The vast majority of people would probably say they weren’t happy with the balance in their lives. Are you happy with your work-life balance?

An imbalance is normally caused by either trying to fit too many activities into the available time, or spending too much time on one or the other of the activities – and it commonly centres on the excessive amount of time people spend working each week.

This mismatch between our ideal and actual work-life balance can not only make you feel down and frustrated with work, working long hours can have a negative impact on your productivity and be detrimental to your physical health.

How to check where your work-life balance could be improved

Draw two circles on a piece of paper and divide them up as you would a cake, like we have in the picture below. Each slice will represent how much time you spend on the different areas in your life. Include things like work, time with your friends and family, hobbies, exercise, relaxation, household chores and sleep. One of them should represent how you currently spend your time in a typical week and the other should represent how you would ideally like to spend your time. Do they look similar? If not, take a look at what is preventing your actual balance from being closer to your ideal.

How to check where your work life balance coudl be improved

So, how do I achieve a better work-life balance?

One of the easiest ways to regain time for the things you want to spend time on, is by learning to work smarter. This will make you more efficient at work, freeing up your time for those other important activities that help to maintain your resilience. Here are our tips for smart working.

Prioritise – Make a list of what you need to do each day and label each one as essential, important or less important. Focus on completing the essential things first and put what is less important on hold (or delegate them) where you can.

Take breaks – building short recovery breaks into your day will help you to maintain your focus and perform at your peak.

Delegate – Although it can sometimes feel easier to put your head down and get on with things yourself, asking for help and sharing tasks out will ultimately save you time and can contribute to a reduction in your stress levels. Collaborating with others can also strengthen relationships and creates opportunity for mutual support in the future.

Let go of perfectionism – Often, the standards we set ourselves are too high making them difficult to achieve and we don’t allow ourselves to accept any mistakes. This is unrealistic and soaks up time that can be spent elsewhere. Instead aim for ‘good enough’ and move on to the next task.

Build in a buffer – when planning time for meetings or other activities, allow extra time for any unforeseen events that may interrupt the activity or cause it to take longer than expected.

Overcome procrastination – breaking tasks down into manageable steps makes it easier to maintain your focus. You could also reward yourself for completing things. If you do find yourself starting to procrastinate, make an effort to notice any negative thinking patterns and use flexible thinking to help you get back on track.

Say no – this last point is often the one people have the most trouble with. If it is difficult for you, try to identify what the reason for that is and think about how you can overcome that barrier. There are various strategies you can use to say no, including the ‘broken record technique’ and the ‘rain-check no’. The short TED video, Empowering through Body Language – Top Tips for Essential Assertiveness by Amy Cuddy is a useful thing to watch for anyone looking to improve themselves in this area.