How to Infuse Balance into Your Work Week (And Still Boost Productivity)

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is how the old proverb goes.

Not only does it make Jack dull, it makes him unhappy, more stressed and less productive. Injecting some work-life balance into your Monday to Friday routine is not just better for your own health and happiness — it’s better for your company as well, making it a more attractive place to work, both for existing and prospective employees.

But, the extent of the benefits runs far deeper than just making a company a more appealing place to work. Employees who enjoy a more balanced work week are generally happier, have higher morale, and feel more positively about their work and their employer. All of this leads to greater productivity through increased output and fewer sick days being taken.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to increase productivity is not by spending more time at work and putting in longer hours. In fact, it’s the opposite. Structuring your work week to infuse balance is a self-perpetuating cycle of better health and better work. More balance leads to more effective and efficient work practices. Increased efficiency leads to more downtime. And the cycle goes on!

Here are some tips and tricks to infuse balance into your work week to reinvigorate yourself and boost productivity.

1. Schedule downtime

Make a list of all the non-work activities which you feel you should be spending more time focusing on. Common ones are spending time with family, attending health appointments (such as going to the doctor or getting a massage), or exercising. Once you’ve got your list, schedule time for these activities in your diary.

There’s a difference between knowing you need to do something and actually doing it. Purposefully setting aside time for these activities means you’re more likely to prioritize them and treat them as must-do’s instead of should-do’s.

2. Create analogue to-do lists

Keeping a hard-copy, analogue to-do list — even if it is printed from the computer — is a super simple and effective way of staying on track and not getting distracted. To-do lists that are kept on your phone or online planner can easily lead to distraction. You reach for your phone to check what you need to do, you see that a work email has come through, it reminds you that you need to call someone. Suddenly, you’ve spent 15 minutes of your Thursday evening doing work instead of the housework you’d written on your to-do list. Keeping a hardcopy to-do list at home stops work from creeping into your out-of-hours life.

3. Make the first hour of your day email-free

Make the first hour of your day email-free. Click To Tweet

You keep an alarm on your phone, your alarm goes off and you roll over to switch it off. Immediately, your attention is caught by Facebook notifications, a full email inbox, and lots of fresh news stories to check up on. You spend the first half an hour on your phone, trying to catch up on what you missed while you were asleep. Does this sound familiar?

Starting your day like this is not good for you or your relationships with your loved ones. The way social media operates and the 24/7 nature of technology creates a false sense of urgency and priority. You know what happens if you don’t check all of that online noise in the morning? Nothing! It sits there until you check it later. The first hour of your day should be “you” time or “family” time.

When you get to work, have another email-free hour. Starting your day by going through your emails puts you on the back foot and sets you in a reactive mode. Start your day proactively by getting things done which you’ve decided need to be done. The emails can wait and be actioned upon when you’re ready to give them a priority.

4. Work to your natural rhythm

Take note of your body, your mind and your attention span. You will begin to notice a pattern. For most people, there is roughly a 90-minute cycle, where they’ll go through a period of intense concentration followed by a period of lack of attention. This is normal, this is natural and — if you can tap into it and work with it — you’ll be far more productive.

Don’t force yourself to work through the periods of waning concentration. Instead, use them to enhance the time when you’re more focused. Use these moments to go outside and get some fresh air. Stand up, walk around the office, don’t think about work. Getting your body moving and your blood pumping is better for your body, better for balance, and will ultimately make you work more efficiently when you sit back down at your desk.

Infusing some balance into your work day isn’t a selfish thing to do. Balance leads to more efficient and effective work, increased output and boosted productivity. It’ll make you happier, healthier and less stressed, which not only benefits you and your family, but your employer and workplace too. Finding ways to inject some balance into your work week is simple to do and is beneficial to you and the people in your life.