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3 steps to a better work-life balance

Firstly, a caveat: there is no such thing as true work-life balance. 

“The pressure on everyone to work harder – being constantly online, and accessible – means we’re working longer hours than our predecessors,” says Maxine Rosenfield, counsellor and co-founder of Resilience Essentials  , which offers workshops on stress management and building resilience

“We don’t get the chance to stop and breathe.”

So achieving work-life balance can seem nigh on impossible. But don’t despair: some simple steps can help give you a chance to catch up with yourself.

Change your focus

The effects of stress are well-documented – irritability, headaches, raised blood pressure; to name a few is it any wonder we don’t function well when we’re under duress?

“When your brain is in complete overload, there’s no room for anything else – even straightforward tasks, like preparing dinner,” warns Rosenfield.

Mindful relaxation might help.

It’s the act of focusing your mental energy on something completely different, as opposed to flopping down in front of the television, and is particularly effective for those who struggle with meditation.

The key is to find something that requires your full concentration (and that you enjoy) – anything from martial arts and baking to poker and crosswords – and no screen time.

“Even if you’re doing something that is not work-related, say social media, it still causes pressure,” says Rosenfield.

“Put the smartphone down, walk away from the screen. Walk outside and look at the sky. At the very least, look out of the window and focus on a bird, or a tree. Just 30 seconds a few times a day is all you need to help reduce stress levels.”

Download an app

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master,” said 19th-century political scientist and Christian Lous Lange  .

With 9 connected devices in the average Aussie household 
 , you need to ensure you’re the one cracking the whip… and not the other way around.

Time-saving apps, schedulers, list-tickers – let them be the slaves in your work day. RescueTime 
  and Focus Booster   (productivity meters, showing you where you spend most of your time); 1-3-5 List  (based on a one big/three medium/five small-tasks-a-day template); and project-management tools such as Thymer  and Kanbanchi  can help you focus effectively.

Ironically, you could even use technology to switch you off from technology. Set app-by-app usage parameters with Appdetox
 , giving you access to, say Facebook, only when it’s not a disruption.

Still can’t stop swiping? Get Flipd 
 : it locks your screen for set periods of time. No access to anything, even if you switch your phone off and back on again.

Go for an after-work drink 

It might seem counterintuitive to consider spending more time at work, but studies suggest socialising in the workplace not only keeps you healthier, it increases productivity  .

“It’s crucial to have good support systems,” advises Rosenfield. She stresses the importance of parking the work talk, though.

“Find people who get you, and accept you as you are. And who will also pull you up on working too much.”

Of course, blurring the line between work and home goes the other way, too.

Clock-on/clock-off nine-to-five jobs may have gone the way of Holden Special bucket seats, but it’s still important to set clear parameters.

Make it clear to your boss and workmates during what hours you are willing to respond to work-related missives – and stick to them.

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