Sooner or later we will all have to find a way to balance our work with the rest of our life. If not we will find that work takes up so much of our life that there is little time for anything else. Or we will pay a much greater price in terms of our physical, mental or emotional well-being. Just like many other aspects of life we do not usually figure out we have a problem with an imbalance between our work and the rest of our lives until we are already in trouble.
Here are 3 lessons that we can learn and practice to prevent those troubles from arising and to help us rebalance our work and the rest of our lives.
Learn to Set Limits
Everybody wants to do a good job at work, at least if you want to keep that job you do. For some of us that means we will do anything at work, anything that is asked of us and sometimes what we think might be asked of us. When we learn to set limits we review the requests and demands made of us at work and we do what we can with the time that is available to us. And we almost never exceed those requests because as healthy individuals we learn that a business or organization has no limits so we have to set them for ourselves.
One of the best ways to set limits around work is to physically schedule the time that you are available for work. That is probably not going to be the 35-40 hour work week of the past but there’s nothing wrong with setting a goal or a limit of 50 hours in the office per week. At home the same applies and you could offer to be ‘on call’ or available until 8 at night or one day on the weekend in the case of a work ‘emergency’. Just remember that while’s it’s great to set limits, they only help your work-life balance if you actually stick to them.
Learn to Say No
It’s funny but we spend the first two or three years of our lives being told no and then the rest of our days, especially at work, forgetting everything we have learned about that little two letter word. Here’s a mantra to help you re-learn this important word: “It’s okay to say no.” The reason that you have to have a mantra is because that is certainly not the message we get at work. It seems to some people, unfortunately sometimes our supervisors too, that saying no is an excuse or some kind of cop-out. They make us feel like saying no is a personal failing or even worse a personal insult. Whenever they try that on you just repeat the mantra: “It’s okay to say no.”
It’s okay to say no when you are overwhelmed and can’t keep up or when you feel that the request is unfair or unreasonable. When someone asks you to work late on Friday night and they wait until just before 5 to ask, it’s okay to say no. If you have worked the last three weekends and they ask you to work a fourth, it’s perfectly fine to say no. Saying no is also acceptable if you physically can’t perform a function or if it involves a task where you do not feel qualified or competent.
Learn Healthy Coping Skills
We all cope differently with stress and the pressures of the modern workplace and the good news is that all coping techniques work to some degree to help us stay in balance at work and at home. But while some coping skills are effective in reducing stress they can also have a downside. This applies to a range of activities from drinking alcohol to gambling to shopping. All may make us feel better at the time but all of these activities if done more than moderately will ultimately cause us more problems than before, maybe as early as our headache tomorrow morning or our credit card bill at the end of the month.
Some other coping mechanisms will not only make us feel better in the moment and alleviate our stress, but they will also help us restore and rejuvenate ourselves. The best and healthiest coping skill that we can learn is regular physical exercise. Walking or any other activity for twenty minutes three times a week will do wonders for our physical well-being and even more importantly our mental health and emotional balance. Plus we get to burn off those extra calories and feel better about ourselves. Healthy coping skills really are the gift to ourselves that keep on giving.
Mike Martin is a writer and the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.
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