May 19, 2021
How to Balance Work and Life – Therapist Approved
Written by Clara Jennison
Work-life balance may seem like a far-gone notion.
It is rare that any functioning adult in 2021 doesn’t feel overwhelmed. With the world reopening, your schedule is out of control, you have less and less and less free time. You have no time or energy to do the things you want, and it’s probably because you have no idea how to balance life and work these days.
Too many of us are stressed and tired and, put simply, overworked. A recent poll found that 65% of people are spending their free time doing things they’d rather not do.
It’s pretty sad. People want to have more time to do things they want to do, both at work and at home. So, we are going to cover some therapist-approved techniques for how to balance life and work and maybe have time, again.
What is Work-Life Balance?
It’s exactly what it sounds like, the ability to balance the responsibilities of work and family with maintaining relationships, personal interests, and more.
It’s become something of a myth in this day and age, but it does exist. Yet with the general level of hectic our lives are, it’s getting harder and harder to achieve. You are probably more stressed out than you ever have been in your life.
Without balance, your every day can seem like a vicious cycle that you hate being a part of, but you need it to keep going due to finances, workload, and responsibilities. There is no time to sit down and enjoy this life you have built.
And the ante increases every year along with the stress and the pressure. It all makes any shred of balance seem impossible, but it’s not.
You’ll have to lay down definitive boundaries, work to clear time for what you care about, and follow through.
What Makes You Feel Fulfilled?
A considerable part of the quest for balance is checking into all of these different parts of your life and making sure they deserve the space they are taking up. For example, you may be a part of the PTA, and you love being a part of it, but you signed up to be a part of the committee at work that comes up with the content strategy for next year, and you don’t like doing that.
Another example would be your boss constantly asking you to “take care of this” or that and throwing disorganized tasks your way that happen to have tight deadlines, and you feel pressured to take on all of them. You know this isn’t sustainable, and you don’t really like your work.
Balance doesn’t mean you spend equal amounts of time at home and the office or quitting today, but you balance life according to your needs. This could mean spending a more significant portion of your time pursuing work-related activities if that is your preference but also includes addressing other areas of your life so that you feel genuinely fulfilled.
Balance Work and Life, Where to Start
If you want to create balance in your life, it is important to know how you define success.
The following list is a solid place to start. Cross off those that don’t seem important to you and add your own. Lastly, identify which of the items on your list are the most essential to your success definition and which items present the greatest challenge to you as follows:
- Being able to move on when a situation is no longer productive or positive
- Being satisfied with your work situation
- Enjoying the present, not putting off the good things until some time in the future
- Expressing your creativity
- Fulfilling your potential
- Holding yourself with esteem separately from your work
- Being authentic
- Identifying your values and basing your choices on them
- Managing your money well
- Not feeling envious of others
- Paying attention to your spiritual life
- Spending time in fun ways away from your workplace
- Spending time with people you cherish and enjoy
- Taking good care of yourself
- Finally, understanding when to fight for something and when to give in
What would you add? Which items present the greatest challenge to you? We recommend that you deeply consider all of these things as they will provide incredible insight into where you stand and where you’d like to be.
It’s sort of like goal setting, but not quite.
The 80/20 Principle
The 80/20 Principle, first stated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, says that 20% of our effort produces 80% of the results. This means that a small number of resources are highly productive—and a large number (80%) are not very productive at all.
In more simple terms, it means 20% goes in and 80% comes out, whereas when the other 80% goes in, only 20% comes out.
Here are some examples:
- 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
- Likewise, 80% of the items in your home are used 20% of the time.
- 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
- 20% of the people sell 80% of the widgets
- 20% of the parts in your car cause 80% of the breakdowns
- 20% of the members of an organization do 80% of the work
- 20% of the stocks in an investor’s portfolio produce 80% of the results.
- 20% of the books in a bookstore account for 80% of the sales.
The challenge is to identify those few essential items that produce the most significant value for you. Focus on the activities that result in satisfaction, such as money, better health, or, more free time.
At the same time, identify those many trivial items that don’t lead to satisfaction, money, better health, or free time. These unprofitable activities are taking up 80% of your time. Doesn’t it make sense to deemphasize them in favor of the vial 20%?
Use the 80/20 Principle to create balance in your life.
Step #1: Identify the times when you are most happy and productive, as in the 20% that generates the 80%, and increase those times as much as you can.
Step #2: Then, pinpoint when you are the least happy and productive, meaning the 80% that produces the other 20%, and reduce those as much as possible.
How To Achieve Work-Life Balance
We are all very, very busy. Many people wear a lot of different hats and are made tired by almost all of them. As life goes on, there is more and more on your plate, and you get better at handling it all, but you don’t have to take all of it all the time.
No one can do that. We’re only human.
To do balance work and life, you’ll have to put some effort in. Balancing it all can seem like a “fake it ‘til you make it” sort of idea, but it’s not. It’s entirely possible. It merely requires you to take charge of your time and accept some realities mentioned below.
Making Time Takes Time
The first challenge to simplifying your life is accepting that it takes an investment of time. If you want to make time for the things you enjoy, you must examine how you are spending your time now. If you keep living your life the same way you always have, it will stay complicated.
For some, the excuse, “I can’t slow down because everything is important,” is a way to avoid seeing what they don’t want to see: a relationship that is no longer fulfilling, a job that no longer satisfies, an emotional distance that had emerged between them and their family members. Some people keep their lives going at a furious pace to avoid seeing what they don’t want to see.
If you want to simplify your life, you will make the time. You don’t have to do anything radical; in fact, it is best to start small.
Set aside just 30 minutes each day for a month.
During that time, think about a simple question: What elements contribute to my life feeling so complicated? Make a list of the factors in your private journal and write about them. Start to think about what you can change or eliminate.
Finding this time is not as impossible as it may seem at first. Maybe you can leave work 30 minutes early for a month and use the extra time for this exploration.
Perhaps you can take the train instead of driving, give up your exercise time for one month, or turn off the television during the evening news and write in your journal instead.
Set aside 30 minutes a day for one month, ask yourself some crucial questions, and be prepared to learn some remarkable things about yourself.
You may think that this sounds too simple. Most people who seek to simplify their lives feel that the answer is to get more help. But this might not be as beneficial as you think.
Take a good look and examine this concept of more help. This means you take the responsibility off of your plate completely. It does not mean you leave it on your plate and smush a person between you and that task.
If you hire someone to help you get more done, you may have added another complication to your life rather than making it more straightforward. You probably don’t need more help; you probably need fewer responsibilities.
Learn to Say No
If you want a simpler life, you must learn to say no. In Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter, author Elaine St. James says that people get into trouble because they agree to do things they don’t have time to do. Doing this will lead to a constant state of feeling over-committed and frustrated.
Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings, dinner engagements, or take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at a high level.
Usually, we are proud of our high productivity and involvement, but it comes at a cost. Your life is meant to be lived by you, and you aren’t doing much of that at all.
St. James suggests that at the beginning of every month, you need to set your calendar and schedule time for yourself; when you are invited to participate in something, turn down the request because you already have a commitment.
Setting Boundaries Helps Everyone
People who don’t set boundaries are often left looking around longing for someone to respect them and their space and their time. But we have news for you, you boundary lacking person.
Until you respect yourself, no one else will. Think of the people in your office who honestly say no to things, not because they are incapable or are looking to damage the company’s profits, but because they honestly cannot do it.
Honestly, you also cannot do it, and you shouldn’t because this is where that 80/20 Principle comes back to bite you. You are wasting 80% of your time on something that will become a mere 20% of the results. That is a lot of stress for a minimal reward.
Your work will be better, you will feel better, and your coworkers will respect you, your time, and your feelings a lot more if you learn to say NO once in a while.
Try out our Self-Care Assessment.
Clear Away Clutter and, Maybe, Have Fewer Things
Get rid of things you don’t use. Think of all the stuff you have acquired in the past five to 10 years. Most of it is designed to make your life simpler; however, most things bring their own set of complications.
Think of what typically happens when you buy a new thing, no matter what it is. Consider all of the time required to earn the money to pay for it, shop for it, buy it, set it up, learn how to use it, find somewhere to put it, fix the unexpected problems it causes with another thing versus the time you spend actually using it.
Most of us have rooms in our house filled with stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time but ends up sitting on a shelf unused. St. James suggests that you go through your house once each year and get rid of everything you haven’t used during the previous year.
It may seem crazy, but getting rid of stuff can feel great. Going through your room, your office, your kitchen, and everywhere else and getting rid of anything that no longer serves you is an incredibly therapeutic process.
How can you even attempt to balance work and life if your energy is always expended dealing with all that stuff?
St. James also has an idea for not acquiring new stuff in the first place.
She suggests a technique called the 30- Day List. When you start thinking that you must have a certain product, add it to your 30-Day List and wait. At the end of 30 days, ask yourself if you really still need it. Chances are, you will lose your enthusiasm for the product and will cross it off the list.
7 Habits of Some Very Successful People
Beyond the stuff and the work and the responsibilities, there is your mental health to consider. The 80% of the time you waste trying to get yourself to be productive and get something done, you might as well just put it all down and give yourself a moment.
Another idea comes from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
As you work to create balance in your life, think about your own list of success habits. What seven things would lead to more happiness in your life if you did them every day? Here are some ideas to get you started such as:
- Do something you love doing for at least part of the day.
- Get some physical exercise.
- Get some mental exercise.
- Stimulate yourself artistically.
- Stimulate yourself spiritually.
- Do something for someone else.
- Do something just for fun.
- Finally, acknowledge yourself for something you said or did.
You have to fuel creativity just like you have to fuel yourself. The same goes for productivity. You only have so much of it, so you have to use it wisely and foster it.
Ever heard of that saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? Well, it’s true! And successful people often know that and work to fill that cup because they know the value that comes from it.
Ready to make a change in your career? This report will guide you through 7 steps to making a career change. Includes self-assessment questions.
Dealing with Workaholism
You find that you say you want to have a healthy balance between your work and your personal life, but you hardly ever make changes to get it. In all reality, you make decisions that may insight progress and higher profits, but you neglect to take into account how much more work it will be, and then, you just accept the extra work as inevitable.
Usually, these kinds of people need help clarifying what their most important life values are, as well as dealing with the underlying issues for compulsive work behavior and implement practical strategies to focus on priorities.
Because they can’t help but keep going and working and going some more. They may need help to figure out why.
How Do You Know if You Are a Workaholic?
Does this all sound familiar? You might be concerned about your over-achieving behavior and we don’t blame you. But how do you know for sure?
The following questions will help you figure out if you are just hard-working or slowly working your mental health into the ground.
- First of all, are you more comfortable talking about work than anything else?
- Secondly, do you become impatient with people who do things besides work?
- Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?
- Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop working and do something else?
- Do you get more energized about your work than about anything else, in addition, to your personal relationships?
- Do you look for ways to turn your hobbies into money-making endeavors?
- Do you often worry about the future, even when work is going well?
- Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won’t otherwise get done?
- Do you take work home with you? Do you work on days off? Then, do you work while you are on vacation?
- Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep, or when others are talking?
- Do you think that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be considered a failure?
- Do you work more than 40 hours in a typical week?
- In addition, do you work or read while you are eating?
- Lastly, have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
Working for a living is one thing, but living to work is another. You can be proud of your work and enjoy it without letting it take over your life.
Learn How to Live a Life You Love
Creating a work-life balance takes work, but it’s worth it. Your future self will thank you.
People often talk about their personal and professional lives separately as if one does not affect the other, but the opposite is true. We know that your work is intrinsically entwined with the rest of your life and believe that as one improves, so does the other.
You may have begun to see that your professional life might be getting in the way of attaining your personal goals and vice versa. We can help you explore these possibilities while at the same time clarifying a vision of your ideal work and personal environments that will enable you to feel at the top of your game in all aspects of life. Finally, you create it! We are there to help you make adjustments and remove roadblocks along the way.
For more information about Workaholics Anonymous, visit: http://www.workaholics-anonymous.org
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