Creating a good work-life balance is a struggle for many people. However, maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, as this concept is fairly new.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known instance of the phrase only dates back to 1977. The dictionary defines the term broadly:
“Of or relating to both work and personal life; designating the relationship between the two.”
Table of Contents
What Is a Life Balance and Why Is It Important?
Life balance means having harmonious sync between your personal, professional and social pursuits. Our ultra-modern lives demand juggling between numerous roles and responsibilities. However, it is important to balance all the facets of life so that we don’t live in constant internal conflict.
“Getting in balance is not so much about adopting new strategies to change your behaviours, as it is about realigning yourself in all of your thoughts to create a balance between what you desire and how you conduct your life daily.” – Wayne Dyer
When each area of your life is precisely how it’s supposed to be, that’s when you can say that you have a perfect life balance. When you can give ample time to your family or kids, have flexible work, find space to admire the beauty of nature and maintain a sound mind and body, your life is impeccably balanced.
However, it indicates a failure to maintain life balance when your lifestyle showcases an inability to cope with stress, sleepless nights, poor nutrition, inadequate family time, or constant health issues.
But exactly should we bother having a life balance?
Well, if you respect your body, mind and soul, you would want to have a synchronous life balance. When you have a good life balance, your mental and physical state stays healthy. You will sleep adequately, have enough time for friends and family, be more productive and most importantly, you will be internally happy.
“Live a life that is well balanced; don’t do things in excess.” – Daniel Smith
When you push yourself to the boundaries and try to be a people pleaser all the time, that’s when things start going south. Don’t overdo anything, period! It is okay to accept your limitation and live by the first step towards life balance: simplifying your life with a routine and lifestyle in sync with your capabilities and limitations.
The Mystery of Work-Life Balance
Those who are trying to maintain a work-life balance only by dividing their time – by driving a sharp wedge between work-mode and life-mode – are inadvertently dividing themselves.
When people juxtapose ‘work’ and ‘life’, they unconsciously think in terms of ‘work’ versus ‘life’ – and are constantly forced to choose one at the expense of the other. In this framework, a gain on one side is always a loss on the other side.
And so, people start to see ‘work’ as the times when they are not living their lives. ‘Work’ is seen as a necessary evil that they must suffer through until it’s time to switch off. But if you encode everything related to work as negativity and suffering while your ‘life’ strains under the weight of unrealistic expectations of enjoyment, there really is no balance there at all.
Rebalancing work and life is possible by seeking out a new and enjoyable job to a certain extent. But no job is perfect. There are always going to be tedious aspects of any job. And before long, you’ll wind up on the same ‘life’ versus ‘work’ see-saw because you haven’t changed the old framework.
Signs That Your Life Might Be Out of Balance
The more often you decline invitations to spend time with friends or family because you are too busy with either work or other activities, the more you should realize that your life is not in balance.” -Byron Pulsifer
Various tell-tale signs depict your life might be out of balance.
1. Your Health Is Depleting or Going Down the Drain
Trying to go beyond your physical and mental capacity to juggle your professional and personal life tends to affect your health. If you find yourself dealing with health issues like fluctuating blood pressure, upset stomach, anxiety, depression, etc., from time to time, you can take that as a sign that your life might be out of balance.
2. You Prioritize Only One Aspect of Life
Life balance means having harmony in all aspects of life. Whether it’s your friends, family or work-life, you must find ample time for everything. When you observe that you are overcompensating on a particular facet seven days a week, your life is falling out of balance.
For example, if you spend more time on work and are hardly left with any time for your kids or family, it might be a sign of improper life balance. Or maybe, even when you are at home, you prioritize answering work emails to spending time with your children.
3. Your Daily Routine Does Not Comprise of Healthy Food
Unsynchronous life balance leads to poor nutrition. You would find yourself skipping meals or consuming unhealthy items even after you leave work. It might not be deliberate, but it is a clear indication that you failed to prioritize your health over other things.
When you find yourself not eating healthy foods for meals, then take it as a sure-shot sign that your life has fallen out of balance.
Self-care is, fundamentally, about bringing balance back to a life that has grown imbalanced from too many commitments or responsibilities. Robyn L. Gobin
4. You Are Unhappy
Well, if all is good, why aren’t you happy? Something doesn’t feel right! Correct? Take it as a clue that you are not living a congruous life. It means you are out of sync, and the balance of life is disturbed.
Keeping life balanced would bring absolute happiness.
How to Achieve a Realistic Work-Life Balance
The true goal is to redistribute the positive (+) and negative (-) evenly across life.
Most people try to make it all positive off work to compensate the negativity at work like this:
If it’s all negative at work and all positive when the work mode is switched off, the work performance will suffer – creating even more negativity. People will lean heavily on their off-mode life for happiness, but they can’t truly achieve happiness because they are not facing the problems at work.
Conversely, there are those who do strive to put positivity into their work life. Their work-life balance looks like this:
Unfortunately, if these people are still stuck in the old on/off framework, all the negativity will shift to their off-mode self, and their relationships and health will suffer.
Gregory was one of these people…
Gregory is the CEO of a startup company. He loves his work and puts his heart and soul in it. He started to expand his business around a year ago and that gained him more reputation and wealth. However, since almost all of his energy was spent on his work, he had no time to take good care of himself. He couldn’t sleep well, often felt stressful, and suffered from back pain and continuous stomachache because of stress. These health issues even started to affect his work performance.
He took our Life Assessment and Gregory found that his focus was solely on his career. He simply neglected other aspects of his life, particularly his health. At that time, his body was warning him to change his routine.
On the other hand, very few lucky people experience positivity on both sides of the equation. Their work-life balance looks like this:
If you are one of those who experience positivity from both sides, lucky you! You are one of the less than 5% of the population.
For the rest of the 95% of the population, here is a cure to having a realistic work-life balance.
Recover the Sense of a Unified Self
The solution is to recover the sense of a unified self.
When you do, you’ll dismantle the competing work/life binary, and you’ll stop unconsciously labeling work as ‘suffering’ and life as ‘enjoyment’. Positive energy will begin to flow smoothly and effortlessly throughout your life.
To recover the sense of a unified self, ask yourself: Why do I really do what I do in life and work?
Your answer to this question makes up your blueprint of a unified self, charged with meaning that relates directly to who you are and what you care about.
Use your blueprint now to examine your life at work, your leisure time, and your relationships, and see if they align with each other. The new framework is no longer ‘balance’ but ‘alignment’.
This will reveal to you a number of things:
- There are aspects of your work that are not suffering: Look again and you’ll find many positive aspects that reflect what you care about. For example, you may value creativity, and realize that you get the opportunity to show it at work every day.
- Things you care about at ‘work’ are the same as what you care about in your ‘life’: For example, you may value friendship in your life, and you also practice this value with your colleagues. Your values exist in all your interactions and serve your unified self.
- What you do at work and what you do in your life support and enhance each other: For example, the same generosity you show your friends can forge good client relationships when practiced at work. Your resourcefulness at work can be used to solve obstacles in your personal life.
Crucially, you never need to use the on/off work model again because you’re constantly acting in accordance with what you truly value. As a result, you’ll find that your positive energy will not be subject to draining or overflowing, off/on, but will instead flow consistently through all your states of being in a perpetual positive feedback loop.
Going back to Gregory, after realizing how much he had to change his daily habits, he decided to sign up for a programme that could help him effectively. So he enrolled for our Full Life Framework Programme.
With the Programme and the help of my team, Gregory started to understand the importance of leading a full life – that a life aspect that wasn’t taken care of carefully could bring down all other aspects. He first learned to reprioritized his demands in life and reorganized his schedule. He also made sure that he had sufficient time dedicated for self-care and exercising. In addition, with the help of our Busy Yet Fit Programme, he began doing workouts at home to build back muscle to help relieve his back pain. Since he started to learn how to take good care of himself, even when he felt stressful at work, he knew how to handle this stress. He has since had better sleep and a healthier body and mind!
Eventually, Gregory is able to lead a realistic work-life balance like this:
Your renewed conceptualization from ‘balance’ to ‘alignment’ is an inner transformation that can empower you whatever your current circumstances are.
For example, it may reveal that you truly are suffering in your current job. But now you can unroll your blueprint to identify the cause of the negativity (i.e. what isn’t aligning with what you value?) and either remind yourself why you’re really doing what you’re doing, make a tweak, or change your job.
Even in the latter, you can still be sustained by positivity until you find that new job. You may hate your everyday tasks, but one of the things you value is to be a good provider for your family – so you’re spurred on, knowing that you’re doing that every day.
Or if you’re a workaholic, your blueprint may reveal that what you previously undervalued as ‘off-mode’ (relaxing, having fun, pursuing a passion, spending time with family and friends) actually contains a wealth of values that support – and even enhance – a well-rounded working life.
If you want to find out how balanced your life is, take the Life Assessment here for free now, and get a customized report now.
19 Quick Tips to Create a Healthy Life Balance
A fulfilling and synchronous work and life balance will help you maintain a positive flow of energy and give utter happiness in all aspects of life.
“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson
You will not find life balance suddenly, but you need to put in efforts to create a healthy life balance. You can begin with the following steps:
1. Start Your Day Early
Becoming a morning person is probably the first thing you must do to bring back life balance. The benefit of getting up early allows you to think and plan before you begin your day. Rather than jumping out of the day, focus on planning it out by getting up early.
2. Set Clear Priorities
Coming up with clear priorities for your life means that decisions are easier. You know who is most important to you, and which values you want to focus on with your goals.
If you haven’t yet defined your personal values, you can get started with this article.
Your priorities will shift and evolve over time. This is normal and good! A newly minted lawyer in his/her mid-20s may accept working sixty hours per week to build experience, while a senior professional often has the confidence, experience, and perspective to say no in order to create free time to focus on his/her family or hobbies.
3. Don’t Forget to Prioritize Your Health
Your healthy might not be the first thing in your mind when you start your day. However, if you need to create a healthy life balance, you must focus on your health. It might mean eating healthy, exercising, meditating, etc.
4. Focus on Results, Not Time Spent
Rather than thinking about working harder, focus your time and energy on achieving bigger results. By simplifying your areas of focus, you free up more time to live a more joyful and balanced life.
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of doing countless activities that drain your energy and take you away from building momentum in moving your business forward. You are being pulled in multiple directions and don’t have enough time and often take on too many projects. This can often leave you drained, worried and uncommunicative at the end of the day.
Remember, getting more things done means nothing when nothing great is done.
By focusing on a smaller number of projects and delivering maximum impact, you have a bigger sense of achievement, confidence and motivation. Plus, you may have more time to stop work early and spend time with the people that matter.
5. Let Go of Fear
Many people, be they entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders or managers worry that if they’re not working, or seen to be working every day, they may miss out on something important. The business may fail or they may not get that promotion or something. There’s always something. There is a sense that something bad could happen if not enough time was invested or “I could always be working on something else”.
But, what if you believed you were good enough, you were achieving and doing something meaningful, and that you mattered?
Once you have that belief and confidence, you can let go of the fear that there is ‘always more’. You will feel more joyful, productive, abundant and know that what you accomplished was good enough.
This guide will help you get over your most irrational fears: How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)
6. Know When to Say No
Saying no at work is an art. If you constantly say no to the management, your reputation will gradually erode (and your chances for better opportunities and promotions will do the same). On the other hand, a thoughtful no demonstrates that you are thinking through your priorities.
Do your best to only say no when you feel it’s necessary. This is a skill, and one that develops over time. If you feel that you need some time to focus on coping with stress, don’t be afraid to say no to that extra weekend project your boss wants you to take on. Kindly suggest that it can wait until Monday.
7. The Balance Changes Daily
When you think of work-life balance, you may imagine an ideal world where you arrive home each and every weekday at 6pm. Unfortunately, you may not be able to achieve these work hours every week.
For example, corporate accounting professionals often experience long hours during the month-end process. If you know that you will face longer hours at certain times of the year, plan in advance to meet those commitments. Of course, if you have just completed ten straight weeks of sixty-hour work, then you probably need to reassess your work habits.
The idea is to achieve balance as often as possible but not to stress out when one day feels a little off.
8. Don’t Measure Value With “Face Time”
Unless your workplace operates based on a billable hour model, simply logging more hours does not create more value. In fact, Parkinson’s Law suggests that adding time to your work day causes you to lose focus. After all, you may think that you can log in “just a few minutes” on Facebook because you can always make up the time later.
You can learn how to use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage here.
Work experience, education and specialization are critical factors in attaining a high income. Simply logging more hours at the office, regardless of value, does not matter. Make the most of your time at the office with good time management skills, and watch the value of your work increase.
9. Create a Chart
Creating a chart is an excellent way to help you envisage your day. You can pre-decide how much time should you focus on work, family, friends and so on. It would also help you untangle the areas in your routine that could use some time-blocking or breaks.
10. Start to Journal
One of the biggest things that has helped me in my own personal growth and goal achievement is using my journal every day.
This is the place to house my dreams. It is home to my creative thoughts and my thinking tools. It’s a place to escape to. It’s also a place to write down thoughts and notes on where I am right now — my thinking, my mind-set and my belief system.
The habit of writing in my journal felt like a small step but has been transformative. It has become a routine that has affected other parts of my life.
So, start keeping a journal. Commit to writing every day, even if it’s just for five minutes and see where your imagination takes you.
Here’re some tips to kickstart journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)
11. Proactively Manage Energy
On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your energy and effectiveness at 10am? How does that compare to 4pm? Many people find that their energy and ability to focus gradually declines throughout the day. If this is happening, it may be time to learn how to manage your energy more.
You may need to get more sleep and use other stress management techniques to keep your energy at a steady level throughout the day. This will help you save some time and energy for when you go home to your family—few spouses and children enjoy spending time with zombies.
It’s normal to experience a lull in energy in the afternoon, but your energy should come back before you clock out. If not, you can try adjusting your diet, squeezing in an afternoon workout, or taking a short nap when you get home in order to stimulate your body’s energy reserves.
12. Work for a Company That Values Work-Life Balance
Some organizations have a better track record in the area of work-life balance than others. Instead of attempting to change the dysfunctional culture of a large organization by yourself, do yourself a favor and work for an organization that values work-life balance.
Fortunately, more and more companies are recognizing the importance of work-life balance, so you can find good options in many different industries.
If you’re looking for a new job, try to feel out the company culture during your interview. You can even explicitly ask for the hiring managers thoughts on work-life balance.
13. Exercise Several Times a Week
Some people consider exercise a luxury to be enjoyed and pursued “some time in the future.” If you are living a balanced life, you have understood the importance of getting exercise.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an effective exercise week includes both aerobic activity (e.g. walking, running, cycling, swimming) and muscle-strengthening activities (e.g. lifting weights and/or body weight exercises).
Without an effective exercise routine, your energy levels will decline and that will impact your ability to work and enjoy life.
14. Create More Family Time
This is an area that means a lot to me and was one of the reasons I set up my coaching business in the first place.
I have two young children and I wanted to see more of them and to spend more time with my family. I get to take them to school sometimes and am often home for ‘family dinner’ and bedtime stories. Having the freedom to do this is essential in how I run my business and how I help other entrepreneurs run their business.
If you can create a bit of space to spend more time with the people that matter you will see a massive difference. Here’s a guide on How to Maximize Family Time with plenty of ways you can try immediately.
15. Create One Hour a Day to Think and Relax
It’s amazing what we actually have time for, especially when we decide to really make time. I hear the phrase “I don’t have time” constantly. How about you change that mind-set and start dedicating one hour a day to yourself?
One hour to work on yourself. One hour for reading. One hour to learn a new skill.
The truth is we can all find time if it’s important to us. This one hour a day could help us become more creative and increase your energy and focus. Plus, you’ll increase your capabilities.
16. Do One Thing You Love to Do Every Day
As we get sucked into the whirlwind of the everyday, it’s all we can do just to get by. We often forget to do or enjoy the things that actually bring us the biggest amount of joy.
One of the best ways to bring more balance back into your life is to recommit to do the things that give you the most pleasure. If you don’t have anything, I suggest you find something you’re passionate about. This could be reading, walking, meditating, learning an instrument or a language, or becoming a better cook or gardener.
It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you get joy from the experience. Try carving out time every day to do this one thing. Do it for 30 days and it will become a habit. Plus, it will help you reconnect with what you really care about.
17. Use Your Vacation Days to Relax
One 2019 study reported that “fifty-five percent of workers reported that they did not use all of their vacation days”. Of those lost vacation days, “236 million were completely forfeited, which comes out to $65.5 billion in lost benefits.”
Your paid vacation time is part of your compensation, so failing to use it is like setting cash on fire. Use this time away from work to recuperate your energy and focus on your mental health.
18. Use Systems to Stay Focused
Do you have systems and habits to stay focused and productive? That’s one of the best ways to save time so that you leave the office on time each and every day.
You can start by creating some professional assets to increase your effectiveness. You can also experiment with different ways (and different times) to commute to the office. In some organizations, you can achieve a great deal before 9am because the office tends to be quiet early in the morning.
If you have trouble focusing throughout the day, try using block scheduling or the Pomodoro Method to keep you on track.
19. Express Gratitude for What You Have
Sometimes we are so busy working through and dealing with the day to day and having our mind in the future that we forget about the here and now, this present moment. I believe it’s essential to include proactive gratitude as part of everyday life, to actually look at everything in our lives and appreciate what we have.
Many of us think of gratitude as reacting. Something happens or someone does something and you feel grateful. You say thank you, maybe send an email.
But a far more proactive strategy for creating and living an abundant life is to actively find things you appreciate. This affects your own personal state of mind but also impacts others. You could send a handwritten card to the people you love or someone that means a lot to you.
Try giving thanks for three things at the end of every day and see how this shifts your mood and mind-set.
If you have already managed to create a good work-life balance, that’s great! If you’ve read through this list and realized that you’re missing a few pieces, it’s never too late to get started. Find what helps you feel both productive and fulfilled to create a life you can be proud of.
Featured photo credit: Cecilia Medina via unsplash.com