Do you always feel like you have too much to do all the time? Or do you never have time to spend with family and friends because you are too busy? You are not alone. Most of us juggle a lot. For example, I am a wife and a mother of two. I have a regular job and a hobby I am trying to build as a side hustle while pursuing a doctoral degree. It’s a lot, but between life and work stress, most people struggle to maintain a work-life balance.
Some people are juggling three to four jobs to make ends meet. Apart from working, other people also have to take care of newborn babies, the elderly, or sick loved ones, and the list of responsibilities continues.
When juggling a lot, you are likely to drop a few balls along the way, an option that may not exist for many people. So, we sacrifice our well-being to keep all the other balls in the air. However, creating a harmonious work-life balance is critical to ensure your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is also crucial if you want a successful career.
What is work-life balance?
When thinking about work-life balance, most envision an equalized see-saw between work and our personal lives. However, you can’t achieve a work-life balance by focusing on the number of hours you allocate to each side.
For each of us, achieving the ultimate work-life balance is entirely different and dependent upon your life stage and priorities, which may be fluid and ever-changing. The balance you required two years ago may be very different today.
For example, a promotion may be the most important thing for someone in the early stages of their career. Work-life balance for them may include extended hours at work and cutting back on socializing to ensure they meet their end goal. A natural shift towards meeting family needs occurs for parents, and work-life balance will look quite different again.
Work-life balance is a state where one can equally prioritize the demands of their career and personal life. It is about feeling content with who we are and our decisions. It is about prioritizing what’s important to you, having firm boundaries, being present in the moment, and making a more significant impact at work and in the world.
Hence, before you can plan to attain a better work-life balance, you need to understand yourself, your current priorities, and what work-life balance means. Having a work-life balance starts with your mindset and is created by YOU!
Benefits of having a work-life balance
Signs of an unhealthy work-life balance include feeling like you always have too much on your plate all the time, restless sleep, and always feeling tired. Also, being unable to find time to spend with family and friends, constantly feeling irritable, having no time for self-care, and struggling to focus. Some of the benefits of achieving a work-life balance include the following:
- Reduced stress: Finding a balance can help reduce work stress. The biggest problem most of us have is thinking we have no choice. If you agree to take on more work even when you know you have no capacity or do not delegate when you have an alternative, it creates more stress for you. Saying no as much as possible and choosing only to handle priorities will significantly reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
- Improved mental health: Creating a more balanced life will leave you feeling more capable of handling negative emotions and thoughts. It creates the breathing space you need to think, allowing your subconscious thoughts to bubble to the surface. When you are more self-aware, you can healthily deal with them.
- Better physical health: Having a busy and demanding career means you are often chained to a desk most of the day. You rarely engage in any physical activity, which is detrimental to your health. Achieving balance means having more time for physical activity, including standing, moving, and getting outdoors. When you get your heart rate up, you generate endorphins, hormones that make you feel more positive and good about yourself. Physical activity allows you to sleep better, gives you more energy, and a more positive outlook in life.
- It enhances your ability to be present in all areas of your life. A balance improves your relationships enabling you to have a deeper connection with family, friends, and even colleagues. It will also increase work engagement and creative thinking and make you more productive.
Overall, a work-life balance will bring happiness, fulfillment, and success.
Tips for creating a better work-life balance
1. Set and respect boundaries: Set and communicate your boundaries to colleagues and clients. These should include when you will and won’t be working so they don’t expect you to be available 24/7. Also, be honest about your personal needs. Let your boss know which regular activities in your personal life are non-negotiable, whether putting your children to bed or doing yoga – whatever matters for you.
2. Prioritize your health: Recognize the importance of your overall well-being. Get the right food and nutrition, exercise, and prioritize self-care and your emotional well-being.
3. Learn to say no. Learning to say has been the hardest thing I have learned through the years. Although saying no is crucial to setting and respecting boundaries, I tend to always put other people’s needs before mine. This give work stress room to take over. But more and more am learning to articulate and prioritize what I have on my plate. I am learning to say no to new projects, and extra commitments do not contribute to achieving my work or personal objectives.
An excellent tool I have found helpful is the Eisenhower Matrix. It allows me to categorize my daily activities so I can only focus on what makes me more productive and effective.
4. Make time for self-care and fun activities: Reflecting and rejuvenating are vital to your overall well-being. A little treat every month will give you something to look forward to and help you get through those more stressful days. Besides, with all of the hard work you’ve been doing – I think you deserve a treat.
The bottom line
Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time, often daily. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all; we all have different priorities and lives. So, don’t strive for the ideal schedule, just a realistic one. Work stress is going to still happen. On certain days you may spend more time at work, and on others, you might have more time to pursue your hobbies or spend time with loved ones. The most important thing is to remain fluid and constantly assess where you are against your goals and priorities.