How to Achieve the Perfect Work-Life Balance

Whether it’s building your career, working toward a higher degree, or enjoying your favorite hobbies, it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. While staying organized is a great way to prioritize tasks, a big reason why you may be feeling stressed and scatterbrained is because your work-life balance is a little out of whack. It’s important to take care of yourself because if you don’t, it will affect every other aspect of your life. Being able to separate work from home is a craft all on its own, so we’ve compiled a list of ways you can achieve the perfect work-life balance.

1. Unplug

You might not believe it, but unplugging once in a while is a great way to achieve harmony between work life and personal life. When you come home from work, make it a point to do something that isn’t work-related. If you’re at a desk clicking away all day, try to stay off the computer at home and give your eyes a rest from staring at a screen. Take this time to go for a run, read that book that’s been on your list for the past couple of months (whoops), or spend time doing what you love.

Now, more than ever, it’s super hard to unplug 100 percent. We all like to take a break from whatever we’re doing and scroll through our social media feeds, but this results in even more time staring at the screen and less time taking in what’s physically around you. When you unplug, do your best to fully commit to leaving your phone (or iPad, laptop, etc.) behind for a few hours.

"Having moved from New Jersey to Colorado last year to serve a year with AmeriCorps, I knew I wanted to meet new people, try new things, and see new places," says Taleen Terjanian, a 2010 graduate of Rutgers University. "As much as I attempted to fully immerse myself in these new experiences, I was still attempting to balance relationships with friends from around the world and couldn't help but feel that I wasn't giving 100 percent to anyone."

Taleen took her unplugging to another level and deactivated her Facebook account for a little while. "With hundreds of loved ones sharing stores, news, and life updates, it became incredibly difficult to keep up with each and everyone 'virtually,' all while focusing on the job hunt post AmeriCorps, and completing applications," she explained. She put her Facebook on hold and focused on what she needed to do without the social media distraction at her fingertips.

2. Stay away from work email

We know it’s hard, but your work email should stay at work. If you’re always logged into your Outlook inbox outside of office hours, your boss and fellow co-workers may always run to you with last minute things, creating the mentality that you are available 24/7… which isn’t very healthy. It’s great to be eager and enthusiastic about your job, but if you feel like it’s getting in the way of your personal life (like, if you find yourself checking your inbox during a family dinner), then it’s definitely time to log out.

Logged into your work inbox on your phone? Turn notifications off during evening hours and on weekends—that way you're not tempted to grab your phone every time you hear that unmistakable, "You've got mail!" tone. Whatever is in your inbox when you leave the office can wait for the morning.

3. Use your weekends to relax

So many people forget to do this, but use your weekends to relax and let loose! You've worked hard during the week, so it's important to use Saturday and Sunday (though we sometimes feel like we need a weekend from our weekend) to unwind and kick back.

"I used to work on weekends, too, and I learned that using them to rest is more effective for the upcoming work week," says Sarah Yu, a graduate student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

You'll feel more physically and mentally refreshed and ready to take on Monday after a little bit of rest.

4. Create your own work space

If you're a freelancer, or find yourself working from home, separating your professional life from your personal life can be that much harder. You don't have an office to drive to, so whether you're answering emails from bed or sending reports from your couch, your home becomes your primary workspace.

To get a change of scenery, head to your local library or hang out at a coffee shop during working hours. That way, when you are home, you can focus on having it be your personal space to unwind.

5. Designate working hours

If you must do work from home, designate days and times when you'll take on a few office tasks.

"I designate days for work in case I have to bring home tests or lesson plans," says Janice Lyczkowski, a 6th grade integrated reading and language arts teacher at Community Middle School. "But I end up forcing myself to put stuff away and stay connected to real life and what's going on around me."

Designating a specific day (Sunday) and time span (8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) to alleviate your work load is a great way to stay productive in your career without completely sacrificing your time off.

6. Limit "shop talk" with your co-workers outside of work

Friday night happy hours and heading to a restaurant during lunch are totally fine, but make it a point to separate your work life from your personal life by limiting how often you engage in office chatter outside the office.

"It's awesome to be friends with your co-workers, but you'll most likely end up talking about work while you're with them," says Sarah. "When I was interning, my fellow interns and I would go out for dinner and in addition to small talk, we talked about work and it wasn't restful at all."

If you do have a close work buddy, try doing something that doesn't have anything to do with work. And do your best to avoid shop talk, too!

We should all strive to achieve the perfect work-life balance. Not only will it help you avoid burnout in your professional life, but you'll achieve peace in your personal life as well. Disconnect from your work email when you're not in the office, use your weekends for relaxing and unwinding, and—if you're a freelancer who works from home—make sure your work space is separate from your living space. You got this!