Let me start by saying I think I am part of the most overeducated and overworked generation in recent history. Especially as a female, times have changed so much, and it seems all of us were thrust into the higher education vessel and spit out into the high-efficiency career machine. We were supposed to be happier. What happened? Many of us now sit here reading this in our adult years, fast approaching "middle aged," with a bit of a crisis on our hands. How long can this burnout be sustained? It's not really an option to immediately start working less for most people. The cost of living is high and the overall climate for growth within most careers has stagnated, or sometimes you even realize you've effectively been capped for the foreseeable future. Should you start your own business? Maybe, but that life is not for everyone. Here are 10 ways to achieve a healthier work/life balance, starting right now.
Set realistic boundaries, and stick to them This is a hard one for most people I know (myself included), but if you really do it, it works. Decide what is healthy for you, and what is absolutely necessary for your job. Many people feel pressure to always be available and accessible, whether that's just how you're wired or you're afraid of what would happen if your higher-ups felt you weren't working hard enough. The reality is - no one cares. If you left, they'd replace you tomorrow. Everyone is replaceable, but the time and life you're losing is not - that is finite, don't waste it. Come up with new boundaries for yourself, and incorporate them immediately. Everyone wins when you avoid burnout, even your boss.
Pick up a new hobby, just for fun Don't make it productive. In fact, it's better if there's no ROI on this effort whatsoever. Do something that is good for your soul. Try something new - extra points if you'll have the opportunity to meet new people by doing it. Think local adult recreational sports leagues, art classes, joining a rock climbing gym, book club, music lessons, start crafting, make homemade soaps, try woodworking, gardening... something to work the opposite side of your brain with no pressure involved whatsoever.
Get outside An often underrated life hack, get the F outside!! I won't bore you with all the medical reasons why this is so important, but from an overall emotional and health standpoint, it really pays in large dividends to get out in nature, breathe some fresh air, take a walk, enjoy your coffee break alfresco, whatever you need to do. But get into the natural light and enjoy your environment every single day.
Take time away from your devices We are all so consumed by our screens, that it's often a really tough habit to break. Most people wake up checking their phone, get notifications on their smart watch all day, sit in front of a computer screen at their job, scroll mindlessly during their downtime, all to sit back in front of a TV at the end of the day. It's MADNESS. Give yourself a little detox. Come up with the time you actually need to be on your devices for life and productivity's sake, and do something analog for the rest of the time. It's a healthy habit to break, and you'll feel so much better once you do.
Commit to learning or doing something new, with action Make a commitment to accomplishing something you'll be proud of, and take the first real step toward doing it. I challenge you to go a little deep within yourself and figure out something meaningful to you. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Sign up for the online class. Want to visit a specific place? Book your flight. Always wanted to perform in front of an audience? Sign up for an open mic. Always thought about starting a podcast? Buy a microphone and start your research. Want to write a book? Sit down and start typing. Considered doing photography on the side? Get a camera and start snapping. Love making things for others? Open an Etsy store. The options are endless. Force yourself to start, and be inspired.
Schedule at least one get together with loved ones per week Stop saying you don't have time. Yes, you do. Probably a lot more than you think. And don't wait for someone to come to you. Everyone is busy. Reach out to someone right now and book quality time over a meal, drinks, or an activity. Commit to doing this at least weekly to nurture the relationships with the people you value in your life.
Improve your health Everyone has got something they can improve upon. Decide on one thing you can start making positive strides on today. If you want to eat better, trash the junk in your house. If you want to get in better shape, make a change regarding your exercise regiment. If you know you are drinking too much, take action to cut back. Feeling particularly anxious at this point in your life? Try meditating or actively quieting your mind, even for just five minutes a day. You get the idea. Stop being lazy. You owe it to yourself to feel your best so you can be your best.
Make a list of your life goals, and a path to achieve them This could be anything - personal or professional. Your list shouldn't say things like "make a lot of money" - that's nonsense, and it's all relative. Everyone would love to make more money. Rather, if you want to make more money, how much do you want to make and in what timeframe? Then work backward from there to do the math on what it would take to get where you want to be. Is it realistic? If not, make adjustments to make it realistic. If you see your path more clearly, you'll be able to execute things for real, and start becoming proud and satisfied with the life you choose to live, because you are literally designing it to do the things you want to do and get where you want to be! Sounds simple when you put it like that, but that's really all there is to it.
Book time away The monotony of wake up, work, eat, sleep, is enough to make anyone mad, and it's not what life is about. But somehow, this is where most people are and you've got to do your best to slowly break that cycle. You work to live, not live to work. Read that again. Scheduling time away in a new environment is the best way to shake off stale routines and snap out of some of the unhealthy life patterns we carve out for ourselves inadvertently. There's a reason why vacation feels so good and we dread the return to the grind. Yes, drinking out of a coconut while being waited on at a resort is part of it, but it's the mindset switch that you go into when being somewhere else and filling your time differently throughout your day. It is so good for you. Even if it just means you do some overnights somewhere drivable periodically, make plans to visit people, or book a vacation - go. These experiences are what life is about.
Come from a place of "yes" You are not too busy. You are not too tired. You are not too stressed. Stop it. That's your conditioning talking. You are not some corporate drone - snap the F out of it. Start coming from a place of "yes." Make time, fit things in, be a little busy, fill your schedule with things that bring you joy. You will never regret any of it. But you will regret working your life away, watching a year go by in a flash, and looking back wondering where the hell the time went. You are getting older every day. Think ahead and be the kind of person who will look back at their life knowing it was filled with fond memories of laughter, adventures, and love. Remember, no one on their death bed says, "I just wish I worked more." ;)