In this age of leaning in and working whatever hours it takes to get ahead, it can be increasingly easy to forget to take time for yourself. Doing anything but work can actually seem like laziness or self-indulgence—especially when it looks like everyone else is still working furiously while you’ve taken off for the day.
However, burnout is real. If you’re not operating at full capacity because you’re mentally and physically exhausted, your work and personal life will suffer. The key is to find a good balance between your hard work and your outside life. Here are a few strategies on how to do just that.
1. Keep one day meeting-free.
Lots of companies establish one day a week as “meeting-free,” where no one is allowed to schedule any kind of mandatory group gathering. If your company doesn’t do this, suggest it to your manager. Setting aside one work day that’s just for you to actually work will do wonders for your productivity. You’ll get more done during the day and take home less work (and stress) at night.
2. Work from home if possible.
If telecommuting is an option for you at your job, take advantage of it. If it isn’t yet, have a conversation with your boss. Even one day or half day a week can help keep you grounded and give you that little bit of extra space that keeps you centered.
3. Protect your time away from the office.
If you do have to take work home, make sure you set strict time limits for yourself, so it doesn’t eat up all of your out-of-office time. Triage the important stuff. Respond only to the most critical emails, then leave the rest for when you’re back at your desk. And unless it’s truly an emergency, try to make it a policy not to respond to work emails at all over the weekends. Your weekend time is your own.
4. Fit in exercise.
Build this into your work day, with something as simple as a half-hour walk during your lunch break. If that isn’t possible, build an hour or two a week into your weekly routine. Exercise will keep you healthy, sharp, young, and full of endorphins. You can’t really afford not to find the time, so go ahead and make sure you do—your body and your brain will thank you. Taking care of your body takes care of so much else.
5. Make family a priority.
The people you love and who love you in your life aren’t expendable, and your job should know that. If emergencies come up, show up. Make time to be there for the people that you love as a rule, not as an exception.
6. Take vacation.
Seriously. Vacation and personal time exist for a reason. Take every day you are allowed. You’re supposed to use these days, and you (and your boss) will be glad you did. Your work and attitude will definitely improve after taking a break.
7. Schedule blank time.
Instead of scheduling yourself to the gills, from your alarm going off in the morning until bedtime, make sure you block off time in your schedule when you don’t have anything to do—not even family obligations or doctors appointments. Let your brain really an truly relax, and it will stay sharp and creative.
You might not be able to give yourself a full half-hour or hour every day, but you can try. Even just twenty minutes to sit quietly and meditate or take a walk can make all the difference in your attitude and your health.