Americans are hard-working people. We’re known for our commitment to our schooling and our careers. We’re known for being productive and working long hours. We’re known for leaving paid vacation days on the table, essentially choosing to work for free. We’re also, unfortunately, known for burning out.
These things are connected, of course. When we work too much and too hard, or when we juggle a ridiculous school schedule, we hurt our mental health. We make ourselves less happy and, ironically, less effective at the very work that we’re trying to do. We risk major mental breakdowns, and even if they never come, we do less and enjoy less in our daily lives.
It needs to change. You need to change. Seek balance in your work, and start getting more out of your life! Here are a few ways to do just that.
Take a break and take a trip
Work-life balance is a daily battle. But a couple of times a year, it should be a bigger-picture thing. In addition to making sure that your free time is relaxing and actually free of work (more on that in a moment), you should schedule a big chunk of time for yourself. You should take a vacation.
Take time off and visit a place like Florida, where you’ll get healthy sun and exercise while enjoying serene landscapes and relaxing luxury. Rest on the beach in Palm Beach, rent a paddleboard in Miami, or take a cruise and watch the sunset Jupiter FL. Dine at fine restaurants, soak in the sun, and clear your mind of work.
And if you think that you’re simply too busy to be jetting off to Florida, you might want to think again. Taking a nice vacation to Florida (or to any other relaxing place, for that matter) will actually make you more productive, studies show. Yes, there are some short-term projects that you’ll have to take a break from, but skipping your vacations will have a seriously negative long-term effect on your work habits and productivity — and, therefore, on your career.
Set your limits and defend them
Taking a nice vacation will be great for your mental health and for your career, but don’t assume that you should be on call 24/7 for the rest of the year. In fact, having work on your mind around the clock is a bad idea and a good way to suffer from burnout.
You need to set clear expectations about when you will be available for certain tasks. As much as you are able to do in your position, you should push back against expectations regarding your availability on weekends and after hours. Where you can, establish clear rules — and stick to them. If you break your own rules and answer emails on Sundays, then your co-workers and clients will begin to expect that. It’s up to you to stand up for yourself whenever you can.
Make work (and school) fit your schedule
Of course, balancing your work and your life can be easier or tougher depending on what sort of work you do. If you’re working in a role and at a company in which the culture demands that you be around, available, or working constantly, then you’re going to find it harder to set limits.
Perhaps you should consider choosing a work or school goal that suits your schedule. Some professionals choose to abandon their salaried jobs for freelance work, for instance. Some students take online learning self-assessment tests and place into online degree programs that make it easier to attend school while working and juggling other responsibilities — including, of course, our responsibility to ourselves to keep our life productive and happy!
Our abilities and opportunities may be different, but we should all strive to make time for our lives and mental health. So take that trip to Florida and forget that email until Monday — you, and everyone else, will be better off.