Work-Life Balance: 15 Ways to Take Control
March 19, 2019
Once upon a time, in the distant past, maintaining a healthy work-life balance was simple and came naturally. We went to work, and once we left, we were free to do what we pleased until the next time we entered our workplace. But that time has passed and we need to be more proactive in making sure that we maintain a work-life balance.
However, with the dramatic advancements of technology over the past few decades and the demanding nature of today’s job market, it’s getting more difficult to find time for ourselves that isn’t intruded upon by some other obligation. It might even seem like everything else is taking up most of our day and we have to struggle to find any time that makes us enjoy our day our set aside some personal time where we can just relax and recharge for a bit. In fact, a 2015 study found that 1 out of every 3 workers (33.3%) say that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is getting tougher.
It doesn’t have to be though. We’ve got some great ways that you can increase your control in your work-life balance, and take charge of your life to ensure that you don’t feel like you’re getting burnt out in your daily routine each day that you head into work. Take a look at our work-life balance tips, and learn why it’s important that you should focus on having a strong work-life balance in your personal and professional life.
The Importance of a Work-Life Balance
In today’s modern work world, it can feel like a natural tendency to want to invest everything you have into your work. We’re led to believe that the more you invest into your work, you will be more productive. The more productive you are, the more likely you are to outperform your coworkers or peers and increase your chances of getting a higher salary or receive a promotion. While that is most likely true, it doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your work-life balance to hopefully get a one-up in your professional life.
When you invest so much of your time and effort into your professional life, other areas of your life can suffer and then it will ultimately come back around and impact your professional life because they are all tied together. When you don’t invest significant amounts of your time in personal things like your family, happiness, or hobbies — it can have a significant impact on your mood and happiness when you’re at work.
Another reason for the importance of maintaining a work-life balance is that it can have a drastic impact on your mental and physical well-being. We’ve all been in a scenario where it can seem like we’re starting to feel tired or irritable when we’re going into work, but we often attribute it to a bad night’s sleep. The problem with this is that we often don’t see a trend starting to form when we’re complaining about going into work repeatedly or finding that we’re more irritable over small things that were never a big deal before.
One important thing to remember when you’re evaluating a work-life balance is that your work-life balance will have a drastic impact on your mental health. Over time as we increasingly spend more time investing in our work life instead of our personal life, we can often start to feel burnout. Burnout is when you feel like your batteries and energy are starting to run low all the time and nothing you do is fixing the problem.
Over time, this burnout sensation will begin to have a mental health toll and we find that our mood is constantly changing or we always find ourselves in a bad mood. This bad mood will then have an adverse effect on your relationships with your coworkers, peers, friends, and family. Then the cycle repeats itself once again when we realize that we’re upset that our relationships are suffering because of our bad mood. As one can see, it’s a nasty cycle that can all stem from having a poor work-life balance.
Another important thing to consider when you’re evaluating your work-life balance is that it can have a drastic impact on your physical health and well-being as well. For those individuals who have been struggling with work-related stress or have been running on low energy for quite some time because of their work commitments, there have been potential links to an increase in blood pressure, heart disease, lack of focus, and more. The key to living a happy life and maintaining a solid work-life balance is to have a strong and healthy body. If you’re sabotaging your body by over-working yourself and ruining your work-life balance, then you’re not helping yourself when it comes to your work-life balance.
The next important consideration as to why maintaining a work-life balance is important is that it ultimately increases your productivity. It might seem counter-intuitive to say that you should take time off work or focus on things outside of work to be more productive when you’re working — but it’s true!
When you’re spending so much of your time and effort focused around your professional life, it can wear you down and your productivity suffers without you realizing it. When you have a healthy work-life balance, you have a renewed spirit and energy when you come into work each day and you can ultimately contribute more over time because you no longer feel like it is painstaking work.
When you maintain a professional and personal life balance, you can increase your productivity significantly.
Another important consideration as to why maintaining a work-life balance is important is that it helps you become a more well-rounded and critical thinking individual. You might be asking how this is so. Well, we’re often shaped by our personal lives more than we often realize. And when we put a focus on other things outside of our professional lives, we can shape our personality and our values based on what we consider important.
Unknowingly, we then take this into consideration when we’re going into work and attempting to come up with solutions to problems we face on the job. In addition, your hobbies and values outside of work shape you and your work habits. This is why employers, hiring managers, and recruiters like to ask you questions about your hobbies because they’re trying to identify what you value, and what kind of work ethic you’ll have based on your personal life influences.
The Problems When You Have a Poor Work-Life Balance
Earlier, we briefly touched on some of the physical and mental issues that can arise when you have a poor work-life balance. In this section, we’re going to talk a little bit more about some of the problems that might arise when you have a poor work-life balance.
• 1.) Fatigue
One of the first problems that might arise is the chance for fatigue to slowly creep in. As we increasingly spend more time at work, we’re asking our bodies to perform at a high functioning capacity for longer periods of time. And then we’re compounding that stress on our bodies and our mental state by reducing the amount of free time we have which we use to recharge our minds and rest our bodies. Over time, fatigue can start to set in which will have an impact on your productivity, and well-being. When you have a strong work-life balance, you no longer have to worry about this because you’re focusing on both the productivity times and the down times where you can recharge.
• 2.) Poor Health
Another problem that can arise is poor health. As we’ve mentioned earlier, your health can start to deteriorate over time because you’re not focusing on maintaining a healthy and proper work-life balance. Imagine running a marathon every single day, and then you take some time off to get some food and drink some water. Then the next day, you do the same routine. Except for on the second day you run a little bit longer, and eat a little bit less food and drink a little less water. This is a great example of how spending more time working and spending less time on your personal life can impact your health and well-being.
When you’re spending all of your time at work and increasing the amount of time you’re dedicating effort to work-related activities, your health will start to deteriorate over time.
• 3.) Lost Time With Friends and Family Members
Another problem that can start to creep in when you have a poor work-life balance is that you lose significant time with friends and family members. We’ve all been in a scenario where we’ve had to tell a friend or family member that we’re going to stay late to get something done at work and then we’ll have to reschedule or we’ll see them later. The problem with this trend is that over time we don’t realize how much time we’re missing with our friends and family members, or it beings to become a frequent issue and we’ve never noticed it.
Over time, it only takes a few times before we realize that we’ve missed an hour each day for a week, or even more. Unfortunately, time is a commodity that we can never get back. Even if you plan on “making up for it” later, there is no guarantee that you will be able to do that because time is the most precious commodity we have. Make time with your family and friends a priority to ensure that you have a strong work-life balance.
• 4.) Increased Pressure and Expectations On You
Another problem that can develop when you have a poor work-life balance is the burden or pressure of additional expectation in both your personal and professional life. When we feel like we’re suffering in our professional life, we start to feel like our personal life should start making up for some of the problems we’re experiencing in our professional life. The problem with this, is that when we put an increased amount of pressure on our personal life, we can then get upset in our personal life of how it’s underperforming, and then put that pressure and unhappiness on our professional life.
It’s all a balance, and it has to be maintained delicately. You shouldn’t feel like one area of your life is struggling and it’s up to the other part of your life to pick up slack. If your work-life balance is strong, then you can rest easy knowing that one area of your life doesn’t have to work overtime to pick up the slack.
Identify What Is Important To You In Your Ideal Work-Life Balance
The best way to ensure that you’re focused on your work-life balance is to figure out what you deem important and then utilize the steps and tips we have below to ensure that you’re working your way towards having a strong work-life balance. It can be difficult to see which changes or tips will work best for you when you’re not certain which ones will help you do a better job of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
The first step to figuring out what the ideal work-life balance might look like for you is to determine what your values are. When you figure out what your values are, you can help craft your professional life and personal life around those values to ensure that they are aligned properly. When your values in your professional life and personal life aren’t aligned, you can struggle to identify which areas of your life need to improve or which areas are impacting your work-life balance.
The best way to identify what you value in your personal and professional life is to take a sheet of paper and start taking notes. Separate the two into different circles that are partially overlapping with a small section between the two circles where you can write commonalities and begin writing down what is important to you. If you identify something that is important to you in both categories, write it in the middle. In this way, you don’t have to write the same thing down twice and can still evaluate what is important to you.
When you’re writing down the things that you value, ask yourself some critical questions like, “What is important to me in my personal life? Do I want to spend time investing in my hobbies? What do I want to accomplish in my personal life? What do I want to accomplish in my professional life? Do I want to be able to travel or work from home?” These are great questions to ask yourself when you’re writing down the values that are important to you.
Understanding your values is a great way for you to identify which areas you’re currently not making any progress in, where potential conflicts might be in your professional and personal life, and understand the first steps in what it might take to improve your personal work-life balance. One example of how conducting a personal value audit will help you in improving your work-life balance is a brief look at our first tip of work-life balance tips.
The first tip we highlight is disconnecting. Have you listed that you want to learn a new skill in the next couple of years but often find that every waking moment you’re off work you’re spending time on your phone, computer, or watching tv? Disconnecting from those devices and investing an hour a day or half hour each day to learning a new skill is one simple way that you can work towards accomplishing that goal and satisfying that value you hope to make a priority.
This is just one example of how our tips for improving your work-life balance is largely dependent upon knowing your values and identifying what steps you need to improve that balance.
15 Work-Life Balance Tips:
Depending on your line of work and the responsibilities involved, your leisure time can suffer from constant interruptions and the need to be in contact with your employer at all times. New communication technologies, although beneficial in a myriad of ways, are one of the leading causes of becoming disconnected. Being easier to contact is not always a good thing and can mean unnecessary stress during the times that we’re supposed to unwind and forget about our day-to-day responsibilities.
Luckily there are a few simple things you can do to ensure your down time remains just that. Make an effort to stay away from your smartphone and social media, but don’t just drop off of the face of the Earth. Let your employer or anyone else that regularly contacts you outside of work hours that you’re not going to be as available as you have been in the past.
In addition, another way to disconnect properly is to reduce the email access you have. It’s similar to receiving a text message, or a phone call when you’re not at work. You might even think to yourself, “It’s just one email. I’ll quickly respond to it and then be done with it.” Only to realize that the email you’re sending back is more detailed than you expected, it took longer to craft than you had initially hoped for, and now you’re receiving multiple emails that require a response each day instead of just the one every blue moon. In the same way, you should express that you’re not going to respond to messages or phone calls unless you’re in work, you should do the same thing when it comes to email unless it is absolutely necessary.
As we’ve mentioned, being able to do this or request that you’re contacted less in your personal time might largely depend on the role you have in your professional life because some individuals need to be contacted or be available for communication at all times of the day — but if you find that your role doesn’t require that then you can certainly request that the communication outside of professional hours slows down or that you should be compensated when they do communicate with you.
Disconnecting is the first step to separating your professional life from your personal life and ensure that the two don’t seem to bleed together. The different lives should be kept separate to ensure that you can focus on one thing without having to worry about the other.
Another aspect of disconnecting is to completely remove yourself from technology completely or do it in chunks or bits of time when you’re not working. As technology becomes an increasing part of our daily routine whether it’s your professional life or your personal life — you still need to find time to separate yourself from it.
Most likely you’re already spending most of your day at work staring at a computer screen or some other form of technology, and then you come home and do the same thing all over again. Find some time to disconnect yourself completely and spend some time doing something else like taking a walk, investing in learning a new skill, and more. Disconnecting yourself is a great way for you to take a step back and re-evaluate what matters to you instead of always being consumed with what is going on in social media or on certain technology formats.
2. Get Proper Exercise
Establishing a proper exercise routine can go a long way to relieving the stress we feel from our day-to-day responsibilities, while also helping us build healthier habits and an overall better life. It may not seem like a high priority at the moment and you may think that there’s just not enough time in the day. If you’ve ever stopped to think about it for even just a few minutes, you’ve realized that this is just an excuse.
Exercise releases endorphins that literally make you feel good throughout your body, and set you in the right mood for the rest of your day. A good way to do this is to make it the “bridge” activity of the day. Schedule your workout before or after your shift, to “bridge” the gap between your downtime and work-life, or vice versa.
When you exercise each day, you’re making a commitment to improving your overall health. As we’ve mentioned, when your body releases the endorphins that make you feel good you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll be in a better mood throughout the rest of the day. Working out also has a lot of other benefits like giving you an outlet for reducing some of the stress that you’ve built up throughout the day, improving your energy levels, and more.
3. Prioritize the Things That Matter Most
Many of us have so many things on our plate at the same time that it is almost sickening. Obviously, there’s a finite number of hours, minutes, and seconds in the day for us to accomplish our goals, so we have to prioritize the things that matter and work our way down. Take time to really think about what matters most to you, and put more of your time and effort into those. Its as easy as that.
People are very different. While many want to put more time into family and building relationships with friends, others may be content with putting more time into solo activities. Regardless, although it may take some time, decipher what you want out of this period in your life and work to achieve those goals.
This is where you can really use that list of things you valued earlier and make a conscious effort towards accomplishing some of those goals and values that you listed earlier. When you prioritize and work towards highlighting those values and meeting a satisfaction of those values, you’re already on your way to improving your work-life balance.
4. Start Small
Everyone’s been on a diet or exercise kick that we ran into full-force and told ourselves that this is our new “thing” and we’ll keep up it, just to inevitably give it up soon after. Instead of trying to make dramatic life-changes quickly, make a series of small changes and get used to them being a constant in your life. When you work towards large changes with small increments, you increase the likelihood that those changes will stick and you will be able to work towards your ultimate change in behavior or lifestyle that you were hoping for.
This is the only way to solidly build habits that stick with us for life.
Just like someone who’s trying to cut back on their coffee intake, start be decreasing the amount of time you spend on whatever it is that you want to replace, and spend that time on your new habit or activity instead. No one can expect to just give up their coffee after they’ve been drinking a cup every morning for years. They’ll feel terrible and will eventually break down and any progress they achieved will be undone.
The important thing to remember when you’re starting small and making some of these lifestyle changes or changes in your professional and personal life is that it’s all about constantly making progress. You don’t have to get worried about doing it all in a certain timetable or on a certain timeline. The best way to remember this is that a little bit of progress adds up to a lot over time.
For instance, if you wanted to run a mile, you might think that you have to run a quarter mile in your first day. The problem with this is that you will get discouraged over time when you cannot accomplish that goal. Instead, you could break down the mile run into smaller increments, and increase a little bit each day. Before you know it, you’re accomplishing your entire goal.
The same thing can be said when you’re working towards making changes in your professional and personal life, start small and work towards building up over time.
5. Make Time for You
Whether its at work, in public, or at home, we’re hardly ever truly alone anymore. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is about recalibrating yourself, your habits, and the stress you feel. Even if you’re a social butterfly, make time for yourself to be alone with your thoughts. Read a book, play a game, meditate, do yoga, or whichever other activities you find interesting to fill the time.
You can use the time to reflect on your life, where you’re going, the next steps in your life, or absolutely nothing at all. The choice is yours. All you need is to be by yourself. This is another aspect we’ve briefly covered earlier in disconnecting. Disconnecting is another great way to ensure that you’re making time for yourself to concentrate on your work-life balance and your overall well-being.
6. Avoid Multitasking
Sometimes life can hand us more than our fair share of issues simultaneously and many end up juggling many different things at one time. This is the wrong approach to building a healthy work-life balance though. If you take the time to approach each activity (even if that activity is doing nothing at all), you’ll ultimately see better results.
Multitasking is something we tend to do when we start to get overwhelmed with all of the different tasks we have to accomplish in both our personal life and our professional life. Often times we’ll try to find commonalities between the two and try to solve multiple problems at once. The problem with this is that we often take on more tasks than we realize because we think we can accomplish multiple different tasks at the same time with our multitasking abilities.
Over time we can get overwhelmed and then we ultimately fall short of what we were hoping for, or we turn in deliverables that aren’t up to our best standard and in turn, we get upset that we’re not doing our best work because we’re taking on more work than we should.
The best way to avoid all of this is to focus on what you can control, and put your full effort into it to ensure that you’re not getting overwhelmed with the different tasks that you’ve accepted responsibility for. There needs to be a delicate balance with which tasks you do assume as part of your multitasking efforts because some roles require it, but you should constantly remind yourself that you can put more effort into one thing at a time then trying to balance multiple different tasks at the same time.
Take this lesson from a Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanson:
7. Ask for Help
It may be time to suck up your pride and realize that you can’t handle as much as you’ve taken on. This is understandable since you’re just one person with a limited amount of time and energy to get the things you need done. If your employer, family, or friends are coming on strong, putting more and more on you and asking you to constantly go out of your way for them, let them know what’s going on.
Asking for help from those around you can go a long way to building a healthy work-life balance. Why? By explaining your situation and what you’re dealing with on a daily basis will likely make them think twice of going to you for something they can ask someone else for, or simply do themselves. If your employer or friend refuse to understand and continue, or even escalate, its probably time to find others.
Another benefit to asking for help is that you can demonstrate that you’re vulnerable or need assistance. Unfortunately, when others constantly rely on you and overburden you it can feel like you’re just a superman or superwoman to them. The problem with this is that they can become over-reliant on you and off-load their responsibilities because they think you enjoy it or don’t mind.
Instead, when you ask for help you can demonstrate that you do need assistance every once in a while and that they should be more considerate when asking you to do more tasks than you can handle.
In the event that the responsibilities that you’ve been assigned are too much for you alone, asking for help can also strengthen the relationships and bonds you have with your co-workers or friends. People enjoy helping others, and when you ask for help with some of the tasks that you’ve been assigned, you can further develop those relationships.
8. Learn How to Say No
Learning how to say no ties into asking for help when it comes to work-life balance, in that sometimes people will not understand or just won’t care about your situation. In this case, you have to learn to say no, even to your employer. They purchase your time for the hours during the day that you’re scheduled to work, no more and no less. Don’t feel overly obligated to fulfill duties that you’re not really responsible for unless they’re offering to pay you to do it.
Friends may want favors and family members may want you to help with something, but don’t hesitate to say no when it interferes with your own health. Cultivating a proper work-life balance is overall about cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and this starts with learning how to say no. If you find that you don’t enjoy confrontation, or you don’t enjoy saying no to people because you’re a people pleaser, the good news is that this is a skill that can be developed over time.
Learning how to say no takes time, and you might not always be good at it when you first start doing it — but it is critical to ensuring that you don’t get overwhelmed and establish a strong footing on having a strong and healthy work-life balance.
9. Experiment Every Now and Then
Another tip to improving your work-life balance is to experiment every now and then. As we’ve mentioned earlier, you want to make your changes slowly and take one step at a time to improve your work-life balance. Sometimes it can be the things we never considered that could potentially impact our work-life balance in the most impactful way. Don’t be afraid to experiment by changing up your routine or doing something different. As with some of the other tips we’ve highlighted, you want to start small and potentially experiment with lifestyle changes in a positive manner that could potentially improve your work-life balance.
10. Make the Decision to Start
One of the best ways to improve your work-life balance is to make it a priority to start changing your work-life balance priorities. It doesn’t matter how much planning you’ve come up with to change or evaluate your work-life balance if you never decide to start making changes. Often times we can plan for days or weeks on how we’re going to go about doing something different. All the planning is good, but you need to make the decision to start implementing those changes. Otherwise, it’s just theory and planning.
11. Take Advantage of Options Available To You
Often time swe have different options that are available to us that could potentially help improve our work-life balance and we don’t even realize it. Often times, all it takes is a simple question to identify potential ways in which you can improve your overall work-life balance. The question you can ask yourself is, “Are there any things I can do or change in my work routine that would help improve the overall balance between the two?”
For instance, if you’re really passionate about getting some more of your personal time back or finding ways to break up the monotony of going into work at the same time, one way you could potentially change this is to ask about flex time, or see if there is an opportunity for you to change your current role to be a role centered around flexible hours. Flexible hours or flex scheduling is a great way for you to realign your hours to match some of your values. We might not even realize that it is our work hours or the times we’re scheduled that are contributing significant amounts of stress on our personal lives.
Another potential opportunity or option to consider with your job is whether or not there are potential telecommuting options that you can utilize to work from home. Working from home is another option that has been recently made available thanks to the recent advancements in technology and the adoption of that technology by companies.
If your employer is hesitant about allowing you to pursue flex time or flex scheduling opportunities, you have to convince them that you’re still going to be doing the same work and being a productive team member, but on a different schedule that will help improve your work-life balance — which in turn will help increase your productivity.
Another key option that you should pursue is to see if there is any way you can secure additional time off. Depending on how your employment contract is set up, you might have time off that extends to the following year, or you lose it if you don’t use it. If you’d like to take time off and you’ve already used all of the time that you’ve been allotted, then you should ask for some more time and demonstrate how that time off will improve your happiness at work, and allow you to be more focused because you’ve had some time off to recharge your batteries.
Another way you can take advantage of some options available to you is to see if there are any employer-sponsored opportunities or resources you can use to take some of the burden off your shoulders (whether financial or time-commitment). For instance, in today’s modern society employers have dozens of different offerings they provide to their employees to make them happier and increase the likelihood that the employee will choose them over some of their other competitors.
A couple of benefits could be childcare services or exercise gyms that are only available for employees. In other words, instead of having to drop your kid off at the daycare that is completely out of the way when you’re heading into work, you could just utilize the childcare services that are sponsored by your employer. This means that you only have one destination instead of multiple which make you go out of your way and can cause extra headaches when you’re getting ready for work or figuring out your schedule each day.
12. Minimize Interruptions
Another tip for improving your work-life balance is to minimize the interruptions that you’re experiencing when you’re trying to work towards a healthier balance. Whether it’s unplugging the technology that is distracting you when you’re constantly receiving notifications from co-workers or your employer, there are plenty of things that could potentially interrupt the plans you’ve set in place to improve your work-life balance. The key to avoiding these work-life balance is that you can reduce the number of interruptions you have each day, you just have to make a conscious effort to prioritize the things you’re doing to ensure that they’re not going to impact your ability to improve your work-life balance.
13. Shorten Your Commitments
Earlier, we’ve highlighted how it can be a challenge for some people when you’re trying to say no to helping others or committing to help on a certain project. The problem with saying yes to these commitments is that we often underestimate the time commitment that is required. Or in some cases, we recognize how long the commitments will last, but we don’t realize just how much work is going to be required to honor that commitment throughout the entire duration of it.
The best way to get around this and improve your overall work-life balance is that you have to make a conscious effort to shorten your commitments. You can do this by talking to the other members of the commitment and expressing how you need to lighten your load a bit and refocus your efforts. Another way is that you can stop taking on so many new commitments until your schedule clears up a bit. In this way, you can eventually get a breather when your commitments start to clear up, and you can dedicate that time to some of the other things we’ve mentioned in our list of tips to take control of your work-life balance or you could participate in other commitments that will ultimately improve your work-life balance in the long run or align with your goals and values more appropriately.
14. Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Jobs
This is one of the tougher ways to take control of your work-life balance, but it’s one that you should always consider when you’re looking to improve the balance. The problem is that your job might not always be in complete alignment with what you value or what your career goals are. There is no shame in potentially pursuing different career or employment opportunities that will align better with your personal life. The scary thing about this is that when someone considers switching careers or jobs, their future is often uncertain or they are putting some stability into a bit of disarray.
Unfortunately, this is a part of the process when you’re trying to improve your overall work-life balance. The way you can reduce some of this disarray or uncertainty is to pursue other job opportunities or career interests when you’re gainfully employed — and only accept a new opportunity when it becomes available. This way you’re not putting yourself through undue stress and you have something lined up in the future. Switching jobs is one of the last things you should do because of that uncertainty, but it might be the one thing that you need to do to improve your work-life balance.
15. Make a List of Benefits
Another way to improve your efforts and potentially increase the chances of improving your work-life balance is to make a list of all the benefits associated with improving your work-life balance. Earlier, you took the time to write down all of the values and goals that you value. When doing this, you had the opportunity to evaluate whether or not you were making those career goals or personal goals a priority, and whether or not they aligned with the things you valued.
Now that you’ve done that and you’re starting to make some small incremental changes to improve our work-life balance, the next thing you need to do is hold yourself accountable and keep perspective of why those changes are needed to improve your work-life balance. One great way of doing both of these things is to make a list of benefits associated with making those small incremental changes to improve your work-life balance.
For instance, one benefit on the list of benefits could be, “By improving my work-life balance, I’ll be more energetic when I go to work each day.” In this way, you can look back at the list of benefits and remember why it’s important that you take control of your work-life balance by making some slight changes. In addition, you’ll find that you hold yourself accountable when you’re constantly reminded of the benefits associated with some of these incremental benefits you’ve listed.
To summarize, respect your own time and others will too!
Do you have a method we didn’t list for building a healthy work-life balance? Let us know about it in the comments below!