This article was originally published on Brazen Life on June 19th, 2012.
It’s 7 pm on a Thursday night. Your boss just let you know you’ll be hopping on a flight tomorrow to visit a client.
Your heart sinks as you try to keep a straight face.
“Uhm, where is that work/life balance that was advertised?” you think to yourself.
When we consider work/life balance, we often imagine days on end that are perfectly segmented between our career, loved ones and hobbies.
The reality is that while each individual day or week may not provide a balance between work and play, things do tend to smooth out over a longer period of time. Once your deliverable is delivered, you’ll likely have a hiatus with no deadline in sight, which means you’ll get to re-join your summer softball team or take that long weekend you’ve been craving.
When you’re in the midst of a peak period at work, remind yourself of the natural ebb and flow of projects, and use these five tips to help keep your balance.
1. Recognize when you’re spinning your wheels
Continuing to sit at your desk when your focus has wandered is a mistake. Call it quits for the day and pick things up in the morning.
Or, if that’s not an option, at the very least take a break that involves physically moving away from your desk. Often a stretch and a change of scenery can get your gears turning again.
2. Manage your physical well-being
Your productivity diminishes when you feel restless or fatigued. So while a busy season isn’t likely to be when you’ll get into the best shape of your life, do make it a priority to move your body. Even doing a little something, like taking a walk on your lunch break, will get your blood flowing and improve your outlook.
As for sleeping, the biggest enemy to getting your rest is plopping in front of your TV or computer when you’re already feeling out of it. Suddenly finding out what happens next on Mad Men or looking at just one more TED talk seems like a good idea.
But it’s not. Try to wind down in a screen-free manner, like reading a book, calling a friend, or listening to music. Or aim to set a bedtime. You’ll be better able to handle your work load on a good night’s rest.
3. Ask for help from your support system
Tell roommates and those who are close to you what’s going on with your work schedule. Let them know how long you think you’ll be tied to your desk, and ask them if they could fill in with errands or chores while you’re MIA.
Of course, make sure you return the favor when you can. If you don’t have someone nearby who can help you, but you do have a little extra cash from all that overtime you’re working, try delegating. Hire a grocery delivery company, a drop-off laundry service or a dog walker to make your life easier.
4. Avoid isolation
Even if you don’t have a ton of time to keep up with your personal life, a quick chat or email exchange with those you care about can brighten your day. They’ll remind you that the latest fiasco at work is not the end of the world. And they can help you find humor in your crazy day.
Plus, when your schedule becomes less hectic, you won’t feel estranged from your friends.
5. Protect your re-charging time
It’s particularly important during a busy period to defend the free time that you do have. That may mean saying no to a request to help out with an event for a volunteer organization. Or it may mean turning your phone off for a few hours on a Sunday to give yourself a break.
Fill your free time with the types of activities that help you re-charge. Maybe you feel better after watching sports, barbecuing with friends or going for a hike with a buddy. Say no to anything else.