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Work Life Balance

42 Tips for You to Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Do you know what we’ve learnt here at Balance the Grind after interviewing close to 400 people about work-life balance? No-one has this whole work-life balance down pat.

We’ve interviewed a whole range of people, from CEOs to freelance writers, 9-5 office workers to remote workers, startup founders to leading executives at corporations, and the one key theme we’ve found talking to all these amazing people is that nobody has work-life balance figured out and they’re just all trying their hardest to achieve their best life.

At Balance the Grind, we’re all about learning from the best, so here are 42 tips on how you can achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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1. Learn to say no

Caroline Guillemain-Brunne // Founder of Organise.Curate.Design

We can fall into a trap of saying yes to too many things. This can be to please others because saying no makes us uncomfortable or simply because we have a fear of missing out. Saying ‘no’ with confidence, minus the unnecessary long-winded reasoning I believe is a skill everyone should practice.

2. Delegate work when appropriate

Scott Walters // Pharmacy Owner & Health Informatician

Delegating work appropriately helps to ensure that every task is completed, and that my staff have a sense of ownership and opportunity to grow within their assigned areas. It also means that I know that I can step back from those tasks, as I trust that my team will carry them out appropriately, giving me the space to work on the business, rather than in it.

3. Block off time in your calendar

Charlene Li // Senior Fellow & Founder of Altimeter

I block out time on my calendar to work so that I’m not subject to meetings being scheduled throughout the day. I also simply don’t go to meetings unless there’s a concrete contribution I can make with my participation.

This means that there are big open spaces on my calendar to get things done. It also means that if I need to do a last minute meeting, there’s enough space in my calendar to have it and it doesn’t throw off the rest of my schedule.

4. Listen to your body

Karen Williams // Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Writer

Listening to, and honouring, what my body, mind or heart need in any moment. Being in tune means we can make choices that nourish us rather than empty us. It’s not always easy because there’s always one more thing to do, and there are countless people who have numerous expectations (said and unsaid) of us. But if we can be aware of how our body feels, we can catch the thoughts that increase stress and worry and instead choose thoughts that restore and nurture us.

5. Set aside time for ‘deep work’

Artur Piszek // Cognitive Engineer at Automattic

Have a 2-3 hour, uninterrupted block of time to focus on the work: no scrolling Facebook, no email, no Slack, no distractions. If I can genuinely focus, then 3 hours is enough to make a staggering amount of progress.

6. Understand how you work best

Claire Nance // Head of Marketing Communications at Activision Blizzard Media

Getting to know yourself and how you work best. And being honest about it. If you can tailor your work day/week to best suit your working style and preferences, it will go a long way in helping your productivity and overall satisfaction. Workplaces have evolved so much even in the past 5-10 years, and it is partly in recognition that there isn’t a one-size-fit-all approach to working.

7. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Louisa Dahl // Founder & CEO of Interactive Minds

If I find myself getting distracted, I use the pomodoro method (effectively working in 20 minute, focused stints) to get work done. I find this really useful and during that 20 minutes I don’t check email or answer phone calls or move away from my desk. It works particularly well on my days when I’m working from home and occasionally I schedule a whole day using Pomodoro.

8. Write a daily to-do list

Genevieve Day // Founder & Director of Day Management

Write a daily to-do list and ‘triage’ my inbox. That way I can be present and focus on the most urgent things first, and shift around other tasks so that they don’t take up valued time when it could be a tomorrow job. This helps me know when to switch off once the list is complete, whether that’s 4pm or 8pm.

9. Switch off and live in the real world

Tina Tower // High Performance Business Coach

Being able to put the phone down, close the laptop and take adventures with my family and friends and not think about what I need to do later. That habit of compartmentalising allows you to really have a brain break and then come back renewed and energised.

10. Set goals for yourself

Ashleigh Davis // Events & Communications Manager at Movio

The most powerful thing I ever did for my life and career was write down what I thought my dream life might look like. I now do this once a year. If there were no boundaries, what job would I want? Where would I live? Who would be around me? What hobbies would I take up? Once you present yourself with a blueprint for the life you want, you can actually take steps to get it.

11. Ditch multi-tasking

Lisa Teh // Founder & Director of CODI Agency

Single tasking! This has 100% helped me focus. I’m still working on getting better that this, but when I’m doing tasks, I try and eliminate distractions such as phone and email, so I can get what I’m doing done more efficiently and to a higher quality.

12. Step away from your screen and get some fresh air

Claire Mueller // Communications Consultant & Freelance Brand Creative

Get outside. Whether it’s a morning run, part of the commute or an evening stroll making sure I move and spend some time observing the real world every day – super important to balance out the screen time!

13. Have an evening routine

Anthony Mitchell // Chief Potential Officer at Bendelta

Apart from rare exceptions, I close off my working day as soon as I get home. From then on, I spend time only on non-work activities. I don’t check emails in the evening and I have a evening routine that prepares my brain for an immediate, peaceful sleep

14. Make yourself the priority

Mylan Vu // Managing Director at Hotwire

This isn’t just in relation to work-life balance, but throughout your day-to-day. A lot of people (I used to be well and truly in this group) worry about what others are saying or thinking about them, but the reality is the only person who is really judging you is you.

15. Think of it as work-life sway

Ishtar Schneider // Account Director (Health) at Edelman London.

I don’t like the term work-life balance, I prefer “work-life sway” because you’re never going to be exactly in balance – there are times when your focus will be more on work and you have to put in the extra time and there’s times when your personal life might have more of your attention – and that’s ok.

16. Have honest conversations with yourself

Sage Ray // Business Development Representative at Slack

Being able to have tough, honest conversations with myself, usually if I am unhappy or under-performing it’s because I’m not putting in the work and I’m uninspired.

It’s so easy to blame, deny, justify poor habits, soon as I peel back the layers and identify the cause, I have that needed ah-ha moment, I start going back to basics put in the work and my happiness/ balance is restored.

17. Establish a routine for yourself

Corina Corina // Independent Singer-Songwriter

For me routine is key. I have things that I do every day that are mandatory such as my morning practice, the people I check in with, my prayers at night and eating three meals a day, every day keep some semblance of balance in my life. I do these things every day no matter where I am or what I’m doing, no excuses.

18. Volunteer as a way to get your mind outside of work

Min Kumar // Digital Editor-in-Chief at The University of Sydney

While balance can be hard to maintain, I’ve found prioritising my volunteer work, social commitments and family time the same way I prioritise my work day has made it easier to transition away from my inbox after hours.

Volunteering at the Refugee Council of Australia gives me the chance to hit reset on my mindset each week. It’s a reality check that keeps me humble, grateful, and in awe of the people, I’ve met as a result of my time there.

19. Switch up your work setting every so often

Stuart Hipwell // Co-Owner & Creative Director of MindJam.

I try to avoid having a typical day. I find it hinders creativity, so I like to mix it up. When I’m working on big creative concepting or strategy projects, I like to work out of my home studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It allows me to get lost in the craft. When I’m working on more collaborative projects or multiple projects at once, I like to work out of our office where the energy feeds the creativity.

20. Plan some travel to look forward to

Anthony Mitchell // Chief Potential Officer at Bendelta

I am passionate about travel – especially engaging with new cultures, geographies, animals or experiences. It’s not unusual for me to book my next 4-5 holidays ahead. Not only does it make sure that they happen, but always knowing that I have something personally exciting ahead means that any short-term challenges are okay, because they will end and I’ll be rewarded with something I love.

21. Look for stillness in your life

Mandi Barton // Head of Social at M&C Saatchi Australia

I have increasingly found the need for stillness in my life. I am constantly multi-tasking, whether it be working on several different projects in a day or reading, watching, listening out of curiosity.

So finding a few hours to have no music, no TV, no books and just let my thoughts settle is really helpful. Preferably while staring out at the ocean in summer but the botanic gardens also works!

22. Try to make leaving work on time a regular occurrence

Adam Wise // Co-Founder & Creative Director of Jack Nimble

I’m a big believer in leaving work on time. I really respect the 6 o’clock finish, which is pretty rare in the advertising industry. It’s not uncommon for people to regularly work back really late in this industry.

I’ve found that often these people are either staying back because they’re unorganised, they’re drowning in work, or they’re trying to impress their bosses. I believe that the first two reasons are in our control and the last is just plain dumb.

23. Practice mindfulness

Veronica Nguyen // Head of Communications – Beauty at Market Australia

I try and practice mindfulness every single day. Being aware of what’s going on around me, appreciating the simple things that I have that may seen grand to others and just putting a positive spin on everything – it sounds corny, but I’ve seen how having a positive mindset can create a sort of energy that I, myself would like to be around.

24. Allow for spontaneity to happen in your life

Andrea Hoymann // Marketing Director at Sinorbis

I try not to commit to things too far in advance. It seems that the longer I plan catch-ups and social engagements in advance, the less I feel like it when they come around. Life is usually the most enjoyable when there’s enough room for spontaneity and my ideal weekend is a blank slate without any fixed appointments.

25. Manage expectations – yours and others

Ashleigh Davis // Events & Communications Manager at Movio

Manage your expectations and the expectations of others. Biting off more than you can chew leaves you feeling tired, your manager feeling disappointed and your team feeling like they can’t rely on you. Challenges are important, but be clear on the time, energy and resource you have available so that everyone involved has an accurate expectation of what will be delivered.

26. Just get it done

Dr. Bailey Bosch // Founder & CEO of Remotestar Consulting

I think we’re sometimes looking for the new shiny thing that will solve all of our problems but to me the most obvious thing is this: when you are supposed to work, just work. It needs to be done so you might as well get onto it and knock if off rather than have it linger and follow you around for the rest of the day – the unfinished business will eat into your leisure time and weigh on your mind.

27. Make exercise the first thing you do in your day

Wendy Zhang // Brand & Marketing Manager at Relationships Australia NSW

Getting up early and head to the gym. I know it sounds so simple and clichéd, but committing to it every day is hard, especially in winter when it is so much easier to ignore the alarm clock and sleep in. I figured out that if I can get up early and go to the gym, then I have control for my mornings and often get the most out of the day with a fresh mind and a great attitude.

28. Establish boundaries of you and people in your life

Nicola Swankie // Founder & Lead Consultant at Swankie & Partners

Set boundaries and stick to them. I learnt this one the hard way in life because I am a people pleaser and years of working in client service on retained accounts programmed me that I had to say yes to everything and then I wondered why I was working until 11pm every night?

29. Schedule your week in advance

Bec Sands // Senior Freelance PR Consultant & Business Coach

I schedule my weeks in advance on a Sunday, blocking out the time in my diary where I need to do deep, focused work; scheduling any client meetings that need to happen for either of my businesses; locking in time for social or personal appointments; and diarising work out sessions in advance. (If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t happen).

30. Yoga!

Greer Quinn // Managing Director of Forward Communications

Yoga is such a great resilience tool for me. I actually took up the practice when I began my working career. There are a few postures that are indicators of where I’m at – if I fall out too easily, feel tight or tired, I know I need to get back on track. People think yogis are chilled out, but the truth is we all get on the mat calm down. Yoga figuratively and literally balances us!

31. Try 4-day work weeks (if your work allows this)

Ashleigh McInnes // Founder & Director of Papermill Media

For me, I work long hours which I don’t mind, but in order to find balance I’ve structured my schedule around a four-day work week.

I still work pretty much full time hours but I have a full day off during the week which allows me to schedule appointments, go for long walks and generally decompress from what is otherwise I busy and intense schedule. I’m much happier working 4 x 9-hour days than I was working 5 x 7.5-hour days so it’s a method that I intend to stick to long term.

32. Have a side hustle or a passion project

Alex Bundock // Digital Experience Director at Spark Foundry Australia

Having something to focus on external to work is a key way that I strive for that work life balance. I encourage the team to have a non-work “side hustle” – quite often for us that means some sort of web based project.

33. Make time for yourself

Damien Pashby // Group Account Director at Ogilvy

I believe, a balance is only created when you also make time for yourself. Doing something for yourself daily isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. It allows you to develop, be happy, challenge yourself and makes you a much more well-rounded person professionally and personally.

34. Work-life integration can help with balance in your life

Anne-Laure Le Cunff // Founder of Ness Labs

I don’t believe in work-life balance in the traditional way. I think that your work should fuel your life and your life should fuel your work. I don’t think blurred lines between the two are a bad thing. The energy from one can fuel the other. Personal and professional growth are deeply intertwined.

35. Do your hardest work at your most productive time

Bec Sands // Senior Freelance PR Consultant & Business Coach

I always aim to do the hardest task of the day first, because I’m most productive in the mornings. This takes a lot of discipline because I find email can be very distracting. I like to be available for clients and media as-it-happens so it’s tricky for me to leave email until late in the day, for example.

36. Apply the reverse Parkinson’s law

Dr Martin Timchur // Co-Founder and CEO of Esencia Healthcare

I am a strong advocate for abiding by the reverse Parkinson’s law. Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.” By this principle, the reverse is equally true. A task will only take as long as the time you have available to complete it.

37. Jot all your thoughts and feelings down when you feel overwhelmed

Simon Hipgrave // Creative Director at Hungry Workshop

My number one tip for managing schedule and workload is to definitely write it down. I’m a big believer in list-making, and have very recently transitioned from daily pen and paper list to making digital list, using the app Things. I find that when I am feeling overwhelmed the best way to undo that tension is to write it all down, make a list, and schedule it in to the calendar. Once that is done it all feels much more manageable.

38. Implement the Getting Things Done methodology

Artur Piszek // Cognitive Engineer at Automattic

I have implemented GTD (Getting things done) in Evernote. The trick is to have one place to store ‘stuff to do’ and having confidence that I will handle it. This contract with myself allows me to focus on whatever I am doing at the moment and not on remembering other things. This has freed up a lot of mental energy.

39. Get the fundamentals right

Rebecca Lima // Co-Founder & CEO of The Lieu

The 6 fundamental needs of humans are food, water, shelter, sleep, others and novelty. I live by these fundamentals. I fuel my body with food to make it thrive and drink only water. I cut out things that didn’t serve me like alcohol, processed foods and carbohydrates. It makes me feel amazing. I make sure my living space is clean and tidy.

40. Turn on Airplane mode

Dr. Karen Sutherland // Social Media Educator, Author, Researcher & Consultant

I put my phone on flight mode and turn on my out-of-office notifications when I really need to focus on a task. Otherwise the constant emails and notifications make it challenging to make any progress.

41. Block time out for tasks

Anne-Laure Le Cunff // Founder of Ness Labs

Mindful time blocking works great for me. It’s not about filling your calendar with everything you need to do. It’s about blocking time for the tasks that really matter—the tasks you would feel guilty about not completing at the end of the week. Everything else should be pretty flexible and designed around these meaningful goals.

42. Work on increasing your self-awareness

Andrew Barnes // Founder of Perpetual Trust & Architect of the 4 Day Week Global Movement

People only realise they have burnt out once it happens. Being self-aware and managing your life should be something you think about, ask for advice on and listen to those who love you.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.