The definition of work-life balance is different for each person, but at its core is the attempt to reconcile the tension between your professional obligations and the activities that provide personal fulfillment outside of work. Experts agree that personal fulfillment activities—including spending time with family, connecting with friends, pursuing hobbies, exercising, and meditating—should be built into your daily schedule in order to help increase feelings of overall satisfaction and happiness. But before you sign up for that weekend hiking club, take a moment to consider whether such activities will be providing you with sufficient downtime, or periods of rest. While a select few are wired with an endless amount of energy, the majority of us need downtime to recharge our batteries, manage stress, and keep a clear perspective. During these moments of downtime, it is important to completely step away from your work obligations (that means silencing the notifications on your smartphone!) and focus on the activities that bring you a sense of calm and peace.
Here are a few tips for building downtime into your daily routine:1. Read for pleasure
If your job involves a heavy amount of reading, it may seem undesirable to pick up more reading in your spare time. But reading for work and reading for pleasure should not be lumped into the same category. Just taking ten minutes out of your day to read a self-selected book or magazine can help provide a mental escape from the workplace2. Socialize
Most of us don’t need an excuse to schedule a get-together with the people we love, and the good news is that socializing is essential for feeling alive and inspired. Set aside one morning a week to meet a friend or colleague for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—and don't discuss work!3. Exercise
When your schedule becomes inundated with commitments, it is easy to de-prioritize nutrition and exercise. But studies show that diet and exercise have direct effects on stress and mood levels. Regular exercise can lead to increased levels of energy, strengthen your immune system, and lift your spirits, among many other benefits.4. Prioritize family
It’s important to keep perspective and remember that certain people and relationships will outlast any job. Spending time with your loved ones can help secure the idea of work as one of many things you care about rather than the only thing.5. Spend time alone
While the amount you do this will depend on your personality type (hello introverts!), spending time alone can be invigorating to the soul. Build in quiet time each day with such activities as pursuing a hobby, listening to music, meditating, or enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning.6. Schedule a vacation
For some, the idea of taking time off from a job can be stressful. But it is impossible to perform consistently at a high level without taking time off to rest your mind and your body. A “staycation” in the comfort of your home is a convenient and inexpensive way to recharge your batteries. (Again—be sure to silence your work notifications on your smartphone!) And if you have the opportunity to travel, take it! Seeing new places and experiencing different cultures will provide you with a fresh perspective on all aspects of your life.