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Work-Life Balance Importance, Problems and Solutions

Dec 28, 2021

Do you often feel that you have no work-life balance? Or that your life seems out of control? When our priorities or focus get out of kilter, then we will often feel like our lives are out of our control. It is also a matter of perception and what we believe about how much time we should spend on work vs non-work activities.

It is important that you are clear about what is important to you and that you are taking congruent action to support these things. Once we get clarity about what is important, it is easier to think clearly about work-life balance. We are going to explore how to have a healthy and honest view of work-life balance as we see it.


Understanding work-life balance

What is work-life balance? Let’s try to define it so that we are all on the same page. Defining work-life balance involves looking at how working people manage time spent at and outside of work. Time outside of work may include managing relationships, family responsibilities and other outside interests and hobbies.

Many people think that having balance means that there is an equal amount of time spent at work and at non-work activities. In fact, when you look up the definition, we learn “work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a personal equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.” (Business News Daily)

This seems like it should be reasonable to do and yet in reality it is unrealistic. We want to break this down in a way that makes it easier for you to think about work-life balance differently. We are going to look at it honestly, realistically and with clear eyes and mind.

Using 24 hours in a day, because that’s all ANY of us have, most people sleep an average of 7 hours per night. That leaves us 17 hours of awake time in our day. Now let’s assume that you have at least a 30 minute commute each way to work. That leaves 16 awake hours in our day. An average workday is 8 hours so out of the 16 hours, we work 8 hours. That leaves only 8 hours per day to focus on relationships, family, outside interests and hobbies.

This exercise should put our thinking about work-life balance in perspective. It should clearly demonstrate to us that it is unreasonable to believe that we can spend the EXACT same amount of time on each of these areas of our life. This would be impossible to do. Let’s take this new understanding with us throughout this blog.


Healthy Work-Life Balance

As you can see, in order to create a balanced life, we must understand what we want from our life and what stage of life we are in. Each of us has an idea of what work-life balance means to us and splitting our time 50/50 between work and our personal activities does not always mean that we have work-life balance.

We spend a lot of time and energy working on reducing our stress. How costly is workplace stress? It is estimated that American companies spend more than $300 billion a year in health costs, absenteeism and poor performance. In addition to this an estimated 40% of job turnover is due to stress.

An estimated $960 per year is spent by the average American worker on stress reduction. So it goes without saying that reducing stress is important to our well-being and to our productivity. Our feeling about our own individual work-life balance contributes to this stress in ways that it is hard to measure.

We need to act rather than react to situations and problems. We experience stress when we feel that situations or our lives are out of control. How do we manage our work-life balance in a way that reduces stress and helps us to feel like we have control over it?

Work-life balance is an important aspect of our job satisfaction and our view of our work environment. Maintaining work-life balance helps us reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. Too much stress over a long period of time leads to workplace burnout (which we cover in our next blog).

A healthy work-like balance is about making sure that your feel fulfilled and content in all areas of your life. It is important to have an understanding of the your current balance and start there. Healthy balance means:

  • Making sure you have enough time to sleep well and eat well
  • Meet your deadlines at work while still having time with family, friends and any hobbies/interests
  • Put work aside while with on your personal time


Ways to find work-life balance

Examine and Accept Your Current Situation

Think about what is really important to you. We often don’t take that time to really ask ourselves what is important to us. What are our priorities in life? What do we want people to say about us? What do we want to be known for? These are questions that may be hard to answer at a surface level and yet it is important to take the time to get this right.

Our values play a large role in how we approach our daily lives. Our actions reflect our values so If you put more emphasis on your career than on spending time with your family or friends that is where your value lies. There are no judgments here because perhaps you are in the phase of your life that allows you to focus primarily on career.

As we mentioned before, work-life balance is very much a personal thing and each of us will have different values at different phases in our life. An example of this is motherhood. If you are a mom of young children, you are in a phase of life that means you must prioritize more time with children than on working long hours. On the other hand you will be rewarded in different ways as a mother than as a career professional.

The key is to honestly look at where you are in your life. Be honest and accept that you are in a certain phase of your life. It doesn’t mean that you will always be in this phase so learn accept yourself as you are and plan for work-life balance based on that.


Manage Expectations of Yourself and Others

There is definite benefit to having high expectations of ourselves because we put healthy pressure on ourselves to be our best self. We are better friends, partners and coworkers because of it. We can derive motivation, high standards and clear direction as long as don’t allow our expectations to get too much control over us.  Play to your strengths and don’t try to be all things to all people including yourself.

If we give in to others’ wishes when we have strong feelings in a different direction, we affect our wellbeing in a less than positive way. We expect a lot of ourselves and often those expectations can be unrealistic and cause a lot of stress. It’s important to manage these expectations well.

Give yourself time to accomplish what you want and need to accomplish. It is unrealistic to think that you can instantly achieve all your goals. Prioritize your time while at work so that you do not have to take work home with you at night. Schedule each day as efficiently as possible so that you have time to complete each task or project. Your schedule should include your personal moments when you work on hobbies and do fun things.

Manage other people’s expectations in order to create a healthy give and take atmosphere. Seek to prevent disappointment by establishing in advance what can realistically be achieved or delivered by a project. Know your boundaries and stick to them. Be prepared to negotiate if someone has extremely high expectations in order to get them more in line with reality. Under promise when negotiating and then do your very best to over deliver.

Whether you are at home or work, you have to be present and in the moment. This is a great way to find work-life balance. While at work, we should be giving our 100% in focus, activity, thinking power and energy. When we leave work, we should do the same.


Take Care of You First

Earlier we discussed how to break down our 24 hours each day. We talk about sleep first because it is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our well-being. It is a large part of how we accomplish good work-life balance. While we are sleeping, our bodies, mind and spirit get refreshed. Our bodies need to rest and so does our brain.

Good sleep can mean the difference in a smooth, calm day and one that is hurried and full of stress. There are some good habits that you can get yourself into that will enable and enhance your sleep patterns. We won’t cover those here because we don’t have the space and yet you should take the time to incorporate any tips that may work for you.

In addition to good sleep, we need to incorporate good eating habits. It is not only unhealthy to skip meals, it also deprives the brain of the energy it needs to function properly. If you do not add fuel, whether electric or gasoline, to a vehicle it stops running. Our bodies are no different so take care of your body by feeding it regularly and nutritionally.

Exercise is also an integral part of taking care of ourselves. Whether you are a yogi, like to run or walk, or a gym rat, some sort of physical exercise is good for the soul. We were not meant to sit in front  the TV, our computers or at our desks all day. There are many studies that indicate that sitting or a sedentary lifestyle is the next smoking! So make exercise a part of your daily self-care routine.


Learn to say No

It is perfectly acceptable to create healthy boundaries at work. It is also important to learn to say no to avoid overload. It is difficult to say no for most people, especially to your boss. Learn to ask them to help you prioritize your current projects/activities so that you can add the latest request to your plate. This becomes a win/win for you both.

You can say no in a very polite way that won’t feel as uncomfortable for you or the other person. Just learn to use softeners. What are softeners? Prefaces to sentences that soften the meaning of what you are saying.

Let’s use an example that happens quite frequently. Your boss has asked you to take on YET ANOTHER stretch assignment and you are absolutely maxed out. You will need his or her help in setting proper priorities and expectations, so say something like, “I wish there were two of me, that way I could handle all of this. Unfortunately, there is only one of me, so I will need your help to reprioritize these projects.”

This type of communication will set up a win/win situation and will increase your standing with the boss by setting clear expectations up front.

We also need to learn to say no in our personal lives especially if we are a people pleaser. Our families often make demands on our time that can feel pretty overwhelming and next to impossible to do. Yet many of us have a hard time saying no and then we get ourselves exhausted and drained with nothing left for ourselves.

There is real personal power in learning to say no. Setting boundaries in our personal life is just as important as setting them at work. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, learn to say no without feeling the need to justify your response and then let it go an don’t feel guilty about it. This is so much easier to say than to do and I encourage you to practice because the benefits are huge.


Plan fun personal time activities

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to incorporate fun activities into to your day, week or month. Each of us is different and we each require a different level and type of activity. Being true to yourself, you should schedule fun activities regularly on your calendar. By doing this, we have something to look forward to and it actually helps to reduce our stress.

The simple anticipation of having something enjoyable makes the days go by easier. No matter what it is, we have something other than work to look forward to and it contributes in a big way to increasing our happiness.


 Work-Life Balance is a Process and Not An Event

Understanding this is a process and not an event is so important to how successful we will be at creating work-life balance. Be patient with yourself and keep an open mind. Despite the fact that we know that working long hours can be harmful, we are still struggling to cut back on the number of hours we are working.

What will it take for you to free yourself from this unhealthy process and develop a more sustainable work-life balance? In a Harvard Business Review article titled, “Work-Life Balance is a Cycle, Not an Achievement”, the majority of interviewees of a survey on this topic, described their jobs as highly demanding, exhausting, and chaotic, and they seem to take for granted that working long hours was necessary for their professional success.

It will take time and patience, yet the rewards will be huge if we step back and take a look at our own situation. We need to be honest and ask ourselves a series of questions that will help focus us on a plan to improve our own work-life balance. Ask what is currently causing me stress or dissatisfaction? How does this impact my work and my personal life? What am I prioritizing or tolerating?

If you will take the time to answer these and similar questions, the answers will create the pathway to creating a work-life balance works for you and for your current situation.

This can be an emotional journey so pay attention to how you are feeling and reacting to this process. If we get a good understanding of how our current situation makes us feel, we are far more motivated to do something about it.

As we discussed earlier, being clear about your priorities will give clarity to your plan and will increase the chances of success. The key is to take action. We can talk about work-life balance ad nauseum, but if we take no action, nothing will change. Commit to yourself that you will act on the plan and create the ideal work-life balance for you.


In Summary

There are many work-life balance strategies so chose what you think will work best for you and take action on those strategies. Is there such a thing as perfect work-life balance? The answer is, “It depends.”

Depending on your definition of work-life balance, you can learn to “flow” with work and life. What I mean by this, is that life has a ebb and flow. So does work-life balance. We just need to learn to flow with our life so that we learn where the boundaries are and when to turn on work mode, family mode, friend mode, personal mode, etc.

If we learn to be present and in the moment our lives will take on more of a feeling of being in balance and the importance of good work-life balance will have had lasting effects.


About Connie

My greatest joy is helping clients become people who lead. My mission is to help people grow into the strong, successful people that I know they can be.  My passion is building great talent while building authentic and long-lasting relationships! I also love using my experience as both a corporate executive and an entrepreneur to provide actionable feedback that helps people reach new heights no matter if that is working in the corporate world or as an entrepreneur or as a stay-at-home parent! I start right where you are and we grow from there!

Growing up in a small town, I often found myself wondering if there were more to the world than this. After being given opportunities to lead, I genuinely felt like I was in my element for the first time in my life. I decided it was time to break free of my limitations and become the person I knew I was meant to be—confident to build a career that I had always imagined.

I have had a career signature of being asked by senior corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Rick Wagoner to assume advisor-consultant roles with clients and executive teams. I was recruited by The Walt Disney Company to coach executives and worked jointly with their leadership to create career development plans for Disney’s Enterprise IT group.

As a recognized leader and mentor, I hold more than 20 years’ experience building relationships, developing teams, and coaching associates to success. 

You can contact me via email at [email protected].

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