9 Tips to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance

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Work-related stress has serious consequences—here's how not to bring all that home with you.

For many of us, work-life balance seems like the stuff of fiction—it sounds great, but is it actually attainable? While technology is partially to blame, making both employers and employees available around the clock (don't even try to deny that you haven't checked your work email after hours), anxiety surrounding job loss and poor performance are just as responsible for creating unhealthy work habits. And experts across the board agree: Work-related stress has serious consequences for our health, relationships and overall happiness. Of course, we can't all drop down to a 25-hour work week or part ways with the working world in our prime—it's just not realistic. However, there are a few changes you can make to your life right now that will help make work-life balance a reality for you. Below, nine tips to help you manage stress, become more productive and live a more balanced life.

Prioritize and manage your time.

A lengthy to-do list can be intimidating. Sure—the items on the list made it there for a reason, but they don't all need to be tackled, like yesterday. Instead of working off a master list of everything you need to get done (and likely don't have time to do all in one go), keep your to-do list realistic. Prioritize items that have to be done by the end of the day, then leave space for unexpected tasks that might come up, as well as a few second-priority that can be taken care if you find you have a bit of extra time on your hands.

Another idea? Try time-blocking. This flexible approach to time management consists of allocating a specific amount of time to each task you need to accomplish during the day (emails, organizational tasks, research, etc.). The focus is on progress rather than task completion, which makes a long list of tasks seem a whole lot more manageable.

Limit time-wasting activities.

If it's not important, let it go. Identify your top priorities then construct firm boundaries so you can actually devote time to them. Having highlighted what is important, it should be easier to recognize time-wasting activities that take away from the things you need and want to do. For example, if you often find yourself skimming through food blogs or watching cat videos online (or is that just us?) when you should be working on that big presentation, enlist the help of productivity apps like RescueTime and LeechBlock.

Activities aren't the only thing keeping you from achieving work-life balance. Limit the amount of time you spend on social situations that aren't in your best interest, like those lengthy chats by the water cooler with the office gossip, for example. Try focusing on the activities and interactions that allow to be the best version of yourself.

Leave work at work.

Technology makes it easy to stay connected 24/7—but that doesn't mean you should. Bringing work home breaks down boundaries between the two distinct areas of your life, and it's a bad habit, that once started, is difficult to break. Make a conscious effort to keep the two separate. Better time management practices will help ensure that tasks that need to be completed during the day get done, thereby eliminating the need to bring work home at all.

Unplug.

We've become hardwired to check our devices on the regular, to reach for our phones or tablets the second we receive an alert or notification. Simply having access to technology every moment of the day, as well as responding to work-related communications outside of working hours, creates the expectation of accessibility. Taking a break from your phone provides time to recover from stress and truly be present in the moment. Because let's be real—every time that email notification goes off, a sense of anxiety runs through your system. Even if you can't go totally off the grid, commit to short spurts of quiet and calm throughout the day to tap into the moment, sort through your thoughts and listen to your own personal needs.

Learn to say no.

No matter how hard you try, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. Start practicing saying no to things you don't have time or have no interest in—trust us, you'll thank yourself later. Not only will it allow you more control over your own time management, but it will also grant you with the freedom to do the things you actually care about.

Tap into your support network.

Asking for help can be just as challenging as learning to say no, but the added support you'll receive is so worth it. Tap into your social network when you need a bit of extra help during hectic times, asking close family members or friends to pitch in with household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel. The same goes for the workplace. Team up with coworkers to complete important tasks or ask for backup when you need to leave early or an emergency arises.

If your workplace offers work-from- home schemes, compressed workweek options or flex hours, take advantage of them! They were created to create a better work environment for employees, so why not capitalize on them?

Schedule in social time during the week.

Why wait until the weekend to have a little fun? Connecting with your crew or spending quality time with your S.O. during the week—no matter how chaotic your iCal seems—is a great way to relieve stress and keep the good vibes alive.

Carve out time for yourself.

When things get hectic, self care is often the first thing that goes out the window. Make yourself a priority and structure each day to include a few moments in which you do the things you love to do. It could be something as simple as reading for 10 minutes a day, hitting up a yoga class or taking a walk at lunchtime. Scheduling in time to kick back and relax means you'll be more energized and ready to face the week head on—and all of the good and bad that comes along with it.

And while you're at it, make exercise and mindfulness a regular part of your daily routine. A quick sweat sesh and 10 minute meditation will boost your energy levels, kick stress to the curb and improve productivity.

Respect your own boundaries.

Creating boundaries is non-negotiable when it comes to work-life balance, but you can't expect others to respect the boundaries you have put in place unless you do it first. Any kind of life change takes a period of adjustment to get used to, but if you stick with it, you'll develop a solid routine that will drastically improve your lifestyle.