5 tips on how you can make it work.
Are you trying to achieve a work-life balance, but the attempt is stressing you out? Somehow you can’t get it right, despite constantly working harder to achieve this equilibrium between personal time and work. This constant juggle is exhausting, and you feel overwhelmed and close to burnout.
What if the magic work-life balance doesn’t actually exist?
It’s easy to get discouraged and think that a work-life balance is an impossible dream. But what if I told you there is a way to find harmony between your work and personal life, even if you’re a perfectionist or a pleaser? It’s just not the perfect balance you think you need to achieve.
Let’s look at the idea of work-life balance in more detail. When you think about work-life balance, do you think about scales you need to level up? Are you trying to find an equal balance between your work and private life?
If that is the case, it’s not so strange that you’re struggling. Working full-time, you generally spend more time at work than at home. So already, the definition of work-life balance is misleading. It’s impossible to give equal time and energy to both parts of our lives.
Your personal preferences should lead the way to your happiness
The goal is to feel fulfilled in both areas of your life, not stretching yourself too much on either front. If work is too stressful, it will have an outsized impact on your private life. And vice versa.
How you organise your life is a personal preference for each of us. Some people are happy when they work 12 hours a day and only have time for a quick workout. Others need time and energy to meet friends and family outside work hours. Working 12 hours a day will not contribute to their happiness.
Each of these scenarios can mean “balance”. What works for someone else doesn’t need to work for you. It’s just that each person decides where to spend more time.
Blurred boundaries make it difficult to know exactly what is going on
The pandemic has also blurred the line between work and private life. It’s easier to set boundaries when you work in an office. When you close your computer, you can, in theory, switch off from work. The actual process of commuting is an opportunity to change from your work mode to your home mode, creating an automatic boundary.
When you work from home, creating this border is much more complicated. Your computer is always there, so it’s easy to respond to that email or finish that report. You also miss out on the commuting time to create the switch between the two different parts of your life.
Work-life balance is how you make the best choices for you
How much and when you work needs to be a choice, your choice. This should be something that you want to do and not an obligation. How you divide your time needs to be based on what is important to you and not what your friends, family and society tell you.
Of course, we all need to make a living. So how are you going to create a work-life balance?
5 simple and practical tips on how to find your work-life balance
Feeling overwhelmed with work and life makes it easy to feel stuck and not know how to change things to find a work-life balance. Here are 5 tips to get you started!
1. Create your own personal definition
As I mentioned above, ‘balance’ is only sometimes the best description when talking about work and personal life. It implies there is an equal amount of time for both sides of your life when in reality, there isn’t.
There is a move to rephrase the term work-life balance, and other expressions are beginning to appear. A few examples are:
- work-life integration
- work-life harmony
- work-life flow
I prefer the definition of work-life harmony because I like the idea that professional and private life should work hand in hand.
Do you have your own definition?
2. Check in on your current needs
Before you start creating your work-life harmony, it’s essential to check in on what your current needs are.
Your needs will change over time, and what was important to you five years ago might not be significant today. You have moved on as a person and might be in a completely different situation than you were then.
Perhaps you are a new parent, or your children have grown older and more independent. You may have taken on new challenges, such as moving to another country or taking on more responsibilities at work. Your desires and commitments will differ in these situations, and it’s important to recognise this.
What are your needs now? What is important to you today?
3. Be clear on your values
Our values are a core part of our identity. Whether you work towards or against them, they can be the key to your happiness or unhappiness. This is why it’s so important to understand what your values are.
Our core values stay the same throughout our lives. They might change the order of priority depending on what is going on in your life, but they will not disappear. Your career values can also be different from your personal life values. For example, fidelity might be important in your intimate relationship. But staying loyal to your employer for long periods might be optional.
Understanding your values will help you decide what is essential in your life and ultimately help you make decisions that make you feel good. It will help you towards finding work-life harmony.
What are your most important values?
4. Do a reality check and prioritise
Now you have your own definition of work-life harmony, and you understand your needs and values. What does an ideal day look like based on your needs and values?
Now, is this perfect day realistic?
If you want to spend three hours per day of quality time with your kids, but you get home at 7 pm, and they go to bed at 8 pm, this is unrealistic.
Even if your ideal day is unrealistic at the moment, you should keep pursuing your dream. To start, what small steps can you take to get you there? Maybe not in one month, but in six months? In the example above, can you arrange to leave work half an hour earlier each day? Can you find a job closer to home to reduce the commute?
We play different roles in our lives, and we’re often expected to be the perfect mum or dad, wife or husband, friend, colleague, employee or boss. Having these expectations of perfectness is overwhelming. Remember, you don’t have to give each of these roles equal priority.
Your choice is how much time and effort you want to put into each role. Some roles will always be more important to you than others. Sometimes we also have periods in our lives when one part becomes more dominant. Perhaps you have elderly parents and want to make the most of the remaining time with them. You can then choose to prioritise them before your friends.
There are only 24 hours in the day, and you can’t do it all. It’s a myth. You need to prioritise what is important to you at that moment.
What small steps can you take towards your ideal day, and what do you want to prioritise?
5. Plan ahead but stay flexible
Planning and time management are necessary skills to achieve work-life harmony. Make sure you are proactive in your planning instead of reacting to what life throws at you. By being proactive, you can also prioritise your goals and objectives. A way of staying in control of your time is to say ‘no’ to things that don’t fit into your schedule.
Sometimes life throws you something unexpected, which you must react to and deal with. Even the best-laid plans aren’t set in stone. You can always change your schedule along the way to accommodate your needs and changing priorities.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed when you need to change your priorities, set aside time in your schedule for the unexpected. This way, you’ll be able to manage unforeseen situations with less stress.
When is a good time for you to sit down and create a plan focusing on your goals? How much time can you put aside for the unexpected?
Life-work harmony becomes much more achievable when you get support. If you have a partner, sharing the responsibilities for the kids and the home can save you time and reduce stress. For example, you can take turns collecting the kids from school or cooking. If your budget allows, you can also pay for help at home, for instance, regular cleaning.
What support do you need to achieve your work-life harmony?
The term work-life balance is misleading, but it’s still possible to create a harmonious interaction between your work and personal life. How you do it is up to you.
Do you want clarity on how to set up your work-life harmony to live a happy life?
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written by Marie Dewulf – Photo by energepic.com