Work-life balance, in short, means not letting your work take over your personal life. One survey in 2018 found that 66 percent of employees say they don’t strongly believe they have work-life balance. Keep in mind, that’s employees. Imagine how small business owners are lacking in work-life balance because they usually don’t just have one job, they are responsible for all the jobs to keep their business running. For business owners, it’s really easy to blur the lines between work life and personal life. Your business is your passion, it is personal.
Still, without a clear line and balance between work and personal life, other areas of your life will suffer. It can affect your relationship with God, family, friends, your mental and emotional health, and more over time if you never address it. Just like anything else in life, it takes intentional daily living to avoid crossing work-life balance lines. Typically the struggle isn’t trying to fit work in around our personal lives, we’re usually struggling to fit our personal lives in around our work lives. So let’s chat about how to make room for really living and still get your work done.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance
Set Personal Life Priorities
Before you can be intentional about not crossing work-life balance lines, you have to create those lines. Even if your work is really important to you, think about what is most important outside of your work. Things like God, marriage, family, friendships, physical and mental health. Be specific. Part of my list looks like this:
- Morning time with God
- Weekend date night with my husband
- Exercise at least four days a week
My list is longer than that, but those are three examples from it. Having specific priorities helps you to carve out time in your schedule for those exact things. The more specific you are, the more intentional you can be.
Learn to Say No
Okay, you’ve set your priorities and now it’s time to learn how to say no to anything else. Obviously there are sometimes exceptions, but in order to keep your work-life balance you’ll have to get used to telling people no and being okay with it.
This is so hard for me because I want to be helpful, I like to make people happy, and I also enjoy having my hands in a lot of different projects. You might know how I feel. But my life started feeling so heavy and chaotic and I realized I had to start saying no to everything that was not contributing positively to my main priorities. I’m still learning to say no but I’ve gotten much better at it and you will too.
Have Set Work Hours (AND STICK TO THEM)
That survey I mentioned earlier also found that 57 percent of workers said technology has ruined the modern day family dinner. I agree. I’m so guilty of this myself, but we have to put away the phones during family time. Especially if dinner time is pretty much the only time your whole family spends together.
If you’re self employed, set yourself some very strict business hours that you stick to religiously. If you are an employee, turn your phone off when you leave work if you have to. I know this sounds extreme, but sometimes work-life balance is so off that it can destroy your life outside of work. By the time you realize it, sometimes it’s too late to repair your family or other personal relationships. Let your boss know (even if your boss is you) that your personal life is very important to you and when work hours end for the day, they really end.
Once you set your work hours you might want to take a look at your daily tasks. Is there something you can delegate to someone else to free up some time for yourself? Or maybe you are an employee and you’ve been picking up the slack for a co-worker. Maybe it’s time for you to hand that slack back to them. There’s usually something you can do as either a business owner or an employee to work smarter. I know you want to work hard and do your best, but you don’t have to be responsible for all the things to be an awesome employee or business owner.
Remember Parkinson’s Law
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.Cyril Northcote Parkinson
I have found this to be so true. If I allow myself several hours for a task that would only take me one, super focused hour, the task always takes me several hours or sometimes even more. Because we’re so used to multi-tasking (which does not make us more productive, BTW), we tend to waste a ton of time trying to do many things at once instead of checking off one thing at a time. That means closing out of social media when you’re trying to write a blog post, turning off cell phone notifications while you’re doing paperwork — stuff like that. Zero distractions (or as few as possible) and a time limit are the keys to most efficient task completion.
If you aren’t ever evaluating your habits in work life and personal life then you might not even recognize when you’re pushing over the work-life balance line. If you bother to set boundaries you should constantly be checking yourself to be sure you aren’t going beyond them or allowing anyone else to pull you past them.
Having a work-life balance is a choice for most of us. One we sometimes feel like we have no control over, but we do. Just be really real with yourself and always keep your priorities in mind.