Work can get really overwhelming. Really fast. Then there’s the pressure that if we want to get ahead, we have to work harder than everyone else. Success equals better pay, which equals financial security.
So shouldn’t work be a top priority?
But what if the opposite was true? After all, doesn’t everyone worry that they’re not spending enough time with their family, or pursuing their passions outside of work? Shouldn’t we spend the majority of our time developing our talents and doting on our significant others?
It can be tempting to throw yourself fully into either your career or your personal life, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation—your work-life balance is more important than you might think.
But what exactly does “work-life balance” mean? The definition of work-life balance can vary (see what it means for entrepreneurs), and everyone has a different idea of what the perfect balance should be.
No matter what, the most important thing is to find a balance that works best for your life and doesn’t cause you excessive stress.
Ways to Find Balance
The fact is when you’re trying to find the right work-life balance, you’ll face pressures and expectations from all sides—and it won’t always be easy.
No one understands this better than Ashley Collins. It’s very possible that at the end of the day you’ll feel like you don’t have enough time for everything that’s important to you. Unfortunately, you’re limited to 24 hours in a day just like everyone else.
The secret is to make time. This means cutting out procrastination and habits that don’t contribute to your quality of life (TV is a big culprit here).
One of the hardest parts of making more time for yourself is saying “no” to people who want, but don’t need, your time. It’s important to spend time with friends, for example, but you don’t have to accept every single invitation to lunch.
Symptoms of Imbalance
Some people—maybe even you—don’t love this idea of balance and moderation. You might think you can do it all—you hustle for 60 hours a week at work, you’re a stellar parent and spouse, and you still make time to go for a swim every day. That’s great!
But running at full speed 24/7 can eventually wear you down. If your life doesn’t feel balanced, it’s easy to get burned out. Focus on preventing burnout and finding balance.
Spending too much time focusing on work can definitely cause some stress. And sometimes our immediate reaction to stress is to put your nose to the grindstone and power through, but taking time to manage stress levels can have many benefits.
There are lots of tips to manage your stress and when you learn about the effects it can have on your health, you’ll want to do whatever you can.
Make the Most of Your Time
Whether you decide to spend an extra Saturday hard at work or devote it to leisure time, it’s important that you are the one in control of the decision. These tips can help you take control and find harmony.
Sometimes the answer to finding balance is simple: instead of working longer hours, make the most out of the time you work.
Working more efficientlywill free up the time you’re looking for so you can spend it with your family or on your other interests.
The Challenges of Parenthood
Being a parent adds its own challenges to finding the right work-life balance. Here are some ideas about how to find the right balance between work and family. (Hint: it’s okay to ask for help.)
Becoming a mother in particular makes career advancement more difficult. A woman with children, no matter how well she thinks she’s balancing her career and her personal life, may face discrimination in the workplace.
And for fathers, it may be helpful to draw a firm line between their workday and family time in order to be close to their children.
All of these stories should give you great ideas on how to establish a healthy work-life balance.
However, there is also the theory that the lines between work and personal life are blurring. If you have a job you love, maybe you don’t have to worry about work-life balance as much as work-life integration.
If you think about it, it makes sense – smartphones make it easier to carry work with you wherever you go, and if you enjoy work, it might not make you feel stressed out.
Set your terms.
Don’t let someone else make the decision for you. Decide for yourself what’s important in your life and career.
You may not be able to attend every single PTA meeting, but can you make sure your child’s play recitals are always a priority? Make time.
You have the same number of hours in your day as the CEO of your company. Identify the time-wasters in your day and eliminate them to make time for what really matters.
A three-minute cat video break can help you clear your brain for a bit, but forty-five minutes of cat videos is procrastination. Get organized.
Make sure that when you start work for the day, you’re really ready to work. Make a list of your top priorities for the day, week, and quarter, and make sure all of your work focuses on getting these done before you move on to minor tasks. Be present.
If you’re at home playing Monopoly with the kids but thinking about that presentation you have to give tomorrow, you won’t be fully engaged with your family.
Whether you’re working or playing, you need to be present and mindful of your attention. If you found any of these tips helpful, make sure you share it with a friend or family member.