In our fast-paced, ‘always on’ world, achieving work and life balance can sometimes feel like an elusive goal. However, the beginning of a new year presents an excellent opportunity to set boundaries that will help you regain control of your life and make time for what matters most. Follow our top tips below to regain your mental equilibrium in 2024.
Join us for the 2024 work-life balance challenge. Read on to make a positive impact on your home working life. Start today, what you keep putting off to tomorrow. The sooner you start, the bigger the impact it will have on your year ahead. Start your journey to balance today.
Let’s explore seven key boundaries to put in place to embrace work and life balance in 2024. Make the commitment to yourself.
Boundary One: Set a Buffer Time
In today's digital age, it's too easy for work to spill over into personal time. To combat this, establish a set of alarms.
Alarm one: to sound when you have 60 minutes left of your workday. This signals for you to finish that important task you are working on and to do one last check of the email inbox before the close of the day. Now we know an hour can 'fly by' if you are deep into the task at hand. This is where the importance of setting a 'buffer time' lies. Let’s explore what we mean by a 'buffer time.'
Alarm two: signals the end of your workday (and the start of your buffer time). Ok, it's the end of the workday… time to close your workstation and time for you. However, you know you need to finish, but you just need another 10 minutes to finish this task and you’d rather get it finished, then you can relax, it will only be another 10 minutes after all. May as well, right? Scroll forward another hour (or more) and you're still working. Sound familiar? This is where the buffer time is key to enable you to finish that task, knowing there is a boundary in place to aid you to switch off when the time comes.
Alarm three (when needed). Your third and final alarm signals the end of your buffer time and the 'hard stop' to the end of your working day. We recommend a buffer time of up to 60-minutes – but no more. Whatever you haven't finished by now, can wait until tomorrow. Embrace this notion. Not everything has to be achieved right now. It can be more important for you to have your personal time, relax, unwind and be ready to go again the next day. When we're relaxed ideas come easier, productivity can peak, and the workday can have a different 'air' to it. Doesn’t that sound more inviting than working late (by hours), going to bed feeling exhausted, and wake up feeling the same? You will approach the workday differently if you are well rested. Make time for you. It may just benefit both your personal and professional life.
Top tip: try not to use the buffer time every day, just when you really need it – this practice will help you reclaim your work-life balance.
Boundary Two: Define Your Work Hours
Clearly define your work hours and communicate them to colleagues and clients. Stick to these hours as closely as possible to create a clear separation between work and personal life. When you consistently set boundaries around your work hours, others will learn to respect them.
How do you do this? As well as telling everyone, put them on your email footer to act as a reminder. After all, it is easy to forget all your colleagues' working times if they vary. You may email someone out of their working hours, as they differ from you own. You may not expect a response, but then they email you back as they also feel as you do – that they need to be available. A great way to combat this can be to add your working hours to your email footer. Why not add that extra sentence to help others embrace their work and life balance boundaries too? Here is an example you could use:
"Thanks for your email. Please note my working hours are 8am-4pm Monday – Thursday and 8am-2pm Fridays. If you receive this email outside of your working hours there is no need to respond right away."
Boundary Three: Limit After-Hours Email Checking - Prioritise your personal time
Resist the urge to check work emails outside of your official working hours – this includes during holidays. We know the urge can be strong but try to resist it. Create a boundary by turning off email notifications during out of hours, or setting specific times for email checking. This prevents work-related stress from encroaching on your evenings and weekends. We always recommend the 'three times a day rule.' Check your emails first thing, at lunchtime, and 30 minutes before you finish for the day. This provides a good balance for both busy and quiet inboxes. It enables you to not get 'bogged down' in messages, so that you don’t feel like the only thing you have done that day is respond to emails. It also enables you to not forget to check a quiet inbox for an important email.
Boundary Four: Designate a Dedicated Workspace - Away from where you relax
Working from home can blur the lines between work and personal life. Designate a specific workspace within your home where you conduct work-related tasks. When you're in this workspace, you're in work mode, and when you leave it, you're off-duty. Of course, we would be remised if we didn’t mention how the DropTop™ fold down wall desk is your perfect partner for this exact need. A large, creative workspace with multiple screens when you need it. Wall art and space saving when you don’t. Simply close it at the end of your workday and remove the temptation of work emails.
Boundary Five: Prioritise Self-Care And Rest - Don't let work consume your dreams
Prioritise self-care by setting boundaries around rest and relaxation. Schedule regular mini breaks throughout the day to take a few minutes away from the computer, grab a coffee, or a quick walk. Do ensure you get enough sleep at night too. Healthy boundaries around rest are crucial for maintaining overall well-being. It will also have a positive impact on productivity.
Boundary Six: Learn To Say No - Both at work and personally
One of the most powerful boundaries you can set is the ability to say no. Overcommitting to work or personal obligations can lead to burnout. Be selective about the tasks and commitments you take on, and don't be afraid to decline when necessary.
Boundary Seven: Create Technology-Free Zones - Achieve balance
Establish technology-free zones or times in your day. For example, consider implementing a no-phone policy during meals or quality family time. Disconnecting from screens allows you to be fully present in the moment and fosters better work-life balance.
Another key moment to put the phones and tech away, is at least one-hour before bed. Blue light emitted by screens have been proven to reduce or delay melatonin production, which helps us sleep. Studies have proven that using screens too close to bedtime can make it harder to switch off and/or decrease the quality of sleep (The Sleep Foundation).
Work and Life Balance Boundaries: The conclusion
Putting these boundaries in place may require some adjustment and discipline, but the benefits are well worth it. By setting these clear limits, you'll find yourself better equipped to reclaim your work and life balance in 2024. Remember that balance is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing practice. Stay committed to these boundaries, and you'll enjoy a calmer and more fulfilling year ahead.
Wait… what’s the work-life balance challenge?
Join us this year on the journey to reclaim your work-life balance. Every month we will set challenges to help you put boundaries in place, prioritise your personal time as well as work, and find your balance before the year is out. Challenge yourself and make 2024 the year you prioritise you, not just 'work you.' Join us on our social channels to embrace the challenge. Keep up to date using #WLBChallenge