Despite evidence that working long hours can be harmful to both employees and employers, many professional men and women still struggle to overcome their assumptions — and their deeply-ingrained habits — around work hours.
We just can’t switch off (both metaphorically and literally)!
So what do we need to do to free ourselves from these unhealthy beliefs and patterns and attain a more sustainable and rewarding work life balance? Here are some strategies that can help:
- Pause and reflect
Take a step back and ask yourself: What is currently causing me stress, a feeling of imbalance, or dissatisfaction? How are these circumstances affecting how I perform at work? How are they impacting my personal life? What am I prioritising? What am I sacrificing? What is getting lost?
Only after you take a mental pause and acknowledge these factors can you begin to tackle them.
It is often a major life event that is the catalyst to this pause and reflect action so rather than wait for that, taking the time to think through these questions and acknowledge the trade-offs you’ve made (whether intentional or not) is helpful for anyone looking to discover alternative ways of working and living.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling
Once you’ve increased your awareness of your current situation, examine how that situation makes you feel. Ask yourself, do I feel energized, fulfilled, satisfied? Or do I feel angry, resentful, sad?
A rational understanding of the decisions and priorities driving your life is important, but according to Harvard Business Review equally important is emotional reflexivity — that is, the capacity to recognize how a situation is making you feel. Awareness of your emotional state is essential in order to determine the changes you want to make in your work and in your life.
Increasing your cognitive and emotional awareness gives you the tools you need to put things into perspective and determine how your priorities need to be adjusted. Ask yourself: What am I willing to sacrifice, and for how long? If I have been prioritizing work over family, for example, why do I feel that it is important to prioritize my life in this way? Is it really necessary? Is it really inevitable? What regrets do I already have, and what will I regret if I continue along my current path?
- Consider your alternatives.
Before jumping into solutions, first reflect on the aspects of your work and life that could be different in order to better align with your priorities. Are there components of your job that you would like to see changed? How much time would you like to spend with your family, or on hobbies? What else would you like from your life that you are not currently achieving.
- Implement changes.
Finally, once you’ve recognized your priorities and carefully considered the options that could help you improve, it’s time to take action. That can mean a “public” change — something that explicitly shifts your colleagues’ expectations, such as taking on a new role that’s designed to be less time-demanding or allows for a compressed-week model — or a “private” change, in which you informally change your work patterns, without necessarily attempting to change your colleagues’ expectations.
Importantly, the five steps outlined above are not a one-time activity, but rather a cycle of continuous re-evaluation and improvement. Especially if you’re under the influence of an overpowering culture of long work hours, it’s easy to slide back into “business as usual” (whether that’s a conscious or unconscious decision). In our interviews, we found that for people to make real changes in their lives, they must continuously remember to pause, connect with their emotions, rethink their priorities, evaluate alternatives, and implement changes — throughout their personal and professional lives.
This article was taken from the Harvard Business Review “Work life Balance is a cycle not an achievement.” For the link to this article please see the link below.