Whether you're working remotely, slowly trickling back into the office, or you've been an essential worker from day one of the pandemic, finding work-life balance is probably something that has become an elusive, frustrating goal. Nevertheless, it's an important one since Black households have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID—financially, physically, and mentally—and many Black professionals fill the ranks of essential worker jobs. Protecting your sanity and putting a focus on wellness are important since you'll need to be your best self to thrive in the current environment, especially if you're in leadership positions.
Some of us have already done the basics of shifting priorities or setting both physical and mental boundaries between personal and business, but what's the new work-life balance for today's version of normal? Try these five steps to upgrade and find what works for you, your job, and your lifestyle.
1. Assess what work-life balance even looks like—and how it might change from day to day.
If I've only learned one major lesson from the hundreds of powerful executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs I've interviewed in my more than 15 years in journalism, it's that work-life balance doesn't always look the same for everyone. We can often hit a wall when we try to fit cookie-cutter efforts into lives that might not be so black-and-white. True, the main principle of it all is to be sure you're not overworking yourself into burnout, but there is a such thing as burning out due to trying to create the perfect version of balance. It's a good idea to take some time to consider your daily habits, your lifestyle, and your work day obligations, when trying to figure out what work-life balance realistically means for you.
2. Set micro-goals for areas where a balance shift is needed.
Some of us have productivity down pat or we've been delivered from the procrastination demons of the past, but we still struggle with saying yes to that new workout routine or we totally fall short with being fully present for bae or the kids. Instead of tackling overall work-life balance in a macro way, try setting small goals that will lead to big results. Let's say you can't commit to an hour per day of workouts. Experts recommend starting out with 15-30 minute high-intensity workouts or spacing workouts out to every other day. If you find yourself totally confident in closing deals but not being present for loved ones due to lack of sleep, etch out some time to talk to a therapist, write in a journal, or use a sleep meditation app. All work and no play? Try starting a new mood-boosting hobby like crafts, gardening, or photography and make a project of it.
3. Get a coach or accountability partner.
Listen, the proof is in the numbers. Research has shown that more than 70 percent of professionals who get help in the form of coaching benefit "from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills." If you're trying to make new moves in the realm of work-life balance, hire someone who will help you. They can create a plan of action based on a change such as a new job, a recent health issue, a relocation, or a change in finances (whether a decrease or increase). They can also be your support through the process. Research coaches via the Web or social media and make sure they have references and actual results.
You can also tap into your network or join a group to find a great accountability partner to ensure that you're following through on your goals to find balance.
4. Use technology to your advantage.
Simple actions like setting an alarm on your phone for stopping your work day, nap breaks, or meetings can really help you create habits that help make work-life balance a priority. Treat your time like a lawyer or therapist paid by the hour, and let the alarm be your way of reclaiming your time, as our good auntie Maxine Waters says. Also, don't overlook built-in extras in your favorite apps or on your phone like the Screen Time feature on the iPhone or the "Your Activity" tracker on Instagram. Once you're able to see how much time you're spending doing certain things and you're able to set limits, you can shift that time into doing something that ensures more work-life balance.
You can also invest in apps that are specifically for finding or protecting work-life balance. Try TimeTune (Android) and ATracker (iPhone) to monitor how you spend your time and create scheduled tasks. Apps like Cozi house your to-do lists, journals, and shopping lists all in one place, while apps like Weekly Planner (Android) or Week Plan (for iPhone) allow you to plan out your week. There are also so many apps that you can use to meditate, schedule affirmations notifications, or keep you accountable for fitness goals.
5. Incorporate new wellness trends into your work day.
We all love a good sale, but if you'd like to upgrade in the area of wellness, it might be time to unsubscribe to some of those retail newsletters and sign up for fitness or mental health lists. Check out platforms like Black Girl In Om, Heal Haus, or Ethel's Club. You can take a workday break to check in on the latest trends via email and connect with others who are balancing their lives through wellness. Or try something new for your lunch hour: a "walk and talk therapy," "touchless" spa service, or a "distant reiki session"—all trends set to become more and more popular this year.
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