These days, work-life balance can seem like walking on a wire. Technology has made us completely available 24 hours a day and a down market scares us into working longer hours. According to a Harvard Business School survey, 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and almost half said they worked more than 65 hours per week.
Numbers don’t lie and health experts agree that the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging to our health, family, relationships, and overall quality of life. In fact, an article published in the Huffington Post goes even further to point out how excessive technology in the workplace (as well as in our downtime) can play a significant role in the deterioration of our overall mental, physical and emotional health.
Some of the top health issues caused by excessive technology use include:
- Staring at computer screens all day strains your eyes. Too much eye contact with our screens causes our vision to become blurry and dries out our eyes.
- Bright screens and tech gadgets interfere with sleep. Research shows that excessive use of our computers, phones or tablets before bedtime can negatively affect sleep cycles due to the glowing light that’s emitted from screens. According to a 2011 poll by The National Sleep Foundation, the use of electronics before bedtime can cause widespread sleeping problems. Almost everyone surveyed, 95%, uses some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
- Loneliness and social networking are linked. Science Daily and NPR both suggested that lonely people use Facebook more often and that our social networks are linked to feelings of loneliness, as well as a decrease in happiness and satisfaction.
- Excessive technology use comes at a price. Research shows the technology we process each day actually rewires our brains, between the multitasking and the addiction we feel when we’re without it.
How do we achieve a work-life balance when it seems the cards (as well as technology) are stacked against us? I did a little research and want to share some golden tips I found that could make a significant difference in helping you gain a healthy balance at work and in the home that’s right for you.
We sit too much, especially at work, and this can lead to problems like sciatica, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Using products like Varidesk, an adjustable-height desk that allows you to periodically shift from sitting to standing throughout the workday. Varidesk prices vary from $275 to $350 depending on the model. But in the end, it can be a great alternative to sitting for hours at a time.
Yes, you heard right – play. Google set this trend with their 80/20 rule. The workday should be 80% work and 20% innovate or play rule. Many companies have caught onto this idea and it works. The company OpenX uses recess to de-stress. Every Friday it’s playtime and workers are encouraged to play darts, online gaming, or anything they want – just as long as they have fun. If you own your own business – even better. Set aside time to just play or create. It helps you to unwind and gets the creative juices flowing again.
Forget Perfectionism, Remember Passion
Stop trying to be perfect. Management guru Pete Drucker says focus on the things that only you can do and then delegate, outsource, or neglect the rest. As you climb the corporate ladder at work and your family and responsibilities grow, perfectionism no longer serves you. If this goes unchecked – stress will overwhelm you and sleep takes a back seat.
“The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism,” says executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, author of “The Office Survival Guide.” She goes onto to say, “as life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going.” Instead, focus on passion. Are you passionate about your work? If you are dedication hours and hours to a project or client and you are not passionate about what you are building, then stop. Passion gets you through those long meetings, sleepless nights, and the roller coaster of workday.
Track Time And Keep Yourself Accountable
Track how you spend your time. Answer the question: How much time do you spend doing things that don’t matter to you or that don’t match up with your priorities? Eliminate these things from your life. Once you do this, set your priorities based on things that do matter – make an actual list and keep accountable to this list. Meaning, set time aside for your spouse, put the phone down at dinner – no really, put it down, play with your kids, and really give yourself a break once a day.
Use Virtual Assistants
A VA is a self-employed assistant that provides professional administrative assistance to clients remotely from a home office. Websites such as odesk.com and elance.com, have hundreds of listings for virtual assistants to choose from. No matter the business or profession, anyone can use virtual assistants for everything from performing copious amounts of Internet research, database entry and making client service calls to bookkeeping, filtering emails and booking travel. Imagine how much time you could save alone in sending emails? I feel better already!
The Off Button – Use It
The toughest thing for anyone to do these days – is use the off button on their technology of choice. But, it’s a necessity if you are going to carve out some necessary downtime. It’s recommended to do it in phases – kind of like quitting smoking. So, when you’re visiting a friend on vacation, visit your friend. Don’t bring your phone to the beach. This method of unplugging gives you perspective on what’s important and helps you to clear your head of useless clutter. “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of “The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life.” Brooks says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will develop a stronger habit of resilience.