Work-life balance is a popular subject among professionals, and it’s also an elusive ideal. How do we achieve balance? What does it look like? Does it even exist?
The term “work-life balance” refers to our unique mix of work and non-work activities that make up each typical day. For many professionals, the ideal balance lies in preventing work from overruling the rest of our lives. We want–and need–plenty of time to take care of our homes, ourselves, our families, and our passion projects while still being able to meet professional goals.
If you’re looking for tips to achieve a comfortable work-life balance, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s jump in.
1. Remember, the Idea of Balance is Subjective
The idea of work-life balance is purely subjective and based on each person’s individual needs and preferences. It’s important to remember this when you’re exploring the idea of balance in your own life.
There’s not one specific standard to follow when it comes to balancing your personal life with your work duties. Over the course of your professional life, you’ll see a wide variation of examples of what balance can look like. In the end, it’s all about what fits your life.
Some people believe balance is a myth and subscribe to an idea of work-life fluidity, depending on the needs of the moment. Others believe equally balancing work and life is essential. Whether you subscribe to one belief or the other–or fall somewhere in between–the reality is that you can truly decide what your balance looks like.
The bottom line is that life must be a workable mixture of work and life activities that is comfortable and sustainable for you.
2. Identify Your Priorities and Boundaries
Knowing what your priorities and boundaries are is an important step toward creating a sustainable work-life balance. Clarity around your priorities will help you identify areas of importance you aren’t focusing on enough. Boundaries need to be adjusted in areas where work and life are bleeding into or interfering with one another.
Start by making a list of your work and personal goals, and prioritize them. Do your priorities align with your current mix of work and life activities? Where are there imbalances, and where do you need to make adjustments?
For example, is there time you’re spending in one area that needs to be adjusted so you can focus on others? Do you have goals and dreams that have been sidelined by work? Or do you have professional goals you haven’t been able to pursue because work doesn’t allow you the time?
Next, spend some time reflecting on (and possibly journaling) your work and life boundaries. Are there any boundaries you need to put into place, such as unplugging by a certain time of day? Do you need to reevaluate boundaries or create new ones in order to implement the balance you’re working toward?
3. Build Daily Rituals and Routine that Work for You
Building daily routines and rituals that work well for you will help you achieve and maintain the work-life balance you’re looking for. You can do this through a mixture of self-awareness, honesty, and self-discipline.
First, it’s critical to be self-aware enough to know when your most productive times are. People who freelance or work from home likely have more flexibility than those who work in corporate office settings. Still, every professional should be aware of the times of day when they work best.
Second, be honest about what works and what doesn’t. It’s too easy to get stuck on an idea of what we think should be working. When that happens, we keep pushing the wrong thing, only to burn out.
For example, let’s say you work from home and you believe the traditional 9-to-5 schedule should work for you. The problem is, it doesn’t. Every morning, you struggle with brain fog, so your work takes much longer than it should. By late afternoon, you’re firing on all cylinders, but that means you’ll be working late into the night to get all your work done. Your personal life is suffering because it takes so long to get your work done. Wouldn’t it make more sense to alter your work hours to fit that window of productivity in the afternoon and evening?
Third, once you’ve figured out a routine that enables work-life balance for you, practice self-discipline in order to stick to it. Even when we create our own workdays, we still have to hold to our schedule so we can take care of life, too.
4. Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is important for everyone, and it’s a critical part of a healthy work-life balance. It’s a major “gap” professionals can fall into if we’re not careful. Without self-care, there is no balance.
Focus on your physical health, including diet, sleep patterns, and exercise. Don’t spend too many hours sitting at your desk, and make sure you’re taking plenty of breaks. Additionally, make time to unplug from work altogether–there’s no need to stay connected to your work email 24/7.
Mental self-care is equally important. If you work at home or run your own business, work can be incredibly isolating. Check-in with your mental health from time to time, and guard against self-destructive behavior patterns such as procrastination, complacency, neglecting your health or sabotaging work and personal relationships.
Make time to protect your energy, do things you enjoy, and engage in fun activities. Committing to self-care means you’ll have more energy for your work, which will make you more engaged, productive, and successful in the long run.
5. Regularly Revisit Your Work-Life Balance and Adjust
Once in a while, revisit your work-life balance and course-correct where needed. We all get off track from time to time, and it’s normal to make adjustments periodically. In addition, our priorities, goals, and boundaries sometimes shift, which also warrants an adjustment.
The timing really depends on you, but it wouldn’t hurt to evaluate your balance once a quarter or twice per year. In the end, it’s all about what works best for you.
Here are a few example questions you can ask during your regular check-in:
- Are there specific areas where I feel overwhelmed? Can I get help to alleviate the pressure?
- Do I have personal goals on the back burner that need to be brought to the forefront?
- Is my work life still fulfilling my professional goals? Do I need to pursue professional development or consider a career change to meet them?
- Are there “life” activities that would renew my energy for work? What are they?
- Is my work routine still working for me? Where do I need to make adjustments?
In the end, work-life balance depends on what you need and what your work and life look like. So let us know: how have you found your own balance? Do you check-in with yourself regularly, or are you still pursuing a routine that works for you?
We’re curious about what’s working for you. Leave a comment below and let us know.
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