Work-life balance doesn’t have to be a useless self-help catchphrase. It exists and you can have it.
And we should all want work-life balance because stress caused by work is hurting our health.
Persistent stress can result in:
- cardiovascular disease,
- sexual health problems,
- a weaker immune system,
- frequent headaches,
- stiff muscles,
- poor coping skills,
- binge eating,
- alcohol consumption,
- exhaustion, and
- difficulty concentrating.
Even though I got my information from the not-always-accurate Wikipedia, one thing is for certain:
Excessive, persistent stress is NOT a good thing.
But we can prevent harmful stress from being a problem in our lives by trying to find more balance. Work-life balance is a choice, but you might have to do things that make you uncomfortable to get it…
1. Work for People Who Share Your Values
People identify with their work. If the organization you work for shares your values, your professional identity will be stronger.
Do you know what your values are? If not, what do you advocate for? What do you believe in? What are the three most important traits you want your children to learn from you?
If you work for an organization that shares your similar values it’s going to be a lot easier to have a work life that fits with your personal life.
But if you’re constantly butting heads with upper management because you don’t believe in the direction they’re going, it might be time to jump ship and find a new job.
2. Stop Striving for Perfection
Perfection makes us competitive and competition feeds our ego. And your ego isn’t going to take you anywhere good.
I used to think that perfection was a positive force, something to brag about. I’ve learned that perfectionism holds me back and leads to more stress in my life.
Instead of perfection we should be striving for excellence in our work.
Stop trying to be perfect and check your ego at the door. Work-life balance will follow.
3. Simplify Your Physical Environment and Relationships
Clean out your closet, basement, or shed and get rid of things that are taking up space. Just because you have the room to store junk doesn’t mean you should. When we simplify our physical surroundings we give ourselves more mental space to focus on the important stuff.
Simplification also carries into our relationships. We only have so much room in our lives for other people. Think about your relationships as a bucket of water. If your bucket is full, what do you do when you meet a new, interesting person? The only way to make room for the new person is to spill out some of the old water.
If you have people in your life who add no value and cause you nothing but stress, it’s time to cut ties no matter how long you’ve been friends. Make space for new people or you might miss out on a life-changing relationship.
4. Draw More Boundaries
We need to be more intentional with drawing boundaries if we’re going to achieve work-life balance.
If you’re a ‘yes’ person, start saying ‘no’ more often! If you say ‘yes’ to everyone but yourself, you’re going to burnout. If you have a doubt in your head that says, “I just don’t have enough time for this meeting/coffee date/potluck dinner/etc” then say so.
If you find yourself doing things that you don’t like doing or doing them out of a sense of obligation, STOP! Why do we do so many things that we don’t like doing?!
Remember, make the ‘no’ firm and confident. “Ummmm…..well……you see…….I kinda have this other thing……” isn’t going to cut it. Be picky with your time because it’s the most valuable resource you have.
5. Travel More
Plan a vacation alone, with your partner, or with the kids. Get away from it all, regularly.
People have asked me, “How can I have a travel lifestyle in my day-to-day life?”
That’s a tough one for me to answer. Sure, you can simulate the feeling of travel in your hometown by going to museums, trying new restaurants, and joining common interest groups to meet new people. But the fact is this: Nothing can replace traveling to a new country you’ve never been before, where the language is different, and where things aren’t “normal.”
I believe that travel is imperative to our lives. Travel has made me more open-minded, confident, and curious—three traits that help me achieve a better balance in my day-to-day life.
6. Get More Sleep
“But Eric, I’m different. I don’t need 7-8 hours of sleep to function.”
Yes. You’re right. You CAN function with less sleep, but at what level are you functioning? Are you able to put forward an optimal effort or do you feel weak, tired, and irritable?
Sleep is imperative to recharge our exhausted brains. There are studies that say if you go to sleep with a problem in your head, subconsciously you work it out while you sleep. So stop agonizing over that problem you have and sleep on it!
More sleep will help you feel more alert, energetic, and focused. As a result, you’ll manage your time better and achieve greater work-life balance.
7. Leave Your Car at Home
When I eliminated a car from my life, I became much, much happier.
I hated sitting in traffic, drivers who didn’t use their signal lights, and scraping ice off my windshield when it was -30°C. When I started taking public transit I had more time to read books, something I love to do. And if you don’t like reading you can watch Netflix or play Candy Crush.
You can also take a bicycle (healthier) or set up a carpool (more social).
And if none of the above seem like viable options because of your living situation, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your living situation. Sure, finding a new place to live is a pain in the ass, but how much is work-life balance worth to you in the long run?
And, Most Importantly…
Don’t try to achieve work-life balance all at once.
Be gentle, forgiving, and patient with yourself. Bite off small chunks at a time. If you try to do it all at once you’ll probably choke and give up, just like all those New Year’s resolutions of yesteryear. Make one small change today, do it again tomorrow, and keep doing it until it becomes a habit. Then bite off another chunk and repeat.
Work-life balance doesn’t just have to be an empty catchphrase used by self-help “gurus.” You can have more balance in your life but you have to be willing to evaluate your current situation and have the guts to make big changes where necessary.
Don’t get caught up in years of imbalance, stress, and misery. Your time is precious. Make the most of it!