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"It's about finding the middle ground," says Tara Rhodes, a life coach based in Toronto. She offers 10 tips that will help you find a healthy work-life balance that suits your lifestyle.
1. Determine your values
The first step to achieving a work-life balance is figuring out what's most important to you. Do you want to get a big promotion at work? Do you want to be home every night to make dinner for your family?
"It's really about first identifying where you are and where you want to be,” explains Rhodes. Once you know what your goals are, it's easier to determine what your true idea of balance is.
2. Figure out your balance
According to Rhodes, the idea that a work-life balance must be a 50/50 split is a common misconception. In reality, the split varies from person to person based on his or her individual values. For example, if your goal is to become partner at the law firm where you work then your split may be a 70/30 work-life balance.
3. Communicate with your boss
Before you can truly achieve balance, it's important to talk to your boss about his or her expectations from you at work.
"A lot of the time we have these expectations in our head about what makes a good worker, but you may have never really had that conversation with your boss," says Rhodes. So have a discussion with your boss about his or her expectations, your responsibilities and hours, how quickly you should be responding to emails and options for working from home. This can help put a lot of things into perspective.
4. Set boundaries
Once you know what is expected from you at work, you'll find that it's much easier to set the boundaries required to help you achieve a good work-life balance. Answering emails is a perfect example of a good boundary to set, says Rhodes. You may decide that it's unrealistic for you to respond to emails right away and so allot yourself half a day to respond to them.
5. Accept your failures
Boundaries inevitably break – often by a last-minute crisis either at home or at work. According to Rhodes, we simply have to forgive ourselves for not always achieving the perfect balance.
"You're not perfect," she says. "Be easy on yourself. Say, ‘You know what? I tried and today I couldn't do it, and that's OK.'"
6. Ask for help
We often have an expectation of ourselves that we have to be superhuman, that we have to do everything for everyone. In reality, it's important to accept that you can't do everything by yourself. Rhodes suggests creating a family dynamic where everybody helps. That could mean making daily chore lists for your kids so that the laundry is done and the garbage is taken out by the time you get home from work. Or it may mean asking your partner to make dinner and offering to take care of the clean up yourself.
7. Change your perspective
Try changing the way you look at things. When we face a new task, we often assume that it will be very difficult, says Rhodes, but "you can choose the perspective that the task will be easy," she says. "Really make a strong effort to show up and say 'This is easy.'"
8. It's OK to say no
In today's work world there is a big emphasis on networking and on attending events in order to make connections. However, Rhodes says it's OK to say no to events that you don't have time for or that you're not really invested in.
"Networking doesn't happen just at events, it can happen anywhere," she says, pointing out that there are networking opportunities at work, at your child's daycare, in the park and even on the subway.
9. Take time to relax
"You need to find time to relax so that you can show up at work as your best self," explains Rhodes. Practising yoga, running and even watching TV are great ways to give yourself a break, she says. Plus, these stolen moments allow you some time to reflect on your day and the progress you've made in achieving your goals.
10. Enjoy some quality time
Along with scheduling time to relax, you need to find time to spend with others, whether it's with your partner, kids, parents or friends. It's a good idea to make rules for this quality time. For instance, promise to keep your phone turned off when you're spending quality time with family and friends. That way you'll actually connect with people and really feel their support in helping you achieve your work-life balance. "It's about giving yourself space to be loved and to love others," says Rhodes.
We've got lots more helpful tips about finding a work-life balance, including how you can learn to say no.