By Cailey Rizzo
November 13, 2019
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

The holy grail for many professionals today is the perfect work-life balance. How do you impress your boss while still maintaining a life outside of the office?

“Everyone talks about work/life balance as something to achieve, but now I realize it’s not a destination or a strive for perfect balance, it’s an ongoing work in progress,” Shelly Smith, a marriage and family therapist, said in an interview with PsychCentral. “As our lives change in various ways, we have to adjust our self-care practices to re-balance work/life.”

Your work-life balance will look different during various stages of your career and life. There is no magic number of hours you should spend in the office or an exact time when you should stop answering emails at night. Instead, here are a few tricks from the pros to help you find out what work-life balance should look like for you.

Establish a schedule

It’s less likely that work will encroach on your life when your downtime is dedicated to other activities. Carve out specific times in your day for self-care, family, eating, and sleeping.

Use technology mindfully

By now you’re probably well aware that multitasking is rarely efficient. And that’s important to remember since mindful efficiency will help keep your work tasks from trailing into your personal life. Make it a point to enjoy whatever you’re doing while you’re doing it. And although it may be tempting, when you’re out to dinner, don’t catch up on work emails while waiting for your friend to come back from the bathroom.

Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, told Forbes that people who refrain from texting at their kids soccer games or sending work emails during family time can “feel a greater sense of control over their lives.”

Be clear about your boundaries

As with most issues in life, a work-life balance is best maintained through communication. If you don’t want to answer emails while on vacation, make it clear to your colleagues before leaving the office that you will not be checking your inbox. (It may help to reiterate this point in your out-of-office auto-response, too.)

Take time off (really)

Don’t forget about your vacation days. In 2016, an estimated 662 million vacation days went unused in the United States. Smith recommends taking “one day per month as a personal ‘mental health day’” and then taking a full week off every three to four months for a mental reset.

Whether it’s a vacation or staycation, clearing your mind for an extended period of time will deliver benefits once you’re back in the office.

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