When I got news that I had secured a full-time job, I was seriously anxious. I was concerned about how I was going to manage to find time for all my hobbies and still get to see my family and friends. I was also nervous about my mental health. I manage my mental illness with a combination of CBT strategies, diet, exercise and self-care activities. I was extremely worried that when I began working my mental health would suffer if I didn’t have time to nurture myself.
But three months have passed and I feel pretty good about where I’m at. I haven’t had a nervous breakdown, I’ve managed to foster my most important relationships, my blog and shop are still going strong and my home isn’t falling to bits. I’ve learned a few things about maintaining that ever-elusive work-life balance that I’d love to share with you.
I often find myself overwhelmed when I’ve got spare time up my sleeve. There are so many ways that I want to fill that time and I end up procrastinating while I decide what to do. Before I know it, I’ve frittered away the time and accomplished nothing.
I’ve gotten into the habit of making a list of five things I want to accomplish each day. This list usually comprises both big and small tasks, such as making an important phone call or writing a blog post or tidying my room. I try to make sure that these tasks are ticked off before I add anything else to my to-do list. That way I make sure that I’m using my time wisely and not wasting it by fretting about all the things I could be doing.
Let it go
There are a finite number of hours in every day. And many of those hours are filled with non-negotiable tasks like working, sleeping and eating. That leaves only a limited amount of time to spread between socializing, cleaning, self care and hobbies.
If you try to do All The Things perfectly All The Time you’re setting yourself up for failure. In order to maintain your sanity you need to let go of some things. You have to relinquish the need to have a perfectly clean house or a regularly-updated blog or nightly chats with your bestie. You have to make sacrifices and it will mean that you don’t always get to do things as often or as perfectly as you’d like. It was hard for me to do this because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m slowly learning to ease up and let things go.
Make time for friends and family
It’s so easy to let your favourite people fall through the cracks when you’re time-poor. I struggle to find time to spend with my friends and family when I’m busy. My solution? Make time to be with them. Carve out a block of time each day to call your mum, or email your friends. Book in dinner dates with your lover. Plan weekend family outings. Don’t assume that you’ll just magically find time for your friends and family, make the effort and dedicate some time to these important people.
Set boundaries at work
One thing I’ve found vital to my sanity is creating boundaries between my work life and my personal life. I make sure that I get all my work done during the work day and I always aim to leave the office on time. I’ve asked my workmates to only call me outside of office hours if it’s truly urgent. I don’t check my work email at home and I don’t come into the office on days when I’m not working.
It can be very hard to do this. I don’t like to disappoint people, and I’m always worried that I’ll be perceived as lazy. When I was in high school I got this idea in my head that in order to be successful, you had to be working hard all the time. That busy = important and worthy. I don’t like feeling as though I’m letting my boss down. Especially when so many other people in the office are happy to work late into the evening and call into the office on their days off.
But if I don’t set those boundaries, nobody will. My boss isn’t going to tell me not to stay late or discourage me from doing office work in my own time. I have to stick up for myself and set realistic boundaries. I work very hard during office hours and I don’t actually NEED to be at work outside of my scheduled roster. It’s not lazy to take time for myself. It’s just a job, and it’s only one part of my life.
Embrace lazy days
Full time work can be exhausting. While it can be tempting to cram your free time with as many activities as possible, it’s not always a great idea. Your brain and body need time to relax and unwind. For this reason, I make sure that I have one “lazy day” each week. On my lazy days I don’t do any work. I spend the day reading, exercising, crafting and chilling out with my favourite people. I can’t stress the importance of having dedicated “do nothing” days to help your body and mind to recharge.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.
Good read. I find myself thinking about work and worrying even when I am not there, it really intrudes on my time off!
I can definitely relate to this. Sometimes you don’t have to be at work for it to creep in and stress you out! That’s why I try so hard to create a boundary between my work and my own time.
This is something that I will be the first to admit that I suck at. To be honest, I had much better boundaries when I was an intern and resident. Now that I’m a registrar, I’ve noticed that I’ve started copying the (bad) habits of my consultants… and it does nothing for my mental health.
I’m the girl who takes calls from work on days off, who checks her work email while on annual leave, study leave and sick leave, who finishes reports and projects at home and on the weekends, who comes in early to do paperwork and data entry…
In a fortnight I’m going on four weeks’ annual leave. Apart from one very important paper that I’ll have to respond to editors comments about, I’m not answering any other emails or working on anything else. I could learn a lot from you about work/life balance, and I think for my health’s sake, I need to.
It’s so ironic that the day I published this post I had a meltdown about work. But it just reinforced to me that I need to set boundaries and not be pressured into giving too much of myself.
I think it can be hard when you work in a place that has a culture of people staying late or being expected to be contactable at all times. It can be really hard to stick up for your own needs and say “no”. But you gotta do it. I’m right behind you, and always here if you need to vent to someone.
I’m learning… slowly. Luckily my bosses know about my mental illness and have been trying to encourage me to “unlearn” their “bad” habits!
That’s brilliant that your bosses are so supportive. I’m still learning, and I go back and forth. I go through periods where I am more vocal about my needs and then I slip back into my old habits. It’s a gradual process, learning new ways of behaving and nurturing yourself.
Thank you so much for your article. It’s exactly what I need to read this afternoon.
I’m so glad to have helped.