Six Ways to Improve Your Work Life Balance in the New Year
The New Year is a time for reflection and new resolutions as we carefully peruse the past and plan for a better future. For many professionals, creating a better work-life balance will be top on their list of next year’s priorities. According to Bayt.com’s September 2012 poll “Work Life Balance in the MENA” 56.7% of professionals agree that they have achieved ‘good’ work-life balance, and 43.3% claim they do not have good work-life balance. A majority of professionals (26.9%) feel the area most affected due to work-life imbalance is their mental health, for 15.6% of respondents, the imbalance is felt to hinder professional and personal growth, and for 7.8%, it deters performance on the job. Only 12.8% of professionals polled agree that what they like most about their job is the level of work-life balance achieved. The good news is that nine in ten professionals as per the same poll feel that work-life balance is very much an attainable goal. Here are some tips from the Bayt.com team on how to achieve it.
1. Be clear about your priorities
Take some time to revisit your values and priorities and understand what really matters to you most. Is it money and if so how much do you really want or need? Is it time with family and friends? Is it freedom to pursue hobbies and interests? Is it accelerated professional growth and leadership in your role? Once you have come to grips with what you truly value most you can seek to focus on that area and accept changes, even compromises in others, as you minimize distractions in search of a better balance. As per Bayt.com’s Work Life Balance in the MENA poll (September 2012), 64.8% of professionals would agree to a pay cut if it would allow them more free time. Furthermore 8 in ten professionals would also consider changing their job if it would allow them better work-life balance. 14.8% feel better prioritization of home/work tasks is key to better work-life balance.
2. Set SMART goals
As per Bayt.com’s Work Life Balance in the MENA poll, 63.2% of professionals admit that they usually work outside work hours, and 27.8% admit that they do it out of necessity. Often this is due to poor planning and lack of clarity on what constitutes success on a specific project or on the role in general. Without SMART goals you are invariably setting yourself up to an unhappy scenario. Unless you understand where the goalposts are in life, you are almost sure to miss them every time. Ask yourself in your professional and in your personal life at very regular intervals where you are planning to go and how soon you need to get there to have a very clear vision of success and plan a clear path to get there. Without careful planning and a sound vision and measure of success, you may exert more effort than needed in some areas of your life at the expense of others you value equally or more.
3. Set clear expectations with your management
As per Bayt.com’s Work Satisfaction in the MENA poll 12.5% of professionals say that their management sets unrealistic expectations for them. Achieving better work-life balance means mutually agreeing on goals and targets with your manager and keeping communication channels very open. Be clear with your management about what matters most to you. 40.9% of polled professionals state that working the same number of hours with a higher salary would resolve their work-life balance issues, whereas 22.8% would opt for a flexitime arrangement with similar hours, and 10.4% would prefer a work-from-home arrangement as per Bayt.com’s Work Life Balance in the MENA poll.
4. Optimize your productivity
22.2% of professionals polled in Bayt.com’s Work Life Balance in the MENA poll believe that greater productivity in the workplace is most needed to achieve a better work-life balance. Think of all the time you can free up to do other things if you improve your productivity levels through that much extra effort, focus, efficiency, education or vocational training. The most ambitious and successful professionals are life-long learners committed to always being ahead of the curve in the learning it requires to do their jobs optimally and achieve leadership in their domain.
5. Get organized
Poor organization could lead to your work hours bleeding into your personal time and to that constant feeling of panic and confusion. Get organized to regain control over your life. Start the year with a clear vision and an annual plan for both your personal and professional life. Clear your mental and physical spaces and make room for the new by relieving yourself of clutter and thoughts and habits that have not served you well in the past. To-do lists are a great tool to help you both organize and prioritize your daily tasks. Keep your lists realistic; if you find that you have too many things to do and too little time, you need to either delegate or schedule to do them later.
6. Choose a healthy lifestyle
Bayt.com’s Work Satisfaction in the MENA poll shows that 39.3% of professionals are occasionally affected by job related stress, and as many as 34.8% indicate job-stress affects them most of the time. This may be correlated to the fact that 46.7% of professionals admit that they don’t spend enough time with their family and friends and 57% say they don’t spend enough time exercising. Work-related stress can eat away into, not only your productivity at work, but also your personal/family time. Often, managing work-related stress is largely about managing expectations. Ask yourself is there an easier and faster way to complete your more stressful tasks? Or perhaps there is no easier way; in which case you need to ask for help. If you have appraisals before the year-end, make this a point of discussion with your manager. Work-life balance begins with managing stress by committing to a healthier lifestyle that includes better time management, better eating habits, regular exercise and a generous time allocation to activities that make one feel truly satisfied, fulfilled and happy.