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How to Have a Work-Life Balance

Like many people my age, I work quite a bit. I haven’t had a 40-hour work week since I started my job, and come Friday afternoon I’m often rounding 5o (or more). Even when I’m not at work, I can be working. The internet allows me to constantly be connected to my work, and my smartphone ensures that I’m never more than a pocket-dive away from answering an email. Sometimes, this pervasiveness makes working too much very easy, and it is at this point that you end up living to work instead of working to live.

For those of us lucky enough to have jobs post-college, we’ve all felt The Monster’s presence. It’s that little voice inside your head that can’t stop whispering about work. I know I’m not the only person to struggle with finding a work-life balance. Every now and then, work gets overwhelming and I let the Monster get to me. It eats all of my time. It sucks up all of my energy. Worst of all, it swallows up all of my thoughts. It even starts invading my dreams. In times like these, the scales tip and there is no such thing as a work-life balance.

I like life, so it is important to me that I have one. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for keeping the monster at bay and maintaining a decent work-life balance.

If you want to have a work-life balance, the first thing you need is a life outside of work.

Read books. Write. Go running, or take yoga classes, or go on long, rambling bike rides. Take time to wander around in the woods. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just do something that doesn’t involve your job. Identify something that makes you feel electric, that makes you buzz, that makes you crazy about it, and own it. Protect it. Make an effort to find time each day to do it. Find the beauty in the world outside of your office. It’s out there.

Your social circle needs a work-life balance too.

If your entire group of friends consists of co-workers, you’re never going to be able to turn that work brain off. Happy hours and nights out with work friends are extremely fun, don’t get me wrong.  But, it’s important to supplement those friends with people you don’t see every hour of every day. If you just moved to a new city and find making new friends a little horrifying (seriously, how to make friends after college deserves a post of its own), then I suggest you and your new office pals make a pact to not discuss work any time after 9. Leave the work talk behind and meet the non-work side of your officemates. These sides exist, and they’re awesome.

Get off the damn internet!

If you’re having trouble developing a nice balance between work and not-work because of the internet and your smartphone, then it’s probably time to ditch the handheld electronics. Try it for a night. Cook a recipe you found in a cookbook. Read a magazine. Have a (gasp!) face-to-face conversation. Or, go swimming. I dare you to try to check your email when you’re swimming. The point is, find a way to wean yourself off of the technology every once and a while.

And, if all else fails, I’ve found scotch and television to be foolproof.

Two words, folks: Swamp People. The Monster tries to tell you that you should feel bad for not spending all of your time working. One thing you have to remember (and keep telling yourself) is that it’s alright to have “me time” that’s completely devoid of work. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing with a good drink and bad TV once in a while. As long as you remember that you can relax, take a deep breath, and let go of all of your work woes, you’ll be alright.

Work can take away your interest in other things, it can invade your thoughts, and it can eliminate your free time. It happens on accident, it happens without any warning, and it can make you miserable. If it isn’t obvious at this point, it’s completely up to you to find a work-life balance. It’s your choice. The Monster doesn’t stick around unless you feed it, and the job doesn’t command all of your attention unless you let it. Do not let The Monster take over.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

 

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