(Original post from Career Contessa ):

Work-life balance is so in right now—and while it’s something everyone strives for, show us someone who has it truly down. We’ll wait.

The thing about balance is that it’s not a perfect one-size-fits-all formula. It’s dependent on your day-to-day and your priorities in the here and now. It’s personal. So if you’re going to make any major changes to your work-life (im)balance this year, you need to think hard about what will actually work for you in a sustainable way. 

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest imbalance culprits—and our best solutions—but ultimately, it’s up to you to plan your detox.

The Problem: Perhaps the Most Obvious—Email

Email notifications. Constantly. Even at home. At 10 pm. And you check them. (Even if it’s just a swipe to preview.)

We know, we know. We do it, too. We’re all guilty of coming up with excuses to explain why we need to be checking in at work—on our time off. But the truth is, we really shouldn’t. Studies actually show it’s bad for us, possibly as bad as other workplace stressors like coworker conflicts and high-pressure company cultures. There’s a reason why France, the birthplace of all those chic, intellectual, and well-rested-looking It Girls, made it illegal for companies to send after-hour emails.

The Solution: Do not disturb

Our Editorial Director, Kit, sets a do not disturb on her phone from 10pm-7am, so that even if she is receiving emails, she doesn’t know it. Others take it a step further, turning off push notifications on their phones entirely. A recent study found this helped people feel less stressed in just 24 hours. (Talk about a work-life crash cleanse.) You won’t want to check your emails if you don’t know they’re in your inbox, waiting for you—right?

If you’re worried that an emergency will happen if you’re not paying attention to your emails, set up a system with your colleagues. Propose that if something truly can’t wait, the process should be to contact through a phone call or text. By setting expectations that email shouldn’t be used in urgent situations, you’ll cut out any anxiety that pushes you to check emails “just in case.” If the world is ending, you’ll at least get a phone call.

The Problem: There’s Just Never Enough Time

Work smart, not hard—another big catchphrase right now. (We even gave our two cents on the subject earlier). The idea is that we don’t need to work longer hours—we need to make more out of the hours that we’re already working. If your hours at work have been steadily ticking upwards for the last year, this might be the ideal detox option for you.

The Solution: Prioritize your tasks

How much time do we spend each day figuring out what it is we should be doing? Making a prioritized to-do list solves this problem for us. Setting realistic goals can help motivate us and give us a boost in moral, too. Try this email hack to set an agenda for your week. And if you’re still at a loss, download our Rule of 3 Guide to start minimizing the to-do list madness.
There’s another aspect of this that we shouldn’t ignore: some of us don’t even really know how we spend our time. We get to the office and then all of a sudden it’s time to leave, and we feel like we didn’t even do anything. If this sounds like you, try using a work journal. By documenting the time you spend on assignments—and reflecting on that—you can focus on where the gaps are in your workday, or maybe discover the projects that you can delegate or re-organize to spend less time on them.

The Problem: “Weekends Don’t Mean The Week Ends”

OK, so when we clock out on Friday, we technically leave the office behind—but do we really? I mean, this depends on your industry, of course—but we can probably all improve on making sure our time away is truly spent away.

My cousin is an embryologist, and she accepts that she will have to go into the office on Saturdays. The eggs don’t stop growing just because it’s the weekend. (Rude, we know.) But that just means on Sunday and Monday,  when she’s really “off”, she can take time for herself, with the knowledge that she did everything she needed to the day before.

The Solution: Make your weekends real weekends

On Friday (or whatever day your weekend begins), write down any nagging thoughts, projects you still need to work on, tasks to complete, emails to send, and questions to ask.

And leave them there. Schedule them in your calendar to do on Monday, if that’s what works for you. This will allow you to leave for the weekend and really leave. Bonus points because on Monday, you’ll know exactly what you were stressing about the week before, without having to think about it for 15 minutes.

If you’re like me, and you remember something you need to do next week during the weekend—shoot yourself an email about it. Come Monday morning, you’ll be thanking yourself. And you won’t have to spend all weekend trying to remember that “one thing you needed to remember to do.”

The Problem: Your Attitude—the “If, Then” Thought Process

“If I could just get this last project done, everything will finally slow down for good.” Yeah, right.

The problem with “if, then” thinking is that it never ends. We’re forever creating new “ifs”, and our “thens” are forever unattainable. “I’ll be more balanced when…” is a thought process that will cause more harm than good. When we base our feelings of self-worth on reaching the concrete goals we set out for ourselves, and one of those “must-haves” doesn’t pan out, we find ourselves stuck and frustrated.

There are always going to be new projects and deadlines, and often those projects will crop up long before we reach whatever end goal we’re anticipating—the point is to find a way to be OK with this (and find some realistic balance within the chaos).

The Solution: Focus on the Now

Part of the reason you’re always thinking towards the next step could be because you’re comparing yourself to others —or to your own idea of what you should be doing. It’s time to break your comparison rituals. FOMO is out, and JOMO is in. Find joy in missing out.

Decide to tackle a new project or side hustle that’s just for you and no one else. Do something you suspect you’ll be terrible at (singing, painting, setting up Excel docs) just because you can. Plan a night where you don’t look at your phone. If a full night sounds atrocious, start with five minutes. We’re always going to have “more” that we could be doing. For this detox, try forcing yourself to embrace having less than you’d like.

the Problem: Not Enough Time Prioritizing YOU

Now, I get that this list is a massive simplification of the complicated tangles that are our lives. But the point is, if you started reading this article, you’re probably feeling a little bit unbalanced. Nigel Marsh, author and entrepreneur, spoke about work-life balance in a TED Talk “How to Make Work-Life Balance Work”—where he speaks quite candidly about the mystical “balance” that we all strive for. If you don’t have ten minutes to watch the video, you can read the transcript, or read the next paragraph.

The takeaway from Marsh’s talk is this: basically, most careers are set up in a way that requires more time at work than not—so it’s necessary that we make it a priority to actively engage in our lives outside of work. It’s probably not going to “just happen.” Now, we often have unrealistic expectations of our time—both in how much time we have and how we’ll spend it—and finding a way to balance all of this seems impossible. But it doesn’t have to be a huge upheaval of your routine. The small things matter.

The Solution: Book Solo Time to Actually Analyze Your Work, Goals, and Passions

We each live by our calendars—probably more than we’d like to admit—so why don’t we ever schedule in time for ourselves? To make yourself a priority this week, try dedicating a chunk of time specifically to be resting, or doing something for you’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t. We recommend setting aside at least a half a day, but if you’re feeling bold, go ahead and block off an entire 24 hours. And don’t flake on yourself—if you really can’t make the commitment to take the night off when the time comes (we know, things happen), just move the “night off” to a different day. Rescheduling is allowed—skipping it altogether isn’t.

So sit down, put away your phone, and think about what you want to spend more time doing. Conversely, what do you want to spend less time doing? Do one thing this week that is on your list of “wants.” Just start with one thing. And make the intention to also not spend time (or spend less time) on something on your “why do I do this” list. And sit down and do the same thing next week. You’ll be closer and closer to finding that balance everyone seems to be obsessing over.

What’s your goal for balancing work and life this year? Share with us!

Read original post at Career Contessa.