How to achieve work-life balance

First off, it’s not about balance. Most of us aspire to obtain the unachievable “perfect work life balance,” but the problem with that is that it’s nearly impossible. And if you do achieve it, your life might not be as balanced as you might think.

It’s time for us to transform the definition of what “balanced” means. Often times when we try and balance our lives it’s because we have so much going on, we don’t have enough time in the day to complete everything on our bloated to-do lists. Usually we’re left feeling like we’ve either let ourselves down, or disappointed others. As a working professional, and as human with a personal life, it can be tough to figure out how everything fits together.

When you think about it, you spend most of your day at work; whether you’re commuting, actually working, eating at work, or putting your feet up at the end of the day, thinking about work. During your work day though, you’re probably sending and receiving texts to and from friends and family, scrolling through social media, and stressing about something you’re struggling with at home. It’s nearly impossible to keep your two lives separate—so perhaps the secret is that you shouldn’t.

Instead of looking for balance, start thinking more about your priorities, and get creative about how, and when you can appropriately overlap them. Balancing too many things at once can lead to too much multi-tasking, and while most successful individuals seem to constantly be multi-tasking, part of the secret is figuring out when you can, and when you really shouldn’t.

If you can start with looking at your priorities and try to keep your actions driving towards those—in your personal life, and at work—then you can start to feel more “balanced” by realizing that feeling comes more from focused energy, rather than perfect harmony. Most of us want to earn the next promotion, eat healthier, be more fit, and travel to our heart’s content, but we’ll probably never be perfect, and there’s beauty in that.

Most good things in life happen in threes. Think about your top three areas you want to excel in or get to the next level. One area might be something at work, the next could be related to your health, and perhaps the third is related to family. Everything else you want to achieve is great, but don’t worry about that right now. Once you accomplish a few goals in your main priority areas, you can move onto other things. Start thinking about how your day revolves around those 3 areas.

When you’re given a chance to step up and take ownership at work, maybe you raise your hand, swallow your fear, and step up. Perhaps you’re getting your morning coffee and you’ve committed to having less sugar, and you decide to skip on the cupcake. Then towards the end of your day, your friend calls—you’ve been trying to be more receptive to them reaching out, so instead of ignoring her call and forgetting to call back that day, and the next, and the next, you send her a quick text so she knows you’re listening, then set a reminder to call her on your drive home. The seemingly small moments of the day, often the mundane ones, are all the million little opportunities you have each day to start down the right path. If you can take advantage let’s say, three times each day, you might be surprised how driven you feel.

Here a couple tips to start “balancing” out your work, your personal life, and all the other fun things in between:

1. Take little walks throughout the day. Even if it’s just at the end of your lunch break, or the stairs in your building. Move that body.

2. Set reminders or timers on your phone to hold yourself accountable to completing tasks later if you can’t do them immediately.

3. Be where you are. When you’re at work, do work. Try and stay off social media, don’t answer a call that you know is going to stress you out or pull you away from work. Set a reminder and get back to that person at the end of your day.

4. Relax. Meditate when you wake up. Put up your feet when you get home and change how you’re using your brain. Try not to get sucked into a Netflix worm hole though, a good TV show can be more addicting than chocolate.

5. Be ok with messing up, feeling imbalanced, and even crazy. The important thing to do is to try and not beat yourself up. If you were late to work because you were having a great morning with your spouse, know you put good energy into your marriage. If you ate that cupcake, and you know the extra sugar wasn’t the best choice, remember how good it tasted, let your brain enjoy that sensation, and do some squats that night while you brush your teeth. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t hate you for living.

6. Drink water. Honestly water helps with everything, and might be the answer to 99% of the problems in your life.

Think about your priorities throughout the day. Focus on the present, your current surroundings, and the professional and personal relationships you’re building. Take tiny opportunities to be proud of yourself throughout the day and do so by thinking how they align with your priority areas. By focusing your time this way, you’ll most likely end up feeling a bit more balanced, while not worrying about achieving the intimidating notion of “balance.”

By Madison Joslyn

Madison is a content strategist and nonfiction writer. She balances her topics between the tech avenue and aspirational self help. She understands that People Inherently Don’t Read Anymore (PIDRA); if you want to chat about that, or words in general, drop her a line at [email protected].