Practical tips and insights to help research administrators grow personally and professionally.

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Tips for achieving Work-Life Balance

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There is a lot of talk these days about work-life balance. Most of us know we work too much and rest too little. You may find yourself working non-stop from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m, even answering emails during mealtime. More and more, work is invading our personal lives and we long for balance.

Not only is balance desirable, but it’s necessary for protecting and maintaining our personal and professional well-being. An unmanageable schedule and out-of-control home life can lead to depression, conflict with family, and a feeling of burnout that can ultimately lead to poor performance at work. Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net says that a good work-life balance provides enormous benefits such as better relationships, less stress, a more satisfying career, and better quality of life overall.

But with the pressures and pace of modern life always at our back, how on earth do we achieve a balance between work and life? Babauta offers the following helpful tips:

  • Set a time to shut off work. Working all day and night means you are nothing but your job. Start by setting a time each day when you shut off work. Whether it’s 5 p.m. or 5:30 or 6 or 7 or 9 p.m., set a time and make it happen. After that shut-off time, do not check email or voicemail - don’t think about work, period.
  • Find something to immerse yourself in after work. What do you love doing besides work? Do you love to exercise, play sports, hang out with your kids, build model ships? If you don’t already have a passion, then pick something that sounds fun and give it a try. Schedule the activity as soon after work as possible and completely immerse yourself in it.
  • Learn to be mindful and present. It’s not easy to just switch your mind off work but it’s a skill you can learn over time. The way to learn this isn’t to try to block work from your mind — it’s to learn to bring your mind back to whatever you’re doing outside of work. Whatever it is, focus your mind on it. Your mind will inevitably slip back to thoughts about work and when it does, bring it back gently and without reprimand. With practice you will get better at being present, which means work won’t always be on your mind.
  • Take breaks at work. You need to find balance even at work. At least once an hour get up and walk around - get outside if you can - stretch and massage your shoulders to get your blood moving. Do some squats or pushups if you want to start getting fit. Talk to someone. Drink water. Eat fruits and vegetables. Your break just needs to be 5-10 minutes, but it’s important.
  • Find ways to achieve flexibility with work hours. If you are very skilled at what you do, you can often negotiate a more flexible work schedule. Deliberately pick jobs or projects that offer more flexibility. While this may mean changing jobs, it could also be a promotion or a change in roles. In fact, if you’re good enough, it could mean starting your own business or becoming a consultant. Basically, the more flexible your work schedule, the easier it will be to free up time for yourself.
  • Learn that you are not defined by work. You need to realize that your value isn’t completely tied to your work - you can do things other than your job and be fulfilled. Once you discover this, you’ll free yourself to find a life outside of work. Then balance is simply a matter of logistics — you just need to make it happen by taking small steps.

To read more of Babauta's tips for achieving work-life balance, click here.

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