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The key to happiness: how to achieve the ultimate work/life balance

A person symbolizing the key to happiness by making a heart shape with their hands.

Trying to climb the career ladder, get some decent dollar, keep on top of your Instagram game, tone up the summer bod, keep your friends happy, travel (because apparently you have time to do it is when you’re young), check in with the grandparents, AND have a love life? Hold Up!

Life can be pretty full on for the young professional, being pulled in just about every direction, and it seems we’re feeling the burn. A 2016 Deloitte millennial study reported that in most markets, a good work/life balance now comes before career progression when evaluating job opportunities. But with fear of job loss, pressure after paying an arm and leg for your education AND the millennial urge for instant success also at the forefront of our minds, are we achieving it?

If you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed by the young professional ‘lifestyle’, maybe it’s time to take a step back, breath and reassess exactly how you can achieve a more balanced work/life ratio. Trust me, you’ll be a hell of a lot happier once you’ve mastered this one…

Step Away from the emails

It can be pretty damn tricky to leave work at work in the modern working world. Technology has its ups but thanks to emails, business phones and the like, constant work connectivity can get a little overwhelming. Ever stepped into work first thing in the morning and been expected to know what’s happened over the past 15 hours, before you’ve even turned your laptop on? This ‘always on’ mentality ain’t healthy – your mind is far more effective when you give it a break. Robert Brooks, a professional physiologist and author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life, notes that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress into your system. So make sure you ‘switch off’ your work technology and your work brain once hours are out. This could mean writing down a list of work related tasks that are on your mind before you leave the office to pick up the next day. And if you really need to work out of hours, do it in a confined space that you don’t associate with your personal life. You want to ensure you have clear work/life barriers and don’t step beyond them.

A person enjoying a shorter working week while typing on a laptop with a coffee mug.

Work smarter, not harder

One key word here – prioritise. Don’t get dragged down with meaningless tasks which have little delivery. Focus on what’s most important and give yourself a set amount of time to attack these tasks. If this means hiding yourself away in a meeting room for a few hours to wack out a presentation or heading to a coffee shop to tackle your emails, do it! Do whatever makes you most proactive – any decent boss will understand this. Oh, and one more tip, don’t get tied up on being a perfectionist. I’m not saying don’t be passionate about your career, just remember you’re not going to get promoted for that super sexy excel spread sheet you spent hours putting together. For more tips on this check out Forbes’ 6 Tips On Working Smarter, Not Harder This Year.

A man and woman finding the key to happiness while working on a laptop at a desk.

Manage people’s expectations

This pretty much goes for all areas of your life, but is especially important when it comes to the working world. Communication is paramount – be honest and realistic with those you work closely with. Saying yes to everything will only cause you stress and the quality of your work to drop. So ensure you speak up and take it upon yourself to address and manage others expectations of you. If you don’t communicate this people often don’t realise, or assume you’re swimming along just fine. Essentially, you are the life guard – don’t let yourself drown.

Exercise and meditate

I’m a massive advocate of this one. Exercise doesn’t only work its magic externally; it also makes you feel a whole lot better internally. It’s a great way to release and reduce stress levels and often turns into a hobby. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration and enhancing overall cognitive function. Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, Ph.D., a kinesiologist at the Yale Stress Centre, states that raising one’s heart rate can actually reverse damage to the brain caused by stressful events. This can be anything from partaking in some killer gym classes, going for a run or playing a group sport. Just make sure you’re not being distracted by your phone or any other external sources that may take your mind elsewhere. A good tip to keep exercise as a regular part of your weekly routine is also to book stuff up in advanced. This may be booking yourself into a gym class or saying yes to a weekly team sport. This way, you have a time and place you need to be somewhere, no excuse and NO MORE WORK.

A woman is holding the key to happiness in a gym.

Make social arrangements (and stick to them)

Whilst you’re planning out your weekly exercise regime, also chuck a few social arrangements in there. This doesn’t need to be fine dining extravagant plans, just booking up things to do outside of work so you know you need to leave on time and have more of an incentive to get shit done in working hours. Meeting up with your friends, families, boyfriends/girlfriends is a sure way to release those happy endorphins which will help to get you through the working week.

A group of people finding the key to happiness while toasting at an outdoor table.

Make sure you allow yourself time to travel

Be it a long weekend away or 2 weeks lapping up the sun on a remote beach, there really is no better way to unwind then taking a trip abroad. Getting out of your normal routine and surroundings is the perfect remedy to help you switch off. Plus, exploring a new county, city or culture always helps you to open your eyes and remember there’s so much more to life then work. So make sure you lock in holiday time as much as you can – having an adventure on the horizon sure does give you an incentive to earn that $$$. If you’re in need of a real pick me up, check out the World Happiness Report 2017 of THE happiest countries in the world, with Norway leading the way.

Raising arms to the sky in lush countryside