September 5, 2018

Finding the Right Balance Between Work and Life

An increasing number of people are finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the responsibilities in their lives. According to a 2014 study from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—published by the American Sociological Review—70 percent of American workers struggle to find an acceptable balance between their work and home life. Many employees, particularly those with children, are perpetually stressed out and overwhelmed. In an economy where most families rely on two incomes just to get by, how can you find the proper balance between the responsibilities of work and those of your personal life?

Work-life balance is an extremely elusive concept, especially for those who strive to give 100 percent effort to everything they do. Unfortunately, there are often many factors at play which are completely out of your control. How can you work toward achieving equilibrium when there is so much pressure to be everything to everyone?

While you may have limited control over many aspects of your life, striking a happy balance means focusing on the areas where you are able to make some meaningful decisions. Although you may not completely alleviate the pressure of having multiple important responsibilities in your life, taking ownership when it’s possible can help you direct your life in the way that works best for you.

Schedule Fun Time

You schedule appointments, meetings, and many other mundane tasks, but how often do you set aside time specifically for enjoyment? If you make a point to pencil in lunch with friends, a movie night with the family, or another activity specifically for pleasure, you are much more likely to make it happen. People who proactively schedule fun, quality time are less likely to get bogged down in little things that eat up any free time they do have available. Make a point to vary your down-time activities to keep them enjoyable and avoid monotony.

Set Realistic Goals

While it may seem like a completely daunting task to make time to exercise, take a bath, read a book, or whatever activity helps you recharge, remember that just 15 minutes a day could make a huge difference. You might even find that saving those few minutes just for you helps your productivity for the rest of the day. When you take care of yourself, you will likely have more energy and patience for the other obligations in your life. Exercise is a particularly beneficial choice because it has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.

Choose Activities Wisely

A lot of people waste their time and energy doing things that they have no desire to do. Whether it’s spending time with a person you don’t want to be around or volunteering for a child’s school field trip, when you stop doing things simply because you feel too guilty to say no, you will inevitably free up more time to use doing things you actually enjoy.

Rethink Clean

Keeping an impeccably clean house is a tremendous amount of work. Although you probably can’t get away with skipping the laundry, there are likely some household tasks that don’t necessarily need to be completed as often as they are now. Pay someone else to clean your house if you can afford it; if not, rethink your standards and whether or not you actually need to make the beds every day.

Outsource What You Can

Are there options to delegate tasks that you could take advantage of but don’t? Hire a teenager in your neighborhood to mow your lawn or shovel your driveway. Order your groceries online and have them delivered to your house. If your budget doesn’t allow for hiring help, consider trading services with friends or neighbors. If you like to cook and are doing it anyway, prepare a meal for someone in exchange for some help with your garden.

Set Technology Limits

Smart phones, tablets, and laptops exist to help make life easier, not harder. If you are constantly paying attention to your device, it’s easy to let it control you. Make certain times—like meal time—screen-free. This helps set a boundary between home and work and also makes you more present to enjoy uninterrupted time with your family.

One Thing at a Time

A lot of people think that when they multi-task, they are being super efficient. In reality, multi-tasking just causes more stress than focusing on one thing at a time. One exception to this is incorporating your children into something that needs to be accomplished. If you turn chores into a game or have fun preparing dinner with your child, you are getting something done and spending quality time together simultaneously.

Be Efficient

If you took a shorter lunch, spent less time chatting with your coworkers, or limited personal phone calls or emails while you were in the office, would you be able to go home at a more reasonable hour? If you spent all of your time at work truly focused on the task at hand, you might find that you get enough done to scale back on late evenings or working from home. Remember, though, that taking a short break every so often will help you clear your mind and be more efficient when you get back to your project. Most people can’t focus for much longer than 90 minutes without a serious dip in productivity. If you try to push yourself too hard, your efficiency will likely suffer.

Explore Your Options

Have you ever inquired about flex time or working from home? Some employers may be open to the idea of allowing for a bit of flexibility, particularly if you are a high performer. Make sure that you are taking full advantage of all the options that may be available to you.

Define Your Own Success

Success means different things to different people. Additionally, your own definition of success is likely to change and evolve over time. When you define what success means to you, you can focus your time and energy on activities and obligations that help you reach your own personal goals, not those of society or others in your life.

Ask for Help

Sometimes doing it all yourself just isn’t a realistic possibility. Do you have friends or family members who might have time to help you? Could you talk to your boss about cutting back hours at work? If you have a spouse or partner, could that person help you by dividing household tasks more evenly? If you are truly feeling overwhelmed, seek out help from others.

It can be easy to ignore the fact that you need a good balance between work and life until something goes wrong. Remember that making a commitment to spending time in a way that works for you is important for your health and well-being. Stress can cause serious problems including poor physical health. Your relationships with friends and family are also likely to suffer if you neglect them. Do your best to dedicate appropriate time and attention to your obligations at home and at work and you are likely to be more successful with both.