Work-life balance. We all know about it, and we all know it’s important. But it feels like an abstract concept, or a resolution we’re forever trying (and failing) to grasp.
So what is a work-life balance?
A work-life balance is what you get when you split your time (and energy) between your work and your personal life in a balanced and beneficial way. Achieving a work-life balance is difficult when we consistently find ourselves under pressure, and even more so when we’re connected with technology that can keep us working 24/7. Without work-life balance, we find ourselves more stressed out and exhausted, and ultimately reduce our quality of work and productivity.
When you have a healthy work-life balance, you’re able to fulfill your other life roles (parent, partner, friend, athlete, artist) without feeling guilty for not working. In short, you don’t feel guilty for living a holistic lifestyle. A 2007 study found that employees with a healthy balance between their work and their personal lives did better at work.
Signs your work-life balance is out of whack
It might be difficult to tell that your work-life balance needs some TLC, especially when you’re deep in the work wormhole. So here are some signs you need to rethink your relationship with your job:
- Poor health
- Your relationships are taking strain
- You feel unsatisfied in some areas of your life
How to reach a sustainable work-life balance
Achieving a work-life balance can be a bit like a New Year’s resolution. At first you approach it with a fervour and an eagerness like nothing else, and then the fire dies down and you lose interest only to slip into your old ways. So how can you find a work-life balance that’s really doable?
First, you need to find out your priorities. What areas of your life, in your view, are most in need of attention? At first, make a conscious effort to focus just on those areas. If that means getting up an hour earlier to spend breakfast with your family then commit to doing that for one month. After enough time it will become your routine.
Switch off your work brain outside work hours. This is probably the hardest part. You need to stop taking your work home with you and giving it the room to interfere with your personal life. Set limits. Make it clear that you’re only to be contacted for emergencies, and resist the urge to just get that quick task done, or send that little email. Rather, be present and worry about work when you’re at work.
You need to learn to say no. If colleagues keep coming to you and adding more to your already-full plate, you need to understand that these small extras are going to take time away from the rest of your life.
Apart from all the benefits for your personal life and your well-being, a balanced relationship between your work and the other parts of your life can actually improve your work life. It’s worth the effort, and it might just be the key to your success.