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We all hear how important work-life balance is these days and the wonderful benefits that go along with it. Some people do well at setting boundaries to ensure that they get enough time to do the things they love. Most of us, however, get caught up in the pattern of saying to ourselves “just one more email” or “just 10 more minutes”, and before we know it, it’s 8 p.m. because we just couldn’t stop repeating those phrases over and over again. Now, we’re tired, hungry, and think “there isn’t enough time for anything else tonight, so I’m just going to go home and go straight to bed.” What’s even worse is the fact that many young adults don’t have the luxury of a set work schedule where they can develop a routine that incorporates time to dedicate those interests outside of work. What I’ve found is that there’s tons of literature on the benefits of work-life balance, but there isn’t much on how to incorporate it into the types of schedules that change frequently. So, I’d like to start that trend by talking about my experience (which, I don’t doubt is similar to many others) on how to make work-life balance a priority without sacrificing your productivity at work.
As a student, it is your time to try different things. You have so many options regarding what classes to take, what clubs to join, and even when you take your classes. This, along with the fact that most students take on as many opportunities as possible, makes for a very busy schedule. Not only that, this schedule seems to change every 3-4 months. This was something that I struggled with over the past couple of years. When I started university I never really did any extra-curricular activities, so it was easy to have my set routine where I could fit in classes, work, study time and time at the gym. Going to the gym has always been my activity of choice when it came to work-life balance, but over the last couple years, it had proved to be more difficult to fit into my schedule. And, there were a couple of reasons for this. First, was the fact that I decided to take a full course load, which meant I worked less but spent most of my time sitting at my desk. Second, was the fact that I began taking on more and more extra-curricular activities, which is essentially just extra work. I will never regret getting more involved, although at this point I cut out going to the gym and working out completely, simply because I didn’t set boundaries for myself. For me it was always “one more chapter” or “I should at least get started on this paper.” After a whole year of this, I gained so much weight and was so unhappy. I knew I had to get back into it, and what way to think I will make more time for it then going on a work term. Yup, I was working your typical Monday-Friday, 9-5 type work week which was a challenge in itself because I am not a morning person and after sitting in traffic, I wasn’t a night person either. But I had to make some adjustments and set some boundaries.
I knew the only way I was going to get a workout in was during my lunch break, but 30 minutes wasn’t much time, so I had to be open and honest with my supervisor and asked if I could have a longer lunch if I worked later in the day. Lucky for me she understood my situation and was all for it. It did take a while to get used to it; I had to try hard to stay away from the “just one more email” to ensure that I was getting my workout in before it got too late in the day. After a couple of weeks like this, it was like clockwork. I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime gym sesh at least three times a week. After eight months, however, the work term came to an end, and I was about to go into yet another work term. This meant that my daily schedule would change as well. Again, it took me some adjusting seeing as my workplace did not have a gym on site, so I began to fell into “not a morning person” and “too tired when I got home” mind frame. My tactics had to change. It started with just a quick 30 minute workout after work all the while telling myself throughout the day “just go down there and start, if you still feel tired you can always quit”. The beauty was that my endorphins would kick in quick and I could last longer than 30 minutes. The other adjustment I’ve had to make was sacrificing at least 1 of my weekend days to make sure I got a real good workout in, it’s been a good compromise especially if I am just wiped after work, or my gentle coaxing doesn’t work. So far, these things have helped, and I can squeeze in at least four workouts a week!
The point is, work-life balance doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen; it takes a little bit more work, but you will be better for it.
As everyone’s schedule will be different, and everyone will have a different activity that they like to do, obviously what worked for me may not work for someone else. The point is, work-life balance doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen; it takes a little bit more work, but you will be better for it. So think of your day and picture when you can squeeze in even just a little “me” time. It could be leaving the office at lunch to go a read a book at a coffee shop. It could be starting late and ending late once a week so you can attend your favorite yoga class. It could even be signing up for a cooking class that starts right after work, so you have an excuse to not use the excuse “just ten more minutes”. Play around with these ideas, and you’ll see that if you plan with this “me” time in mind, you’ll be able to squeeze it in every week. The best part is that everyone will be happy; you’ll be happy doing what you love, your family will love that you are more energetic, and your boss will be happy that you are more productive at work!