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Finding Your Work-Life Balance

A student embroidering fabric.
  • Written byCareers and Employability
  • Published date 10 October 2022
A student embroidering fabric.
Chloe D'Arcy in the Studio, BA (Hons) Fine Art: Sculpture, Wimbledon College of Arts Copyright holder: Alys Tomlinson

Work-life balance will look and feel different for all of us.

What makes us each feel fulfilled and content in all areas of our lives will be vastly different, therefore how we balance all the nuances of our lives must be tailored to what is important to us.

It’s not as simple as splitting your time in half nor as easy as only prioritising things we feel passionate about. Some people may use technology or tools to help them create that healthy balance like a calendar, notebook, diary, or phone reminders, while others wing it and that works for them.

To some a healthy work-life balance will look like:

  • Having time to explore your passions and hobbies around work
  • Not worrying about work outside of your working hours
  • Meeting your deadlines while still having time for leisure
  • Having the money and time to socialise with family and friends
  • Generally maintaining a healthy lifestyle and feeling content

Work-life balance is an important aspect of your career wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy balance helps reduce stress, prevents burnout, and increases work satisfaction and as well as your overall wellbeing.

So how do we find our balance?

Accept that there is no ‘perfect’ balance

Perfectionism holds no place in your work-life balance journey. Creating a regimented system won’t work for most of us, because every day is different and our lives change therefore that balance shifts and needs to be able to adapt. Try to remember that no one has the perfect balance, it’s not a goal you can reach and tick off like on an to do list, it’s a continuous work in progress.

Create Your Own Rules

Create boundaries and working patterns that support you. Whether that is setting working hours, creating a routine or simply getting used to saying no.

If you don’t already have set working hours, creating them can be a great first step. If you’re self-employed or studying then you have the freedom to reflect on your preferred time of day to work, when you have the most energy and motivation and add it to your calendar, and email signature if applicable. If you have set working hours, consider if you are keeping to them. Utilising a day planner or calendar can be helpful to structure your day and finish on time and phone reminders can be especially helpful if you often forget to take a lunch break.

Reflect on hopes and goals for life and work

We all know having goals can be helpful for staying on track in the short, mid or long term. But sometimes just acknowledging your hopes can be enough. You don’t need to be strict with yourself or set resolutions for the future, the act of identifying hopes that are true to you and your values can be powerful and a step towards work-life balance.

Leave work at work (and study at study)

Try to draw a line between work and home. This will help you relax but also allow you to enjoy your free time to the fullest.

Tips for if you work from home:

  • Have a dedicated work area and pack it away at the end of the day. Especially if your dining table or sofa is your workspace, we can struggle to switch off if our rest space looks and feels the same as it did when we were working.
  • Dress for work and then out of work clothes when you finish for the day, could be as simple as regular clothes but putting shoes on.
  • Do a commute activity before and after work to recentre yourself, this could be reading, exercise, stretching, meditation or a walk.

Find strategies tailored to your way of working

Reflect on what currently is supporting you in creating focus, motivation and balance, as well as what has worked for you in the past during periods of study, deadlines and multiple conflicting dependencies. Finding strategies that support you focusing during work time will help prevent your work or study bleeding into your time for rest.

Here are some of my favourite strategies:

  • Habit stacking
  • Pomodoro timer
  • Online co-working spaces
  • Phone reminders

Unplug, prioritise time off to relax

Book that holiday, not just to go away or have fun activities planned but also to rest and enjoy relaxing whatever your version of resting is. If you’re self-employed, prioritise mental health rest days, take your whole weekend off, join in with the bank holiday and create systems that allow you to take time off free from financial anxiety by adding sick and holiday pay to your pricing and putting it straight into a saving pot to pay yourself from when needed.

The same goes for studying, you need to allow yourself time off sometimes. Although studying is an act of self-development it can feel like it blurs the lines between work and life sometimes. It is important to allow yourself time to enjoy life outside of work and not dedicate too much of it to self-development or that can lead to stress and burnout.

Start small, implement helpful strategies slowly not all at once.

It’s best not to implement every strategy that could support your work-life balance straight away, as it’s generally unsustainable, instead you can steadily add them as you adjust to each.

This is trial and error and the right balance for you now won’t always be the right fit for you in a year or even just a few months, we all change and how we balance work and life commitments therefore must adapt. Be compassionate with yourself on your journey!