paid vacation time last year. Even if you enjoy your work, there are clear benefits of a vacation. It's the perfect time to refresh your mind and body, which makes you a more productive and valuable worker. If you can't escape the office for a week, plan for two- or three-day getaways.
2. Propose Telecommuting
Some bosses aren't open to the idea of telecommuting. They prefer keeping a close eye on workers to ensure that they're productive during the day. This is understandable. But if you have a long commute to the office, you may spend two or three hours on the road each day. If you're able to eliminate a two or three-hour daily commute, that's additional hours of family time or personal time.
To get your boss on board, focus on how telecommuting benefits the company. If you'll have fewer distractions at home, you're likely to be more productive. And if you have a complete home office, you can communicate with clients or your boss throughout the day via email, Skype, or fax. Propose a trial run to see how it works. If it doesn't work, you can return to the office. (See also: How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Telecommute)
3. Establish Tech-Free Periods
Due to the nature of your work, you may receive work-related calls after hours. You might be unable to change this aspect of your job. However, speak with your boss or coworkers to see if you can establish a "no work period."
Notify your boss and other staff that you're unable to address anything work-related during certain times of the evening and/or weekends. This way, you can have uninterrupted time at home. Prepare dinner with your family, help your kids with their homework, and enjoy other family activities.
4. Set Aside One Hour Each Day for Yourself
Life is challenging, especially if you're juggling work life and family life. To find a healthy, happy balance, set aside one hour each day for yourself.
Wake up an extra hour in the morning, or skip lunch with your coworkers and enjoy alone time. You can do anything during this period — exercise, read a book, take a bath, listen to music, or meditate.
5. Set Time Limits When Bringing Work Home
If you're behind at the office and bring work home, give yourself limits. For example, resolve to only work an extra hour or two in the evenings. Therefore, you can take a break from work before bedtime. If you work up until bedtime, and then head straight to the office in the mornings, your mind doesn't have time to focus on other activities.
6. Prioritize Assignments
If you receive work emails or voicemails after hours, you may not have to respond to every message immediately. To regain control of your personal time, prioritize and handle urgent emails and voicemails immediately, and address other issues when you're back at work.
7. Ask Questions Before Accepting New Assignments
If you're reliable, responsible, and a hard worker, your boss or supervisor may recommend you for new assignments. Before accepting the challenge, make sure that you fully understand everything that's involved.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. For example, will these new assignments be in addition to your current assignments? Will the job involve longer hours during the week or weekend hours? Is travel required? Additionally, decide whether there's a steep or time-consuming learning curve.
8. Keep a Regular Exercise Routine
We all know the health benefits of a regular exercise regimen. But did you know that exercise can increase productivity?
Exercise might be the last thing on your mind when you're juggling home life and work life; however, it can boost energy levels and increase mental sharpness. As a result, you're likely to complete more work during the day, thus reducing the chances that you'll need to bring work home. Therefore, you'll have more free time for family and yourself. Squeeze in 30 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week.
9. Learn How to Say "No"
Getting ahead at work doesn't suggest accepting any and every assignment that you're offered. Everyone has their limit, and if you take on too much work, you may be sacrificing your happiness (and your family's). Only agree to new assignments if you have the time and energy to devote to these tasks. If you turn down work, provide an honest explanation. (See also: How to Say "No" at Work and Still Get Ahead)
Do you have other ideas on how you can keep more of your personal time for yourself? Let me know in the comments below.