“Work hard, play hard.”
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
We’ve all heard these quotes or ideas before. Such ideas are the very basis of the work/life balance movement, a mindset that encourages people to focus less on work and more on life outside of work.
The concept is appealing, for sure. But critics say that it’s idealistic—that real “balance” can never exist, and that you’ll always be prioritizing something.
That’s why we’re advocating a more realistic approach to work/life balance. The truth is, we think that having a happy work life and a happy “not-work” life is completely possible. You just have to be careful about how you do it.
Here are our best tips for actually achieving a healthy work/life balance.
Draw boundaries—on both sides.
Boundaries are healthy, non-confrontational ways to outline what is important in your life. Creating a set of rules that govern your work and home life can help you make deliberate decisions you’re proud of, rather than hasty decisions you come to regret.
For example, you might draw the boundary that you’ll never stay at work late enough to miss eating dinner at home, or that you won’t answer email on a Saturday. Likewise, you might draw a boundary that you need to leave for the office by a certain time every morning, or that you need one evening away from home every week to attend a networking event. Creating reasonable boundaries will give you a greater sense of control (and balance) in your life.
Do your job(s).
You have work to do at work, and you have work to do at home. Make sure you are organizing your time in such a way that allows you to do both jobs to the best of your ability. If opportunities to take on extra responsibility come up, either at work or at home, consider them carefully before making a commitment. Focus on your main jobs, and you’ll feel more balanced, more accomplished, and less chaotic.
Too often, we try to fit “work/life balance” into a pre-prescribed box. We think it should look and feel a certain way: we should spend (x) amount of time on a hobby, (y) amount of time with family, and (z) amount of time on professional development. But the truth is, your work/life balance is different than anyone else’s.
How much sleep do you need every night? What activities recharge you? When do you feel the most stress at work? What parts of your job do you love? Knowing the answers to these questions and others will help you know what “work/life” balance really looks like for you.
When it’s time to rest—rest.
Many of us are tempted to use our “me time” as a time to get some extra work or errands done, undisturbed. What we don’t realize is that that time should be reserved for resting and recharging—not for getting more done.
Use what you know about yourself to choose activities that are truly restful to you, whether that’s taking a nap, reading, watching a movie, or taking a walk.
Relationships are a big part of a happy life. Make friends with your coworkers, and spend time with your friends and family at home. Ask them to help you stick to the boundaries you’ve set. Vent to them if you need to. Ask for their help when you’re feeling burned out or overwhelmed. Building and maintaining relationships will only help you as you strive to achieve a better work/life balance.
Related: How to Handle Losing Your Job
Work/life balance can seem unachievable, and maybe a perfect balance is a bit unrealistic. But following these guidelines can help you get a little closer. A more balanced life will help you feel more fulfilled and confident, and will benefit you both professionally and personally for years to come.
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