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The Importance of Working Hard & Playing Hard…& Doing Both Well

Tips for nailing your work-life integration

Abbey Slattery
Contributor

Woman balancig books and a drink on her feet

Life is full of seasons. Seasons for career changes, for rest, for raising a family, for honing hobbies and passions, for tending to or renewing relationships—it’s natural to not always be striving for that perfect 50/50 balance. In reality, it’ll look more like 70/30 sometimes, and 40/60 other times, and maybe even 90/10 others, and only you can decide what’s best for you. 

Instead of exhausting yourself to strike a constant balance, it’s all about finding ways to integrate your professional life and your personal life! Here are the best tips for working hard and playing hard...and making sure you do both well.

Why you should play hard

No one can tell you exactly what you need and when you need it, so when it comes to prioritizing whether work or play takes the lead, that’s a decision for you to make. But no matter which you choose to prioritize, there’s always benefits to taking a little “me” time.

According to Happify, carving out time for yourself can give you a major boost to skills you use at work, like problem-solving, concentration, and relationship building—not to mention stress reduction. One of the great things about leisure time? You don’t have to have that much to be satisfied. In fact, researchers from UPenn and UCLA found that, for employed people, peak satisfaction is reached when they have two and a half hours of free time a day.

Because women in the United States (and the world) take on the bulk of unpaid household and childcare duties, women tend to struggle to find free time more than men do, both in quality and quantity. The people who have the biggest issues with work-life integration? Moms, who get an average of 25 leisure hours per week, compared to 28 hours for their male counterparts. But honestly, I can’t think of a mom who gets that much down time (where are they finding these women?). 

So guys, it’s time to take on a greater share of unpaid work, so we can all have the chance to play hard.

Read more: How to Create a Self-Care Plan That Actually Works

Tips for taking time for yourself

For some people, certain factors make it impossible to make major changes in the amount of “me” time they get Luckily, there are plenty of small things that you can fit into your day-to-day routine!

  • Wake up 30–60 minutes before the rest of your household. This gives you the chance to get centered for the day, distraction-free, whether that’s taking extra time in the showering, drinking coffee while you check the news, fitting in a quick yoga session, or just enjoying a quiet household (ahh, bliss).

  • Set a technology curfew. Night-time phone use can be awful for your sleep schedule for tons of reasons—like making it harder to fall asleep quickly, upsetting your circadian clock rhythm, and shortening your REM sleep. Set a time to tuck your phone in its charger every night, and leave it there. (Read a book instead.)

  • Take your lunch break in the great outdoors. Spending time outside is great for your physical and mental health, and any type of green space work —even urban green space and particularly well-landscaped streets!

  • Put aside time for yourself every month. Just pick one day out of the month, and schedule a date for yourself. Book a spa appointment, take a long walk, go rock climbing, try that new restaurant, read a book alone in the park, go people watching, and enjoy your own presence. 

Read more: 4 Signs Your Work-Life Balance Isn’t Really Working For You

Why you should also work hard

Our professional careers have the potential to provide a special fulfillment to us, and 87 percent of millennials report that career growth opportunities are important, and 51 percent of workers in general gain a sense of identity from their positions...but only 49 percent of people are very satisfied with what they do. Sometimes, putting in that extra time at work or pouring your energy into finding a new position is what’s needed for you to find better fulfillment from your career.

Plus, getting into a good mental space at work tends to make both workers happier. A study by Recruit Loop found that highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave a job than those who don’t engage. Not only that, it’s good for business: Gallup also reported that workers in a high-engagement culture tend to have around a 21 percent increase in profitability.

Read more: Yes, You Can Find a Job That Makes You Happy

Tips for boosting work productivity

While you probably won’t wake up everyday feeling passionate about work, if you start to develop the right habits, productivity can become a near-habit. Try incorporating a few of these helpful tricks into your day:

  • Set a schedule at the beginning of the day or week, and focus on the most important tasks first. 

  • Every time you think of something to distract yourself, write it down. This strategy, part of the Pomodoro Technique, is part of time-blocking. You can give those distractions attention, just not right now!

  • Use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine what needs to be done, and what can wait.

  • Take breaks. Around every hour, give yourself the chance to get up, stretch, grab a drink,and take a quick five-minute mental break.

Read more: 26 Time Management Tips for Finding More Time in Your Day

Knowing when it’s time to recalibrate work and play

On average, we’re working more than we ever have before. A study by Harvard Business School found that almost 95 percent of people are putting in over 50 hours a week, and almost half of those respondents were putting in at least 65 hours a week. (And most women are pulling a second, unpaid shift at home and on the weekends.)

A separate study from the Mental Health Foundation offers a worrying perspective along with those numbers: Employees working extended hours are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and irritated. Of course, if you don’t like your job on top of that...things can get pretty grim. 

If you’re logging some serious time in the office and start noticing any of these adverse effects, then it might be time to slow down and focus on fitting in those two and a half hours of free time a day.

Read more: I Learned How to Be Happy at Work

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