Work-life balance is imaginary for a lot of people, a Shangri-La that no one can ever really achieve. That’s because these people are doing it wrong. (Some of these people even need a selfish alternative to maternity leave, then wonder why trolls come out from under their bridges on the Internet to comment on their thinkpieces.)
1. Set boundaries early. When you’re negotiating and finalizing terms on a new job, make sure your and your boss’ expectations of work-life balance are clear: Are you supposed to be on call 24/7? Are you expected to answer emails after hours? Is your schedule flexible? Get this out in the open, preferably in writing. Know that you teach people how to treat you: The first time you answer an email at 11PM on a Saturday, you’re inviting people to keep sending you emails at 11PM on Saturdays and expecting responses.
2. Negotiate your goddamn salary. If you’re making as much money as you deserve, you’ll feel less stressed. You won’t have to pick up as much work on the side. You won’t feel under a ton of pressure that you would otherwise be subjected to if you were also broke.
3. Do your homework before accepting a job offer. Check Glassdoor and PayScale for reviews of your company. Talk to current and former employees if you can. Are they happy? What was their typical day like? Why did they leave? Did they have work-life balance? Find out what the culture is like before you sign a legally binding contract.
4. Make the most of your commute. If you’re like me and stuck with an hour commute to and from the office, put it to use: Read a book to relax. Brainstorm for your meeting while you’re stuck in traffic. Make a to-do list. Delete spam emails between subway stops. Listen to energizing music on your way to work and relaxing tunes on your way home.
5. Have a few hours of “me time” a week. If you know how to manage your time efficiently (i.e., limiting your Facebook use at the office so you can get your projects done before deadline), this will not only be plausible, but will help keep you sane.