When your busy season hits and the projects start piling up, you might find yourself putting in especially long hours at the office and feeling overwhelmed. Spikes in workload force you to make some tough decisions about how to allocate your time, which can cause you to prioritize work over everything else and neglect the very things you need to thrive under pressure.
Here are some signs your work/life balance might be in trouble: you work 10+ hours every day, you feel like you can barely make a dent in your to-do list, you’re fatigued, work disrupts your daily routine, and/or you have little time for fun. If you’re experiencing these things or seeing other signs your work/life balance is suffering, pay attention to them. Continuing to work under such stress can lead to burnout and health problems. Here are some ways to preserve a high quality of life when busy season’s in full swing:
1. Work smarter, not harder. For starters, take a moment to examine your workload. Record deadlines and the amount of time you’ll need for each task. Then, prioritize work with the most immediate deadlines. Take control of your day and block out time for tasks based on your body clock. Reserve your trickiest or most time-consuming tasks for times you’re naturally productive. By the same token, save monotonous tasks that don’t require as much brain power for lulls in your circadian rhythm. By approaching each day with a proactive mindset (instead of a reactive one), you’ll have an easier time staying on top of your workload.
Additionally, keep your boss and your clients in the loop. Your boss might be able to alleviate some of the stress by allowing you to work remotely or offering workable suggestions. If you initiate touch-base conversations with clients, they’ll be less likely to call you demanding updates on your progress.
2. Maintain your exercise, nutrition, and sleep routines. While you can’t always control how much work gets put on your plate, you can take charge of your health. Embrace this fact and find comfort in things you can control, like exercise, nutrition, and sleep. If you’re limited on gym time, do workouts at home or outside. Bodyweight circuits and runs are efficient ways to break a sweat in 30 minutes or less. When it comes to your diet, have a nutrition-oriented mindset and don’t give into stress-induced cravings. Eating well helps you feel good, and when you feel good, you operate at a high level. Lastly, commit to a consistent sleeping schedule. Waking up and going to sleep around the same times every day will keep your body on track and your mind fresh.
3. Take it easy. Reflect on your psyche throughout the day and take a breath if your head’s spinning. If things don’t go perfectly, don’t stress. When you have time away from work, be present. Unplug, carve out time for yourself, and make time for play. If you’re feeling inspired, plan a vacation when work lets up. If you make it a point to enjoy yourself outside of work, you’ll be more productive when you’re working. Lastly, don’t hesitate to lean on family and friends. Fill your support system in on the amount of work you have to do, and ask them to chip in. You’ll find the people closest to you will be more than happy to help with things you just don’t have time to do yourself, like making dinner (ordering takeout), cleaning, and walking the dog.
Busy season can (understandably) be a catalyst for nervous breakdowns and disarray. After all, life doesn’t pause every time your to-do list starts overflowing. But the last thing you need during busy season is to burn out or develop health problems. Taking care of yourself will help you maintain your sanity and do your best work. You have the advantage of knowing your workload is going to increase this time of year – use it.