How to Balance Life and Work: Simplify Your Life


how to balance life and work

Are you wondering how to balance life and work? Is your schedule feeling out of control? One answer is to simplify your life. Most people say they want to simplify their lives because they feel like they have lost control of their time. They want to have more time to do things they want to do, both at work and at home. Every few weeks, there is another newspaper or, magazine story about how people feel that they aren’t spending their time on things they enjoy.  A recent poll, for example, found that 65% of people are spending their free time doing things they’d rather not do. Isn’t that amazing? It’s great if you have created a full, interesting life for yourself, but how frustrating if you don’t have the time to enjoy it!


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. Here are a few examples:


  • 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
  • 80% of the things in your house are used 20% of the time.
  • 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
  • 20% of the stocks in an investor’s portfolio produce 80% of the results.
  • Concerning this, 20% of the books in a bookstore account for 80% of the sales.


The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest 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 things like satisfaction, money, better health or, more 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%?

The following strategies can help you consider how to balance life and work for yourself. Try what might work for you and leave the rest. Keep it simple.

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Making Time Takes Time


The first challenge to simplifying your life is that it takes an investment of time. If you want to discover how to make time for the things you enjoy, you have to 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 now 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 really do 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 are the elements that 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, eliminated.


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, possible at home. Perhaps you can take the train instead of driving or, 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 important questions, and be prepared to learn some remarkable things about yourself.


Fewer Responsibilities


You may think that this sounds too simple. Most people who seek to simplify their lives think that the answer is to get more help. But this probably won’t’ help. In fact, if you hire someone to help you get more done, you will actually have added another complication to your life rather than making it simpler. You probably don’t need more help; you probably need fewer responsibilities. Lets find out what career that is best for you.


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 really don’t have time to do. This will lead to a constant state from over-committed and frustrated. Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings, dinner engagements or, to take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at high level. We are proud of our high productivity and involvement, however it comes with a high price a complicated life that leaves to time for you. St. James suggest that at the beginning of every month you need to set your calendar schedule time for yourself, when you are invited to participate in something, turn down the request because you already have a commitment.


Clear Away Clutter


Get rid of things you don’t use. Think of all the stuff you have acquired in the past five or, 10 years. Most of it, is designed to make life simpler, however, most of the facts bring its own set of complications. Think of what typically happens when you buy a new electronic gadget, consider all of the time required to earn the money to pay for it, shop for it, buy for it, set it up, learn how to use it, Fix the unexpected problems it causes with another gadget, and then 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.


She 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.


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Recommended Reading


Richard Koch, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1998.

Anyone can be more effective with less effort by learning how to identify and leverage the 80/20 principle–the well-known, unpublicized secret that 80 percent of all our results in business and in life stem from a mere 20 percent of our efforts.


Elaine St. James, Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter.New York, NY: Hyperion, 1994.

Here is the ideal guide for slowing down and finding peace of mind for everyone, who is overwhelmed by the increasing demands in their lives. In separate chapters covering career, household, health, social, finance, and personal affairs. This thought provoking book offers such as, one hundred proven; practical steps for creating a simple but elegant lifestyle.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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