How to strike the perfect work/life balance in three simple steps

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The Year of You campaign is Stylist's year-long programme to improve your work/life balance. Each month, we'll focus on one area that's crucial to wellbeing.

How many times have you stayed late after work? What about sending your mum’s calls to voicemail because you’re working through lunch again? The demands of the modern workplace have never been greater, and increasingly it’s our personal life that gets squeezed.

Indeed, recent research from the Office for National Statistics reveals more than a quarter of us are dissatisfied with our work/life balance while another study found we only relax for 36 minutes a day. “You need space and time to replenish your energy, and reset your mind and body in order to be the ‘best’ version of yourself,” says wellbeing expert Jody Shield. Here’s how to start taking back some precious ‘me’ time, today.

5 minutes: Build a boundary

Most of us have learnt the hard way that willpower alone is no match for technology tempting us to check work emails during the TV ad break. The secret to forgetting about work once you get home, says Shield, is to have clear, tangible boundaries. When you walk through the door tonight, mentally note landmarks and pick one to act as a barrier between work and home. work, work, work, work, work, as a wise womaN oNCe said Whether it’s the lamp post outside or the kitchen door, from now on you have until that point to think or talk about work, and no more.

10 minutes: Digital Declutter

Ask any employee to name their top time thief and ‘email’ is likely it. Yet according to Dr Monica Seeley, author of The Executive Secretary Guide To Taking Control Of Your Inbox, it takes as little as 10 minutes to regain control. “It’s a short-term investment for a long-term pay off. By the end of the month, you’ll be reclaiming up to an hour a day,” she says – just think what that could do for your productivity or home-time. Rather than merely deleting spam emails, Seeley suggests thinking longer term and investing an extra few seconds unsubscribing from a mailing list. And, wherever possible, reply to messages in 140 characters or less. “Make it easy for you and the receiver by not wasting time or words,” she says.

30 minutes: Visualise your week

Failing to plan your personal life due to a non-stop working week? Then make it part of your to-do list. Each week, split your list into four sections, such as ‘work’, ‘family’, ‘friends’ and ‘me’. Spend just six minutes a day tackling non-work objectives and by Friday you’ll have invested half an hour towards planning your weekend or replying to friends’ messages. And you’ll easily be able to see if your focus starts to slip. “Downtime is important to regulate your stress levels, recharge, and in turn will make you more productive at work,” reminds life coach Carrie Brooks. “A win-win situation.” 

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The Stylist web team