People are earning a lot more in recent years and have access to better healthcare, food choices, and other comforts of life than ever before, but their degree of happiness and fulfillment is plummeting. Part of the reason for this sad state of affairs is that there is no work-life balance in people’s lives. This is leading to burnout, feelings of emptiness and that nothing seems to matter anymore.
But, what is life-work balance anyway? This concept means different things to different people, and we can generally say it refers to being able to attend to all important aspects of your life (such as family, volunteering, career, relationships, and so on) without feeling that attending to any of those components means giving up or losing something elsewhere.
Why is work-life balance important?
As humans, we are multifaceted creatures (in contrast to robots that are programmed to do just one thing) and thrive when our different needs, wants and desires are attended to. For example, a life of leisure and making merry all-year round soon becomes meaningless and we will desire to get back to meaningful employment, at least for a while.
Work-life balance therefore recognizes who we are at the core and we attempt to address the different aspects of our lives as much as we possibly can. The areas that we need to pay attention to include our physical, emotional and mental health, our career, our family, our friends, our hobbies, and so on.
Getting work-life balance is easier said than done given how demanding our careers/businesses can be. Technology and remote work has made things even worse because it is now possible to work while sitting on your bed!
That notwithstanding, it is important to strive for work-life balance because the consequences of not doing so are serious. They include burnout, a drop in productivity, a deterioration of physical, mental and emotional health, a breakdown in our relationships, and a loss of a sense of self, among other dire results.
How can work-life balance be attained?
Be pragmatic as each day is different.
The first step to attaining work-life balance is to recognize that we live in a fluid world. This means that you can’t always perfectly divide your day into a portion for work and an equal portion for other life pursuits outside work. Accept that on some days work will take the lion’s share of your time and energy, and on other days family may demand plenty of time (such as when you get a new baby). The key is to seek for balance overall not on a daily basis. Think long term and attend to each aspect of your life as much as possible. Don’t let work dominate all your waking hours.
Rethink your finances.
Some people find it almost mandatory to work 60-hour weeks because they are trapped by their financial situation and must work triple hard to stay afloat financially. Do you really need that huge house? Do you really need that swanky car? Getting your finances under control can reduce the pressure to work more since your expenditure will be in check. Work-life balance can then be possible.
This is very important, because many of us throw our work-life balance haywire by finding it hard to say no to requests made to us. Learn to prioritize and either delegate or turn down assignments or tasks which aren’t key to the attainment of your goals. Also, must you answer work-related emails late at night or over the weekends? Set and enforce clear boundaries so that you aren’t sucked into sacrificing your work-life balance.
Improve your efficiency while at work.
Sometimes, our work-life balance suffers because we aren’t efficient while we are at work. For example, you can’t complete an important project in time if you keep taking breaks to check your email and respond to the messages you find. It is therefore important to isolate the causes of inefficiency during your workday and address them so that when it is time to leave work, you aren’t compelled to stay behind or carry work home. Think about the tools that can help you to accomplish you work faster and deploy those tools. Go get the necessary skills or polish up on your skills in case gaps in this area are causing you to be inefficient.
Physically separate work from home.
In the past, once someone walked out of the office, any pending work or emergency situation would have to wait until the next day. Unfortunately, the advent or mobile devices like laptops and smartphones has robbed us of that clear separation of work and home. However, you can create a physical separation between your workplace and home even if you work from home. For example, you can dress for work and change clothes once your workday ends. You can also lock your home office (if you are fortunate to have one) and get busy with other aspects of your life. In other words, find a way to distinguish your work from your home so that life-work balance is possible.
Make self-care a priority.
We make time for what matters to us. Read that again. To regain work-life balance, make taking care of yourself a priority. This includes having a healthy diet, exercising, getting ample rest, going to your doctor when you feel unwell or when routine tests are scheduled, attending to your hobbies, meditating, journaling, and so on. Don’t say you don’t have time to go to the gym or go on morning runs (because the truth will be that these aren’t important to you). If something is important to you, you will find the time to attend to it.
Disconnect from technology periodically.
The gadgets we own, such as smartphones, laptops, television sets and other forms of technology contribute to messing up our work-life balance if we aren’t conscious about how we use those gadgets. Some people are even addicted to their smartphones and will get jittery when half an hour or so elapses when they haven’t checked their email and social media accounts! This is unhealthy and is a sure indicator that your work-life balance is non-existent. It is therefore advisable for you to periodically turn all those gadgets off so that you can concentrate on other aspects of your life. For instance, focus on having dinner with your family instead of talking to your partner (for example) while scrolling through social media.
Attaining work and life balance isn’t just shining the torch on your career/business and home. Life encompasses so many things and it is a worthy investment to get to work on bringing balance back into those different spheres of your life. Remember, achieving and maintaining work-life balance is an ongoing undertaking, so keep tweaking your methods. The rewards will be truly worth a lot more than you ever thought possible!
To Your Success,