There’s always something that needs doing…
Marketing campaigns need to be optimized. Quality prospects need to be called, emailed, and otherwise nurtured. Current customers need to feel appreciated. Oh, and don’t forget to update software tools, run payroll, motivate your employees, and do 1,000 other things.
The demands on modern professionals are many. Unfortunately, said demands have ruined work life balance for a growing number of Americans. Our work lives are in a constant, Thanos vs. Avengers level conflict with our personal lives. And one of them always loses.
I won’t lie to you. There is no silver bullet for this situation. BUT, there are things you can do to reduce stress and manage work life balance effectively. I want to help.
Keep reading to learn what work life balance is, why it’s important, and seven tips to help you achieve a wealthy work life balance in 2023 and beyond. Let’s dive in!
What is Work Life Balance?
Work life balance is what happens when a person’s work life and personal life are given equal time and attention. Sadly, it can be quite difficult to achieve—especially in this day and age.
These are not good numbers, my friend. Poor work life balance can lead to a slew of issues, as we’ll see in the next section. So, if you’re looking for some career advice, here it is: prioritize healthy balance for yourself, and if applicable, for your employees. Here’s why:
Why Does Work Life Balance Matter?
Healthy work life balance is essential. Without it, you’ll never build the career, found the company, or live the fulfilling life you want. Yes, it’s that important!
Don’t believe me? Here are three reasons why good work life balance matters, each backed by numerous studies and scientific research, so you know it must be true.
Proper work life balance helps modern professionals stay healthy, while poor work life balance puts professionals at risk of serious health issues.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), long hours at work can have disastrous side effects. Those who work 55+ hours a week are 35% more likely to have a stroke and 17% more likely to die of heart disease, compared to those who work 35 to 40 hours a week.
The consequences of overwork aren’t always so dire. But even general fatigue and elevated stress levels can increase the risk of common sicknesses, which reduces productivity.
Healthy work life balance leads to greater output, too.
John Pencavel at Stanford University found that employees who work 50+ hours a week are less productive than those who work 40. Once employees hit 55+ hours a week, their productivity levels fall off a cliff. Basically, the extra effort they put in has no real value.
Worse, long working hours are directly related to low employee engagement and high turnover. It’s hard to remain productive when your top team members don’t stick around.
The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as:
“A special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Studies show that poor work life balance can lead to burnout. When professionals neglect personal time, put family life on the backburner, and spend every waking moment in the office, they’ll eventually run out of gas. When they do, they’ll become unhappy, ineffective workers.
The best way to combat burnout is to achieve work life balance. The question is, how?
How to Achieve a Healthy Work Life Balance
Work life balance is essential, but it isn’t always easy to achieve. The demands of your job won’t go away because you want them to. That said, there are things you can do to prioritize your mental health and bring balance to your life. Here are seven tips to help:
1. Step Back and Evaluate Your Life
First things first: take a moment to think about your life and career.
Are you happy and fulfilled? Stressed and miserable? Somewhere in between? Since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume one of the latter two options is correct.
It’s important to identify why you feel the way you do. Maybe it’s an overbearing boss. Or the fact that you’ve been working long hours on projects that don’t interest you. Maybe you’re burnt out and desperately need a vacation. (I hear the Bahamas are nice this time of year.)
Truth: You can’t fix the imbalances in your life until you discover what said imbalances are.
2. Find a Job That Works For YOU
If you hate your job, you’ll never achieve a healthy work life balance. Why? Because every hour you spend at work will feel like torture. That’s no way to live.
Instead, find a job that enables you to work on interesting projects, partner with people you really connect with and want to be around, and will allow you to earn enough money to support your lifestyle. If you find a job that supports a flexible work schedule, too, even better!
Now, don’t misunderstand me. You don’t need to love every aspect of your job. Just make sure it’s engaging and that you don’t dread going to work every morning.
3. Learn to Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you have to put your nose to the grindstone the entire time. It’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day to rest and rejuvenate.
I know what you’re thinking: “Sorry, Joe. I just don’t have time to take breaks.”
I get it, you’re busy. But even 30-second microbreaks can improve your concentration, reduce your stress levels, keep you engaged in your work, and make said work feel more enjoyable.
That’s right, a few 30-second breathers may be all you need to help achieve work life balance! I also love to take the time on the weekend to recharge. I sometimes think about work, but really try to avoid investing too much time in it.
4. Don’t Be a “Yes Man” and Learn to Say “No”
I admit, this one is tricky.
Most of us are afraid to disappoint our colleagues or anger our boss. So we say “yes” to everything. The problem? We become overworked, stressed, and completely burnt out.
As we’ve already covered, overworked, stressed, and burnt out people never achieve work life balance because they don’t live a healthy lifestyle that can support it.
So, I want you to do something hard today. I want you to tell somebody “no” when they ask you to complete a task or cover for them in some way. You don’t have to be rude about it. Just tell them that you already have a lot on your plate and can’t take on anything else.
Before you do this, though, you need to decide what your boundaries are.
5. Set and Communicate Your Boundaries
Boundaries are important. Without them, you’ll say yes to every project, promotion, and/or opportunity that comes your way—even if they don’t fit the balanced life you want to build.
So take a minute to decide what your boundaries are. Here are a few examples:
- I never work past 7pm.
- I always eat dinner with my loved ones.
- I only respond to work emails between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
- I complete three work-related tasks before I spend quality time with my spouse.
Once you’ve set boundaries for yourself, you need to communicate them to other people, such as your family members, friends, employees, colleagues, and/or bosses.
This does two things: it helps others understand when you’re available so that they don’t bug you at all hours of the day. And it helps keep you accountable to the boundaries you set.
(Note: Boundaries are especially important for remote workers. When your work life and your personal life share a building, it’s easy for the two to merge and become one. This is a recipe for burnout. Decide when you’ll work and when you’ll play and hold strong.)
6. Schedule Time to Unplug and Decompress
Most of us are connected 24/7. We reply to emails on our phones, read work-related articles on our tablets, and take video calls on our personal computers.
Here’s the thing: you need to unplug every once in a while to achieve work life balance, so please pause those notifications.
Turn off your devices and go for a walk, play with your kids, or take your significant other out to dinner. Consider booking a vacation and finally using that paid time off you’ve been given, but never take advantage of. Do what you can to “get away” now and again.
The key to success with this tip is to plan ahead. I suggest scheduling time in your calendar to unplug and decompress. If you don’t, you’ll never enjoy a balanced life.
7. Realize There is No Perfect Work Life Balance
Finally, realize that perfection doesn’t exist—especially when it comes to work life balance.
You may have to work longer hours than you’d like to on some days. You may have to cancel the occasional outing with your family to finish an important project. Your kids may get sick in the middle of the week, forcing you to take time off of work to care for them.
Don’t strive for the perfect schedule. Aim for a realistic one that allows you to accomplish career goals, spend time with friends and family, and keep the burnout bug at bay.
Prioritize Your Mental Health With Better Work Life Balance
There’s no doubt about it, work life balance is important. It isn’t always easy to achieve, but the seven tips I shared with you in this article will help you find balance more consistently.
Here’s one more tip for you: delegate certain tasks to other, more qualified individuals.
Those who own their own companies, for example, can offload marketing tasks to a quality agency. (I happen to know a good one, if you’re interested.) Those in management positions can hire a personal assistant to handle menial tasks. Software can be good for this, too.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you prioritize your mental health and always strive for a good work life balance. It may take time and effort to get there, but it will be worth it!