For many of us, the end of the business day just means the beginning of home office hours. So we end up living for the weekend, which is hardly a healthy way of life. “You need to have balance every day in order to rejuvenate your mind and body,” says Lawana Gladney, Ph.D., aka Dr. G, an emotional wellness expert and author of If You’re in the Driver’s Seat, Why Are you Lost? A Roadmap to an Amazing Life. Here’s how—it’s easier than you think.
6 Rules for Better Balance
With the mornings being so hectic getting everyone out the door, it’s the time after work that you can see and reclaim as your own, Gladney says. She has done the math, and with the exception of emergencies and special projects at the office, you usually “have four to seven free hours every weeknight, depending on your commute and when you go to bed,” Gladney says. “You may have to make dinner and help your kids with their homework, but you are in control of those hours.” Make the most of them by following these rules:
- Close the “shop.” You’re not a 7-Eleven store. “If you really want balance in your life, you can’t be open for business 24 hours a day,” Gladney says. “Pick a time when you absolutely stop working—ideally when you arrive home—and when it’s that time, shut it all down.” Most importantly, that means you will no longer check work email. “When you’re always plugged in, waiting for some response or anticipating bad news, your body is in a heightened state of alertness, which has physiological consequences, and you are not living in the moment,” Gladney explains. If colleagues are used to your being available at all hours of the night, turn on an automatic message that says when you will respond to email.
- Make a schedule for your off-hours. “Time is like cash out of the ATM machine,” Gladney says. “If you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with it, you’ll fritter it away and you won’t know how you spent it.” So write down what you’re going to do, from eating dinner with the family to taking a bath after the kids are in bed. “Even if you want to watch Scandal, put it down,” Gladney says. “It’s how you’re choosing to spend your downtime.” Plus, you’ll be more likely to turn off the TV when the show is over.
- Save the laundry for the weekend. It’s tempting to try to do a load here and there so you’ll have less to do on the weekend. But Gladney recommends doing all your laundry—and other major chores–when you have a lot more free time on Saturday and Sunday. “You want to have balance from day to day, and doing laundry after working all day and making dinner and cleaning up isn’t going to help,” she says. “You need to spend the remainder of the night on your family and on yourself.”
- Cut the alcohol down—or out. What’s wrong with a couple of glasses of wine or more? “It may relax your body but it doesn’t unwind your mind,” Gladney explains. “To decompress and relieve stress, you need to process your day and think ahead—you can’t do that if you’re sleepy from alcohol or drunk.”
- Add sex to your schedule. Planned intimacy may not sound so thrilling, but it’s better than no intimacy at all. “By the time we’re in bed, most of us are depleted and too tired to do anything but sleep,” Gladney says. “But if sex is on the schedule, not only are you more likely to have it, you’ll probably get extra help from your partner with the dishes and getting the kids to bed that night!”
- Reserve 30 minutes everyday for introspective thinking. Gladney likes to do her half hour before bed, but you can do yours anytime you’re alone and can close your eyes—so don’t combine this with running or other exercise. “The idea is to focus your energy on connecting to the positive and not letting the day go by without your appreciating it,” she explains. If you’re new to this, Gladney recommends starting out by evaluating your day. “Think about the good things that happened, then think about the lessons you can learn from the things that weren’t good, and then move on to tomorrow and what you’ll do differently,” she says. Instead of dreading the next morning, you’ll begin to look forward to every day—even hump day Wednesday—as an opportunity to have a happy, fulfilling life.
Lawana Gladney, aka Dr. G, will be an expert on the panel, “Minimizing Stress, Anxiety and Depression for Maximum Happiness,” at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women.