Maintaining a positive work-life balance has become increasingly difficult in today’s uncertain world. Yet it remains essential.
What makes it harder are pressures to excel professionally to keep our jobs, while getting swamped by growing demands on personal time.
A major factor contributing to an unhealthy work-life balance is stress.
Stress creates frazzled minds and neglectful well-being, which can lead to burnout, work loss, and ultimately, depression. This sequence of events has become all too common in our modern society.
Another major factor blocking a positive work-life balance is our mishandling of time and priorities. We seem to have blurred the lines where work stops and personal and family time begins.
Zig Ziglar once said,
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.”
10 Tips To Maintain A Positive Work-Life Balance This 2023
1. Get a career that sparks your passion and fulfills your wants.
Ultimately, if you don’t find something to be excited about in your job, then it would be a person who’s dead inside showing up at your workplace every day.
Finding and pursuing a career that aligns with your passions is what fires you up and keeps your working-self alive.
Your work becomes a source of reward and joy rather than a means to an end. Positive psychologists call it, well, a calling.
When you let your natural talents and interests guide you in finding your true calling, you discover that work becomes a natural extension of who you are.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs
The Japanese embrace the principle of ikigai for this, meaning discovering a purpose that combines your passion, fulfills a public need, and becomes a source of earning.
Such a career will boost your overall happiness and make it easier to navigate the challenges that come with balancing your professional and personal lives.
2. Set realistic goals and make a practical roadmap you can follow.
Goals are mostly pies in the sky, and that’s the truth.
But if know how to set your goals, you can hope to pull those pies into your success basket.
Attainable goals, a well-structured plan, and a “boring” discipline can help you manage your expectations while minimizing stress as you are on your path to your goals.
Break down your objectives into smaller, actionable steps. Set timelines for each step.
More crucially, celebrate your little wins and accomplishments along the way. This not only fosters a sense of achievement but also helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Let constant progress, not perfection, be your guiding principle as you strive to create a positive work-life balance.
There is something called the arrival fallacy – the concept that you don’t feel as much happiness as you expected to on reaching a goal.
3. Tend to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being needs.
Things will go wrong sometimes, even after meticulous planning; such is life.
There may also be moments when everything seems to be going wrong and you feel lost.
During these times, it’s important to love yourself even more, take some time for self-care, and remember that this is all part of the journey.
Self-care is not about taking a break to restore your health when you find yourself sliding into burnout. Self-care is preventing that from happening in the first place.
As I heard someone say on Reels the other day,
“Twenty years from now you will give anything to be this person you are today.”
While none of us can age backward, we can delay the effects of aging by caring for our body, mind, and emotions today.
Self-care, an essential aspect of achieving a positive work-life balance, involves:
- Regular exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management techniques to improve overall wellness and resilience.
- Mindfulness, meditation, or journaling to nurture your mental and emotional health.
Invest in your well-being, and be better equipped to handle challenges and enjoy the rewarding aspects of both your work and personal life.
4. Systematize spending time with yourself and your loved ones.
Quality time with friends, family, and yourself is invaluable for maintaining a positive work-life balance.
This is where I say you handle spending time with those you love and care about, including yourself – systematize it rather than prioritize it.
- Prioritizing means telling yourself you will do it. And then work stuff happens, and you de-prioritize it or even skip it.
- Systematizing means you have allotted time for it which is inserted into your weekly or daily schedule as an unalterable part of your system.
I read on Twitter just last night that a person has maintained a weekly date night with his wife for 20 years. You could take some inspiration from that.
Make an effort to systematize times for these relationships by scheduling regular catch-ups, outings, or relaxing evenings at home.
Dedicate personal time to reflect, rejuvenate, and do things that bring you joy (like making funny faces in the mirror or dancing a few silly steps when no one’s watching).
Nurturing that connection with yourself will help you build a strong support system to fall back on when no one else is available.
5. Set boundaries, marking when work stops and personal time begins.
You will have some boundaries in your life.
Some are beneficial for you while some are simply unhelpful. And some might even be toxic (like a people-pleasing behavior that allows anyone to get you to do things for them).
Your overall well-being depends on many things, and one of them is having clear, healthy boundaries between work (and people from work) and personal life (and people in your personal sphere).
- High boundary control is when you are typically in control of how you divide your attention between work, family, and other parts of your life. Low boundary control is just the opposite.
- High well-being is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Low well-being is on the opposite side.
- Those with high boundary control and high well-being are the best-placed ones on the work-life balance equilibrium.
Communicate your limits to colleagues, friends, and family, and adhere to them as much as possible.
Keep a personal number, perhaps on a separate mobile device, that no one in your office has access to.
Two memorable sentences I have read about keeping work boundaries:
“Your boss is not your friend, your colleagues are not your family, and your office is not your home.”
“You can’t control other people’s behavior, but you can control your responses to it.“
You will face many situations at work where you will have little control over the actions of others. Remind yourself of your role before getting agitated.
You were hired to solve problems. They did not promise you mental peace in the process.
Your company does not owe you a work-life balance; you have to create it for yourself.
Disconnect from work, wherever it is happening.
Not working in your free time to allow yourself to recharge, refocus, and rediscover your creativity and productivity when it’s time to work.
Creating distinct lines of separation protects your personal life from being consumed by professional demands and promotes a more balanced work-life.
6. Unplug and take breaks from technology to recharge & reboot.
In our hyper-connected world, it is essential to disconnect from screens and digital devices from time to time.
Stepping away from technology can provide mental clarity, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
Use this time to engage in activities (based on happiness research in psychology) that nourish your inner being:
- Spend time in nature
- Practice mindfulness
- Connect with loved ones.
A large amount of stress today comes to us from our digital devices – smartphones, smartwatches, and smart voice devices like Alexa, other than regular laptops and desktops.
- According to the American Institute of Stress, work-related stress is the numero uno cause of stress for adults in the United States.
- Stress has been humorously defined as ‘that condition created when one’s mind overrides the desire to choke someone who desperately needs it’ (DPW, 2006).
- On the serious side, 75 to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related medical conditions (Elkin, 1999).
Regular digital detoxes will help you maintain focus, increase your creativity, and contribute to a more balanced life.
7. Delegate tasks and focus on doing fewer things at a time.
- First, you can do anything but it doesn’t mean you must insist on doing everything yourself.
- Second, do not try to do it better than others, but find someone who can do it better than you.
Embrace the power of delegation and resist the temptation to take on too many tasks simultaneously.
Be fearless about assigning responsibilities to others. Concentrate on a few tasks yourself.
Delegation allows you to excel in your most important roles while making sure you have the energy and time for your personal life.
See over time how it reduces stress, improves productivity, and creates a more balanced work-life equilibrium.
No business can flourish and grow if it doesn’t enlist help and service from others. Even solopreneurs delegate a major part of their work to others.
Asking for help and focusing on what truly matters is always a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows your strength of conviction that you trust the other person to do the job well.
8. Take up hobbies and interests outside of work.
Pursuing hobbies and interests outside your work domain can enrich your life, stimulate personal growth, and bring you a sense of achievement and joy.
Did you know these celebrity hobbies?
- Ryan Gosling loves knitting.
- Angelina Jolie collects daggers.
- Penelope Cruz collects coat hangers.
- Johnny Depp loves playing with Barbie dolls.
- Richard Branson does kitesurfing in his spare time.
- Brad Pitt collects metal art and also does pottery with Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Beyoncé keeps beehives and makes honey to the tune of hundreds of jars a year.
You too can learn a new instrument, resume a childhood hobby, or explore art to counterbalance your work-related stress.
Here are 10 ideas for 10-minute-a-day side hobbies:
- Improve your pull-up skills with daily practice.
- Maintain an aquarium with various fish and algae.
- Challenge your brain with daily word games or puzzles.
- Listen to classical music and learn about great composers.
- Write 100-word flash fiction and share it on Medium or Twitter.
- Create 10-second cinematic short film clips with tilt-shift effects.
- Learn a deep-dive micro skill, such as negotiation or logo design.
- Spend 10 minutes/day reading fiction or becoming an expert in a niche subject.
- Do casual photography to create a personal visual journal for artistic expression.
- Paint quick watercolors of your surroundings and share them on your social media.
Cultivating a diverse and fulfilling personal life helps you achieve a positive work-life balance.
9. Plan and commit to short time-offs and long holidays.
For work-life balance, getting away from your workplace and everything related to your work is a necessity, not an option.
Someone suggested the other day, all of us must take 4 different holidays:
- holiday with your family,
- holiday with your friends,
- holiday with your partner,
- holiday with yourself (solo).
Dedicating yourself in these 4 different ways allows you to completely unwind and feel refreshed when you return to work.
By “dedicating yourself,” I mean being present in the moment and not thinking about work while on vacation.
The way to execute this is to schedule time off for rest, just as you plan your work projects.
Even better: Take fun-filled breaks daily (a few minutes), weekly (a few hours), and monthly ( a day or weekend) to boost your happiness, creativity, and productivity.
Short breaks can greatly boost your mental and emotional well-being, giving you a chance to recharge and gain a new outlook.
Research suggests that taking breaks from work can boost productivity (Epstein & Avrahami, 2016).
Plan breaks months in advance to discover new locations and create unforgettable memories with loved ones, fostering a long-lasting balance between your work and personal life.
Stop the never-ending pursuit of money via work. Instead, focus on earning the right amount of money that makes you happy, gives you time to have meaningful connections, lets you enjoy a life outside the office walls, and provides financial stability.
10. Accept that no one can have the perfect work-life balance.
The perfect work-life balance is a myth. Stop trying to achieve it.
Recognize that the work-life balance is an ongoing individual experience, and you will have dips and rises in your life’s journey to find that balance.
Embrace life’s imperfections and unattainables, and relieve yourself from the pressure to reach a balance that can never be tipped.
- Pause and reflect: Take a break from the relentless pursuit of success and listen to what your body and mind are telling you.
- Focus on self-care: Prioritize home-cooked meals, regular exercise, and meaningful conversations to improve your emotional and physical well-being.
- Embrace your emotions: Allow yourself to grieve, mourn, regret, cry, and rage. Recognize and accept your feelings instead of suppressing them.
- Turn inwards: Understand that acceptance comes from within, and the way you relate to yourself shapes how you relate to the world.
- Be open to change: Break the cycle of misery by being willing to change your approach and embrace the process of undoing.
- Seek a different path: Don’t continue doing what has always brought you pain. Explore new approaches to find the happiness and fulfillment you deserve.
Focus on discovering the work-life harmony that suits you best. Your priorities and needs will change and the optimal way is to adapt and evolve as your needs and circumstances shift.
Cherish the journey, and remember. The joy lies in the pursuit, not the destination.
A fulfilling life is a continuous endeavor, not a one-time accomplishment. Let this fact inspire you to find joy in the ever-changing landscape of work and life.
Creating and maintaining a positive work-life balance is a non-negotiable for your overall well-being. However, it is an ongoing process, not a fix-it-and-forget-it mechanism.
If you keep telling yourself, “Let me achieve this goal first, I’ll take a break then,” you are ignoring the great truth of life:
Life will go on, and to make it go on well and long, you need to take breaks and unplug for a while.
Here are some take-home messages to help you have a work-life balance:
- Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and take breaks to build and maintain a work-life balance.
- Prevent work from encroaching on personal life or family time by keeping them separate.
- Talk with coworkers, bosses, and family members to explain your limits and priorities.
- If working from home, establish a dedicated workspace and work schedule.
- Allocate certain hours to turn off work notifications during personal time.
A positive work-life balance is not a one-time event or a static goal. It is a continuous process that requires ongoing attention and effort.
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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy, an experienced medical doctor and psychology writer focusing on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and Stoic philosophy. His expertise and empathetic approach have helped many mental abuse survivors find happiness and well-being in their lives.
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