Six ways to keep your work life from overtaking your whole life.

“Work/life balance” is a phrase thrown around frequently in our culture—mainly because most of us have yet to figure out how to master it, or at least apply it on a semi-consistent basis.

But finding this balance is crucial to a healthy life. Just like rest days in fitness, we need rest time away from work, away from the stress and the busyness.

Here are six small steps you can employ at home and in the office to help create a more balanced life before, during and after work hours.

Don’t check your email before work

Most of us reach for our phone first thing when we wake up—OK, mostly to turn off our alarms. But we’re probably all guilty of scrolling through our missed notifications that popped up as we slept. Many times, this turns into us spending the majority of the morning scrolling through and answering emails as we try to juggle making breakfast, getting dressed and getting out the door.

Contrary to what you—or your boss—may think, email can and should wait until you’re in the office, settled at your desk and ready to tackle the day. Set a precedent for yourself—and your team, if you’re in a leadership position: No email before the work day officially begins, with you at your desk or in your office. This sets boundaries and lets you take control of your morning, giving you back that precious time of day to set yourself up for success.

Set priorities, and know when to clock out

One of the best ways to tackle your day efficiently is to spend the first few minutes of your morning—or the last few minutes of the day before you leave at night—organizing your work day. Make a list of priorities: What absolutely must get done by end of day, what needs to get started or rolling that day and what you can tackle if you have a little extra time that day, but isn’t as high of a priority.

By setting this list, you can accomplish the things that need accomplishing, and leave the office at a (hopefully) reasonable hour when those things are finished. This also ensures that  you’re not working well into the night on things that either don’t need to get done that day, or should’ve been done earlier but were not prioritized.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to clock out. When your brain is done, it’s done. There’s no use sticking around trying to hammer out a few more projects or papers if you’re only running at half-capacity. Instead, press pause, head home for a night of rest and come ready tomorrow to tackle it with fresh eyes and energy.

Take a mid-day break

You’ve heard it a million times: Don’t eat lunch at your desk. This is great advice. But we also advocate for getting up out of your chair not just to eat, but to get your blood pumping. Try to get in a mid-day sweat sesh: a walk, a quick HIIT class, a bike ride—anything to get your eyes away from the screen and give your brain a rest as your body does all the work.

Not only will this give you more energy throughout the day, but you’ve managed to sneak in a workout without waking up at the crack of dawn, or dragging yourself to the gym after work.

Leave work talk at the office

We get it: It’s hard not to come home and unload all the work stress and drama of the day on your significant other or family or roommate. But this unhealthy practice guarantees that you’re bringing your work—and its subsequent stress—home with you, instead of leaving it at the office.

Make a promise to yourself to leave your work at work at the end of the day. Don’t let it seep into your home and personal life. Instead, create a level of separation that ensures your home becomes a place of rest, not a place of more work stress.

Turn your notifications to “off” after work

Just like we advocate you do not check your emails before work, try silencing your email and other work-focused notifications when you leave the office, and make a point of not checking your phone or answering after-hours emails.

This also sets a precedent to your coworkers and clients that you value your time at home and that work is for work hours. Of course, you can always set up a rule: If it’s an emergency, call. Otherwise, it can probably wait until you’re in the office tomorrow morning.

Take vacations—regularly

Did you know that the average American gets two weeks off annually, but many rarely use that much time for fear of job security? This is shocking, especially because vacation and time off has been known to improve performance and mental clarity—along with other mental and physical health benefits.

We don’t know about you, but if the science shows that taking a vacation is good for overall health (and job productivity), then we’re obeying the science. And you should, too. Use your allotted vacation time, and when you’re on vacation, don’t allow yourself to answer any texts, calls or emails related to work. The world will go on without you, and will be there when you get back. We promise.

Five tips for beating busyness—and taking back your time.

Photo credit: Astarot, Thinkstock