How to Stay Balanced on the Work-Life Tightrope

By Nekea Valentine-Bryant | 07/21/2017

Today, we live in a fast-paced world that makes work-life balance seemingly impossible. The expectation that employees work long hours is often set by a company’s culture, but that doesn’t mean employees have no authority over their time in the workplace.

Many studies have shown the most productive employees are well-rounded professionals with full and well-balanced lives – both in and out of the workplace. Here are some ways to regain balance in work and personal areas of your everyday lives.

Finding Balance in Your Personal Life

Take care of yourself.

Your health is priority number one. You need to be in good shape mentally, physically, and emotionally to be productive in every part of your life. Develop the habits of eating properly, drinking plenty of water, taking supplements, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

Keep track of your time.

Keep a time log of your work-related and personal activities for one week. Evaluate it and decide what you are choosing to do versus what you must do. Use your evaluation to find balance in your schedule and prioritize activities to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Find your priorities.

Reflect on what is truly important to you. Is it more family time? More time to spend on a hobby you love? Or even more relaxation? Make a list and start to ease one thing at a time into your schedule by blocking off time. Don't be afraid to tell people "no" to make time for these important activities.

Change how you think about your time.

Schedule your personal time for yourself or family activities the same way you would your work responsibilities. This will help remind you that both are of equal value.

Nurture your family and relationships.

Relationships with family and friends are essential for your well-being and fulfillment. If your job or career is consuming too much time, then it could potentially damage your personal relationships. Overtime is sometimes required to meet deadlines, but should be the exception. Healthy relationships at home increase your overall productivity, so damaging your personal life could also take a hit to your work ethic.

Have fun.

Games, movies, outings--whatever makes you happy, make sure you’re never too busy to have fun.

Finding Balance at Work

Establish your work schedule right away.

If you value work-life balance, make a schedule. Coordinate with your manager to determine on your work hours and keep it consistent. If your plan is to begin at 9:00 a.m. and leave at 5:00 p.m., stick to the plan. If you give the impression that you are an employee that works until 7:00 p.m., then that is what will become expected of you. Many employees get trapped into this cycle by working late to impress their supervisors and coworkers, foregoing other commitments. Don’t present any false impressions.

Management needs to set the example.

This is challenging because many managers themselves are workaholics; however, employees look to management for modeled behavior. A manager with a healthy work-life balance will find his or her employees following their example. If your manager isn’t a fan of work-life balance, then communicate its importance for your well-being.

Leave work at a reasonable hour.

Working late night hours can wreak havoc on your health and lead to stress and burnout. Instead of making yourself available to supervisors and coworkers around the clock, maximize your productivity while at work, and disconnect from work once you leave for the day. Set boundaries regarding work communications outside of business hours.

Ask about schedule flexibility.

Flexibility with work hours is important for work-life balance. It allows you to take care of family and personal responsibilities without the stress and pressure of missing work. Ask your manager about flex hours, a compressed work week, or part-time employment if it works best for you.

Ask about telecommuting, too.

Ask about the option to telecommute on an as-needed basis so that you can work from home if you’re sick (this also prevents making others sick) or waiting for a handyman to arrive.

Take your lunch and other breaks.

The importance of lunch breaks (and other breaks) cannot be stressed enough. A lot of people eat lunch at their desks while they work, but a change of scenery (perhaps the break room or a bench outside) refreshes your mind, and provides clarity and a boost of energy when you return to work. Step outside for a five-minute sunshine break before returning to your desk.

Use your Paid-Time-Off.

Treat yourself to a relaxing vacation or staycation each year – you’ve earned it! Many employees don’t use their PTO or allow it to roll over into the next year. But taking a week or two off is rejuvenating, and results in more energy and productivity upon your return to work. Even a three-day staycation allows your mind and body some much needed rest.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There are times when you may get overwhelmed with your workload or a particular project. It’s always best to reach out to your manager as soon as you’re aware of this instead of not speaking up for fear of appearing inadequate. You’ll find that most managers will respect your honest approach and appreciate the heads’ up to help you figure out a solution.

Take a deep breath.

Taking deep, relaxing breaths throughout the day works wonders. Try using your breaks for five-minute meditation sessions to de-stress and de-clutter your mind.

Get started with these ideas to reclaim your work-life balance for both a rewarding career and personal life.