• Self-Care
May 1, 2016

Tips for Creating a Realistic Work-Life Balance

Do you live a balanced life?

If you’re an American worker, the answer is probably no.

Compared to the rest of the world, the United States ranks incredibly low on work-life balance. While we may earn more money and can afford more “stuff”, we definitely pay for it in terms of working longer hours, to the point of burnout and even beyond. The truth is most Americans spend their entire earthly existence working for a life that they never truly enjoy.

That’s sad, right?

Are you guilty of making your work your life, to the point where your friends have forgotten what you look like and your dear mom is getting ready to send out a search party to find you?

This doesn’t have to be the story of your life.

Together, let’s create a life that rewards you. Ready to start? Let’s go.

Understand Your Priorities

Assign your top priorities for each area of your life. But don’t just list them in a notebook, never to be seen again.

Each of your priorities should be actionable, too.

As I discussed in Goal Setting Like a Boss: 8 Strategies to Get What You Want, defining your goals can help you identify your priorities. You may not know immediately what your priorities are initially, but if you start by what goals you’d like to accomplish this week, this month, this year, or this decade, it will help you uncover them.

But, your goals shouldn’t be all work-related. We’re discussing work-life balance in this post, so let’s take a look at the type of goals you may have for each of the main areas of your life:

Health – This month, I will join Crossfit and exercise three times a week.
Family – I’d like to go hiking with my family this weekend.
Personal Growth – I’d like to sign up to learn French this month.
Finances – I’d like to prepare lunch at home and bring it in. (Ticks two boxes, way to go, you!)
Relationships – This month, I’d like to finally join the youth mentor program and develop a young mind.
Social Life – I’d like to meet with my friends for brunch this Sunday.
Attitude – I’d like to start a 21 day “no complaining” challenge starting this Saturday.
Career – I’d like to spend the next few weeks testing the new communication app.

Would you like a printable work/life worksheet to help you determine your goals? Check this out! Click Here

While we’re discussing goal setting, remember to create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time. If your goal cannot be defined in S.M.A.R.T. terms, it’s just wishful thinking.

You’ll notice that all of the goals I listed above fit into S.M.A.R.T. terms.

If S.M.A.R.T. seems too structured for you, you can start by answering the following questions:

  • What is my goal?
  • Why is it a goal?
  • How will I accomplish this goal?

I’d caution you to focus on short term goals that you can accomplish sooner rather than later. That way, you can reevaluate your goals at the end of the month and see which ones you’ve stuck with and which ones just weren’t as important to you.

Ask yourself why you accomplished some goals but not others. It may be that you were unrealistic with yourself about how “actionable” or “doable” these goals were, or it may just not be a priority for you, after all.

And that’s okay. It’s not about another burden for you, but creating a life that enriches and nourishes you.

At first, you’ll feel like you’re just checking off of a list. It may feel robotic and unnatural, especially if you’re not a “planner”. However, as you continue, it will feel much more organic.

Plan

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If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Ever heard that one?

It definitely applies to creating the life you’d like.

To kickstart your work-life balance, you’ll need to be extremely intentional and deliberate about it. This means you must plan it out.

However, don’t rush this step too quickly. Before you plan, observe.

Take one typical week where nothing out of the ordinary is scheduled (no weddings, funerals, or vacations), and jot down what you do every day all day. In your notebook, detail the following:

  • When you wake up
  • When and if you eat breakfast
  • What you eat for breakfast
  • What time you go to work
  • What you do at work
  • What you eat for lunch
  • What time you leave work
  • What you do in the afternoons
  • What you eat for dinner
  • What you do to “unwind”
  • When you go to bed

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what your day to day life looks like, it’s time to mix it up and create the ideal (but realistic) life you’d much rather lead. For example, perhaps you need to restructure your schedule to go to work earlier in the day so that you have more time in the afternoon to take your photography course.

Start inserting other goals into your daily schedule. Exchange current habits for new ideas that will make you happier in the long run. Instead of eating out again because you haven’t thought about it, plan it out so that you can start eating the healthy diet you’ve prioritized for yourself.

Accept Help

You are not alone, and you shouldn’t act like you are. Understand your limitations and make allowances for them. When people offer their help, take them up on it, enthusiastically.

A lot of times, we’re slow to accept help because we’re too busy listening to our egos. When allowed to speak, your ego is always out of control. The ego wants to do everything itself (while at the same time being a victim). The human ego is a basket case, and shouldn’t be allowed to influence your decisions.

Don’t push yourself to the breaking point just to earn praise and adoration from others. That’s one way to a spectacular burnout. Instead, accept help and actively seek it out. That’s right, if people aren’t offering you help to complete a project, then make your needs known.

Your family, friends, and co-workers have no idea that you’re struggling unless you tell them.

Make “Life” a Priority

There’s living to work and then there’s working to live. Which one do you do?

If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably the former. Sometimes it’s hard to disengage from the office when there’s always another crisis. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that most things can wait until Monday.

Here’s what can’t wait:

Vacation days. Use them, you earned them. At many places, if you don’t use ‘em, you will lose ‘em. You won’t earn a medal of honor for not taking a vacation since the 90s.

Not only is a vacation good for the human spirit, it also gives you necessary perspective and distance to better function on your job. Sometimes you need to take a break in order to see the solution to your problems.

Leave Work At Work

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Once you leave work, you need to leave work. A lot of people take work home, and a growing amount of people are actually working from home remotely.

If that’s you, how do you “leave work at work” when you work from home?

The simple answer is discipline. Create strict “office hours” and once closing time comes around, close up shop.

If you have the luxury of a separate office, designate that room as “work” and close the door when work is done. Even if that room is just down the hallway, you need to create as much mental distance as possible so that you’re not tempted to work when you should be off.

Final Thoughts

A work-life balance depends on finding what’s most important to you at this point in your life, and carving out the time to do it. Use these tips to find you create more balance in your life. As always, good luck.

Would you like a printable work/life worksheet to help you determine your goals? This is for you! Click Here

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Teresa Wallace
President, Agility Leadership Coaching
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