How to improve your work-life balance

Do you ever feel like there aren't enough hours in the day? Do you feel like the weeks are flying by and that you haven't had a chance to catch a breath to get your life in order. By the time you've done a day's work, got home, fed and changed, there's not an awful lot of the evening left. If you've got children to look after and housework to attend to, you may find it's even more difficult to set time aside for leisure pursuits during the working week.

When you're working hard, it can seem impossible to strike an effective balance between your professional and home life (the elusive work-life balance). But it's important to put your evenings and weekends to the best possible use, and adopt other tactics to achieve a lifestyle where you are still working to you career objectives without putting your life on hold. Doing so can improve your physical and mental wellbeing, and improve your overall health. It can also boost your performance at work, by helping you relax and re-energise, and improve your morale.

With the clocks going forward and the evenings getting lighter, this is an ideal time of the year to take this career advice onboard and improve your work-life balance. These eight options will help:

1. Work from home

Once every while, you might want to work from home on your laptop, tablet or mobile device if you've got access to files, documents and work programs online. This can give you the chance to focus on your work without office distractions, and save your commute time to the office and back, allowing extra time to be spent with family. When your work is done, you're all set to enjoy your evening straight away.

2. Request flexible working

If you're struggling to balance work-life commitments, why not ask for flexible working. You may be able to customise your working week to better-suit your lifestyle, family commitments, or spend time on your life goals . Your employer may be open to flexible working, and you may be able to work your full hours across fewer days, or work split shifts, so long as your standards remain high.

3. Take up a new hobby

If you're spending long hours at work because you haven't got anything else to be doing, why not find a new hobby or activity? You'll not only have something fun to look forward to but you'll meet new people as well. When you're taking part in this activity, you won't be stressing about work, which is important for your wellbeing.

Another benefit of taking up new hobby is that you can spend time meeting new people and potentially even expanding your networks. You won't have time to build a strong professional network if you are constantly chained to your desk, so improving your work-life balance could also improve your career prospects. 

4. Put events in your diary

If you've got social events or activities coming up, put them in your diary. Then if anything else comes up which clashes, you won't end up double-booking yourself. If you commit to do the things you enjoy during the week, and make them a priority, you're much more likely to enjoy a fulfilling life outside of work. Quite simply it could be the difference between leaving work on time and making your life outside of work a priority or not. Which lends itself nicely to our next tips...

5. Leave the office on time

Where possible, leave the office on time. It might be tempting to stay a little late to finish things off or get ahead for tomorrow, but you're eating into your family and social time and putting your life on hold. Time management is a skill many professionals should develop, otherwise you're perpetuating a bad habit -- one that can be difficult to break. Sometimes you just need to decide enough is enough, and it's time to go home to do something else.

6. Take your annual leave

Many professionals fail to take their full allowance of annual leave each year. With so much to get done at work, they choose not to take their full entitlement to continue working. In the long term, this increases the risks of fatigue, loss of morale and reduced performance. And it means you miss out on holidays…and fun!

7. Take breaks in the working day

You might think that skipping breaks enables you to get more work done, but in fact it can have the opposite effect. Breaks are important form a rest and recuperation, and can bring a new perspective to problems -- much in the same way as a holiday. If you have short ten-minute breaks at regular intervals or make a cup of tea, it helps keep your energy levels high and retain your focus. The same goes for skipping your lunch break. If you try and power through without resting your brain, it's inevitable that your productivity and quality of work will tail off. Plus you'll be too exhausted by the time you get home to balance back in your life.

8. Plan the next day

If you plan ahead for the next day, and if possible, the next week, you should be able to limit the number of extra hours you spend in the office. Put together a priorities list and tick off tasks as you complete them - this should help you keep your focus. If you turn up at the office each morning and simply react to evolving events, you'll find yourself still working well into the evening. And this will see your social time simply ebb away.

Improving your work-life balance starts with you

Improving your work-life balance can improve your health and general wellbeing, and lift your morale. This in turn can translate into improved performance in the workplace. If you're not able to strike a better balance between your professional and home lives, maybe it's time to start assessing your career options. Perhaps you'll be happier and healthier -- in body and mind -- if you focused on developing your career or looked for a new job? To get started, visit our salary centre to see what the job market is like and what you could potentially earn.

*This article was originally published March 2015 and has been updated to reflect newer information.