7 Ways to Prioritize Your Work/Life Balance Right Now, According to an Expert

published Sep 9, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

If you’ve found yourself compulsively checking your work email while you’re on vacation or “just checking in” at night, you’re probably familiar with the blurred lines between work time and personal time — aka the quest for work/life balance. It’s a normal phenomenon, especially with things like Slack and Teams that keep people connected 24/7.

Just because you may have more time at home does not necessarily mean you should be spending that open time working. Keeping a healthy balance between your work time and personal time can reduce burnout, support your mental health, and give you more time to pursue personal passions. A recent study by Indeed revealed that more than half of its participants are dealing with burnout; both millennials and Gen Z are experiencing especially high levels. Work-life balance should always be a priority, so put these helpful tips to work (pun intended) in your career and your life.

Think of your home as a personal space first, then a work space.

One of the first ways to approach work/life balance, especially if you’re working from home, is all in how you frame it, says life and career coach Phoebe Gavin. ​​”Your home’s primary job is to serve your personal needs — your emotional health, physical health, mental health,” she explains. “Trying to think through your space first as a personal space and then as a work space is a good way to mentally prioritize that it’s not work/life balance, it’s life/work balance.” The fact that you’re likely working from your home doesn’t mean it’s a 24/7 office.

Reflect on the past few months to identify what’s not working. 

If you shifted to a work from home model in the early days of the pandemic, you’ve probably learned a lot — not just about digital happy hours, but how work and home life coexist, factoring in the people you share your space with and how you all balance tasks and to-dos in your home.

Gavin recommends reflecting on the past year-plus and asking yourself what you would do differently if you had known what you know today in March 2020. “​​Take a second to have a conversation [with housemates or family members] and ask, ‘How about we do a reset? If we were going to design the situation from scratch, what would we do?’,” she suggests. If you learned that you have trouble setting boundaries around work hours or need a quiet space to get your work done, try to readjust your space and your day to reflect that. (Check out her video for tips on starting this conversation.) 

Get out of the house if you can. 

Sitting at the kitchen table or working from your bed 40 hours a week may not be the best environment for you, and if you’re having trouble differentiating between work time and personal time, consider how you can safely work elsewhere. 

“It’s really about checking in with your own needs,” Gavin explains. “Be expansive about the ways you might address some issues.” 

Maybe that’s working from a safe place, like the patio of a coffee shop, to get yourself out of your house when you’re having trouble focusing. If your office has a flexible policy regarding in-person work, go in once or twice a week and when you leave for the day, you’re done with work. “Identifying the places where it’s safe to do that helps you build a routine that’s a little more akin to pre-Covid working,” she says. “It’s more like working in a distributed environment or working ‘from anywhere.’”

Keep your work items confined to a certain space and put them away at the end of the day. 

If you’ve been working from home for a while and you haven’t already done this, it’s time to start! Give yourself a concrete end to the day; if you work from a home office, leave the room and close the door as you would at your workplace at the end of the day. If you work from the kitchen table or the living room, pack up your supplies, close the computer, and put it in a different room (or even a closet!) for the night.

What’s more, you’ll be less likely to stick around waiting for an email or starting a new task if you have firm plans for the evening. Go to a workout class if it feels safe to you, meet a friend for dinner, or plan a FaceTime session with a family member far away. 

Gavin likes to walk her dogs right after work as a signal that the day is done. “Find a dedicated space or configuration to help mentally switch you from a work mindset to a personal time mindset can be helpful,” she says. “Create some sort of work from home ‘commute’ if that’s something you need.” Maybe that’s heading outside for a walk of your own, turning on a podcast, or heading to the store to get supplies for dinner.

Take your lunch break. 

It can be tempting to keep at it when you’re on a roll or eat lunch at your desk, but you should make an effort to enjoy your meal, focus on your food, and recharge your batteries. The Huffington Post spoke to a handful of experts about the importance of a lunch break and the impact it has on everything from your creativity levels to more mindful eating. Even 15 minutes counts, but give yourself time to take a break and nourish your body.

Credit: Alexis Buryk

Remove your work email or Slack from your phone when you’re on vacation. 

If you’ve taken time off from work, actually disconnect as much as you can; remove your work email access or Slack app if you use your personal phone for work purposes, and if you use a separate phone, take it with you but keep it turned off. If people need to get a hold of you for urgent purposes, they will, but obsessively checking your email while you’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying yourself isn’t vacation — and you deserve time and space for yourself.

Have necessary conversations. 

If your workload is unmanageable or you’re dealing with a barrage of nighttime emails or project pile-ons from coworkers or your boss, it may be time to speak up. Talk to your manager about your concerns and, if you can, set boundaries about work time and expectations so you can get your tasks done and enjoy your personal time.