Eight hours for work, eight hours for play, eight hours for sleep: During America’s Industrial Revolution , the idea of evenly splitting each weekday between labor, leisure, and rest was revolutionary, and work-life balance suddenly became a political issue. The importance of maintaining this delicate balance was one of the arguments for the 40-hour workweek, and in an ideal scenario, we could all devote equal amounts of time to our careers, our hobbies, and taking care of ourselves.
Unfortunately, the reality looks a lot more lopsided in favor of work. Today, millions of Americans place a high priority on work-life balance: 53 percent rank it as “ very important ,” with 80 percent of working parents and millennials stating that it’s one of their most important considerations when job searching. Yet few are able to achieve it — some studies have found that up to half of all working Americans are regularly working overtime every week, which could be leading to an increase in stress-related illnesses .
In our highly connected society, it’s easy to think you’ve got your own version of work-life balance down, only to find that your boss always expects you to be “on,” and you’re required to take on extra tasks without much warning.
Here are a few clear signs that you need to set some boundaries between your time on and off the clock:
You don’t have time to cook healthy meals or exercise.
When work becomes overwhelming, healthy habits are typically the first thing bumped from your schedule. Whether it’s skipping your weekly yoga class to stay late at the office or ordering lunch from the drive-thru because you didn’t have the chance to prep something at home the night before, it’s easy to justify in the moment — tomorrow you’ll get back to business as usual, right?
But if “business as usual” is “business all the time,” habits like exercising and cooking nutritious meals often become sporadic instead of routine. Even if you genuinely love what you do and happily take on those extra hours, we all need to make sure we’re moving our bodies and fueling them properly.
You never seem to get enough sleep.
There are many lifestyle factors that can have a negative impact on your sleep schedule, and work-related stress can get in the way of your necessary eight hours. In addition to causing mood swings and decreased focus, failing to get enough sleep can compound the stress you’re already dealing with. If your current work schedule is keeping you up late night after night, the long term effects on your physical and mental health can be severe.
Read more: Self-Care for the 50+ Hour Work Week
You regularly experience work-related anxiety.
We all feel anxious from time to time, but if you’re getting anxious about your work responsibilities on a weekly or even daily basis, it’s time to make some changes. You may be worrying about getting everything done because you’ve overextended your to-do list, or you may be struggling with guilt because you feel like no matter what, you’re not doing enough. There’s a lot of pressure to “do it all,” but overloading your schedule can end up affecting your mental health, and the extra work may not end up being worth it.
You often find yourself working while you’re technically supposed to be off.
If you consistently leave the office around 5 p.m. each day, you might think you’ve got plenty of time to yourself after clocking out — only to realize that you end up sitting at your laptop late at night, putting the finishing touches on yet another extra project. Whether it’s answering emails after dinner, putting in a few hours on weekends, or seeing notifications from your boss while you’re sipping your morning coffee at home, being a dedicated employee today often means allowing technology to blur the lines between “work” and “life.”
However, it goes both ways — we can also use that same technology to set boundaries. You can turn off your notifications during your time off, install a website blocker on your computer and phone, and find a little peace and quiet in the midst of your busy schedule.
It’s impossible to have an honest discussion about work-life balance without noting that organizing your life into a balanced structure often requires a certain amount of class privilege. But no matter where you stand financially, you may have some options if you’re feeling overworked.
Read more: The Power of YOUR Perfect Morning Routine
Even if you can’t cut back on your hours, consider talking to your boss and coworkers about your concerns. Someone may be willing to give you a helping hand with certain tasks and lighten your load.
If you work remotely, here are some InHerSight tips to achieve that coveted work-life balance. And if you’re the one putting an unrealistic amount of pressure on yourself to succeed, take some time to honestly evaluate your priorities. Giving yourself time to rest and recharge each day will actually boost your performance in the long run.
By Jane Harkness