Our collective quest for work-life balance seems never-ending. We are constantly looking for ways to be less distracted and more present but still be able to accomplish everything on our to-do lists at home and at work. It can be overwhelming and frustrating when we don’t feel we have balance, and inevitably some area of our life will suffer until we get things harmonized.
So, how do we achieve this ever-elusive harmony?
Devoreaux Walton, a lifestyle expert and founder of The Modern Lady, says the secret to work-life balance is knowing that the balance will fluctuate.
“There are days when you will prioritize family and personal time over work and there are days when work will be the higher priority,” she says. “The goal is not for every single day to have ultimate balance, but for your overall life (week/month/year) to be balanced between your career and your personal aspirations.”
She says disconnecting from electronic devices is an important part of being able to remove yourself effectively from work, balance your personal time and enjoy life.
“When you are spending time with family, it’s best to be present in the moment,” she says. “Turn your phone on silent or put it face down in another room so you aren’t tempted to read emails or scroll on social media. Time with other people is best spent by actually being with other people.”
For Simon Gottschalk, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, this limiting of screen time is the key to a more balanced, healthier life.
He writes about the effects of our increasingly online lives in his new book, The Terminal Self: Everyday Life in Hypermodern Times.
“In order to conduct everyday life in our society and accomplish most activities, we have to access a terminal. There is no choice,” Gottschalk says.
“We have started to normalize a state of permanent urgency and most of the time it’s not justified,” he said.
According to Gottschalk, the constant intrusion of terminals (a.k.a. screens/computers) on our lives impacts our health, our relationships, our skill sets, and even the amount of empathy we can express.
To combat this, Gottschalk suggests we slow down and rethink our sense of entitlement for constant and immediate access to our devices. Touting France and Germany’s bans on after-hours work emails, Gottschalk himself doesn’t read professional emails outside of business hours.
“We have to critically evaluate the purpose of this growing acceleration, this normalizing of constant and instant communication,” says Gottschalk. “If there are no rational or desirable goals, we should ask ourselves why we accept those conditions and what we are losing in the process.”
For a few practical tips you can start using today, we turned to mindset and success coach Theresa Nguyen of More Time More You.
1. Mirror reminder
Write “I am living my best life. Work is not my legacy” on a sticky note and put it on your mirror.
“Every morning, see it on your mirror and say it out loud,” Nguyen says. “When you do this, you are prepping yourself mentally and subconsciously to be present, mindful and not live your life just focused on work 24/7.”
“End the evening in gratitude and write down one thing you are grateful for (not related to work) and five reasons why,” she says. “Not only does this raise the happiness vibe, but also helps you sleep better and strengthens your mental health and helps you to identify all the good things that are going on in your life outside of work.”
If you know you’re going to need some help not checking your phone while out for dinner or not reading work emails on vacation, enlist the help of someone close to you who can keep you in check, Nguyen says.