Get happy, anywhere, any time!
Dr Bruce Wells shares his top 10 tips for achieving a happy work-life balance.
Answer these questions in as much detail as possible using a good old fashioned pen and sheet of paper (the act of writing things down is the most important step in the transformation process).
1. What type of life do you want? Many people struggle with creating a work-life balance because they are unsure what they want out of life – what job they should be doing, what partner they should have, where they should live. Living a life you love, that has you springing out of bed each morning, requires having a motivating purpose. To help you identify yours, make a list of your strengths (things you’re good at) and your values (things important to you). Your purpose may involve giving up your weekends to run a community help centre, being a fabulous partner and parent, or being the very best professional you can be.
2. Your values will determine your priorities. Living your values each and every day will reveal your priorities to you and show you where you should be investing your energy and time. If physical health is one of your highest values then you will always be conscious of your food habits, your exercising regime, and minimising alcohol usage. If you are unsatisfied with the meagre time you are spending at home with your family, decide to free up time from your work schedule. If it means having to settle for a smaller home, driving a Holden instead of an Audi, or attending your son’s football game instead of a business meeting, then so be it.
3. Analyse how you use your time. Ninety percent of our daily actions are habitual so we can waste time without even being aware of it. On the plus side, being creatures of habits can allow us to easily map how we are using our time. Conduct a 7-day time audit for an average working week of all of your activities. You may be surprised by your findings. Do you need to check your emails every hour? How much time do you spend commuting? Are you regularly spending uninterrupted time with your partner, listening to each other’s concerns? Once you identify non-productive periods you can swap them with activities which more closely reflect your values.
4. Set boundaries. After examining your earlier time audit results you will be in a position to set limits on your work time and your personal time. Make the choice to only check and respond to emails at certain times of the day. Do the same with your phones and your use of the internet. Also, have set times for when you are in your home office. Finally, inform others of your boundaries regarding technology usage.
5. Renegotiate your work arrangements. Once you know exactly the type of life you want and where your priorities lie, you can think about renegotiating with your employer. Typical issues include reduced hours, more flexible hours such as working from home or working part-time, and leave options. If your employer is amenable to changing your office hours great; if not at least you know where you stand and can think about whether your job meets your needs.
6. Cultivate relationships. One of the best ways to develop greater resilience for coping with stress and change is surrounding yourself with positive relationships. But remember that it takes time and effort to nurture supportive relationships. Make it a habit to find out about people’s interests and keep an eye out for opportunities to help others. Give up your seat on the bus for the elderly gent, offer to buy a coffee for a colleague who can’t leave their desk, volunteer to collect another parent’s children from swimming training.
7. Express gratitude. This is one of the simplest and most powerful acts for instantly short-circuiting anxiety and increasing happiness in yourself and in others. Thank all those people whom you come into contact each day like the supermarket cashier, the bus driver, the receptionist at work, your partner. At night-time list five good things that happened to you during the day and when you wake up in the morning list five things in your life you are thankful for.
8. Reward yourself. Often we get so wrapped up in our own worlds that we become blind to how far we have actually travelled. Take brief time-outs during the day to reward yourself for your efforts, whether it involved completing a project, or just doing a workout. Be your own best friend and take vacations, give yourself treats, and surprise yourself whenever you can.
9. Single-task as much as possible. Multitasking has been debunked as a myth. Instead of increasing productivity it reduces our abilities to concentrate or be creative. The solution is to practise mindfulness, where you free your mind of judgements and give your full attention to the present moment and the activity you are doing. If you are reading a report, just read the report. If you are eating your lunch, use all your senses to enjoy every mouthful of your sandwich. You will achieve more accurate results, work faster, and expend less energy.
10. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Living your purpose and maintaining a happy work-life balance hinge upon you being physically healthy. Among the many physiological benefits, caring for your body will also boost self-confidence, improve resilience to problems, help you sleep better, and give you energy.
Dr. Bruce Wells is a happiness and wellness consultant and the author of Happiness Anywhere Anytime (Woodslane Publishing). Visit Bruce at www.drbruce.com.au