tips happier work life balance

We spend a lot of our time at work – and the trend is towards ever-longer hours of overtime, with phones, laptops and tablets that stay on in the evenings and over weekends.


It’s no wonder that more and more people are suffering from burnout, characterised by physical and mental exhaustion, detachment and apathy.


If this is where you’re heading, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the wrong job. A few simple changes may help you manage the stresses and achieve a healthier, happier work life.


Seize control

A lack of control (real or perceived) is the single, biggest cause of stress. If you’re always reacting or “playing catch up” instead of taking the lead, work will always be stressful.


So seize control of your daily schedule. Know what you’re setting out to achieve per day or even in a given hour or two, and focus on that. A simple to-do list or another task management system, such as a Kanban board or an online version like Trello, can help you do this.


Also set aside some buffer time for handling unforeseen issues, requests, emails and so on. Just don’t let this time expand into periods when you need to get specific tasks done.


Shift your thinking

Part of happiness really is a state of mind. Each morning when you go to work, tell yourself that this is your choice.


If it isn’t your choice (you hate your job but need an income), force yourself to consider your alternatives – from applying for different jobs to starting a different kind of business, or even selling items you make and living off a much smaller income. Then, given the alternatives, make your choice and act on it.


Also remind yourself about the aspects of your work that you enjoy. Maybe there are even ways to do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.


Don’t leave your email open while you work

Constant email notifications aren’t just distracting. They also add to stress. Rather than finishing one task at a time, you’re constantly made aware of other demands and potentially urgent issues that need your attention.


One solution is to close your email while you work. Open it just once every hour or two, to read and reply to messages.


Don’t have your work email on your phone

It’s rare to find a job where you absolutely must have your work email coming through to your personal phone. This might seem like a convenience, but it also means you’ll have access to work emails after hours – and this can add to stress levels.


Take your full lunch break

Too often, people work through lunch, eating at their desks or just popping out for a few minutes to eat.


No matter how much work you have, lunch breaks exist for a reason. Your mind and body need that time to recharge. Try to get out into the fresh air or take a walk to re-energise yourself.


Step away from your desk

Taking frequent, short breaks relieves stress and boosts productivity. This is the basis of the well-known Pomodoro technique. By working solidly for 25 minutes and then giving yourself a five-minute break, you can avoid over-taxing yourself and improve your concentration for the time that you’re working.


Sitting for long periods adds physical stress to your spine and muscles, so use your five-minute breaks to go for a short walk or do some stretches.


Address small irritations before they become big issues

If something is bothering you about your work environment, it’s best to address it before it becomes a major issue. This might be something minor, such as a colleague’s habit of tapping their foot, or something bigger, like the position of your desk.


You can’t always do anything about these irritations – but if you ignore them for long enough, they can eventually make you resent going to work.


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