Many people think that maintaining a work-life balance is primarily based on cutting out activities from one’s schedule. Indeed, setting priorities, simplifying your schedule, and learning time management techniques are all a significant part of work-life balance, in that these steps may be required to minimize the “work” portion enough to allow the “life” component to have a balanced role.
However, even those who have a heavy amount of work requirements that cannot be eliminated can maintain a comfortable level of work-life balance—it’s an ongoing endeavor. Being busy with work and life can still include maintaining a balance.
Maintaining a work-life balance isn’t a static goal—maintaining balance means having the flexibility to constantly shift when necessary so that you can accommodate life’s unexpected challenges without experiencing burnout, excessive anxiety, depression, or other negative effects of too much stress.
When we have too many obligations that require energy, time, and other internal resources, we can approach burnout. But when we live a life geared toward avoiding all such obligations when possible, we risk having a life devoid of meaning and satisfaction.
One important key to balancing between maintaining a life of overwhelming activity and a life of not enough meaning and excitement is to balance the amount of time and energy you spend on activities that feel like work with activities that nourish you and feel like play. There are a few different ways to accomplish this.
When people think of work-life balance, leisure time is often the first thing that comes to mind, as it should. There is research behind the idea that leisure time promotes stress management and stress management activities can increase productivity and resource-building, so it’s important to make time to do things we find enjoyable and relaxing.
Multitasking was once seen as the magic ticket to time management: a great way to virtually double one’s available time. Then it became known that we are actually less efficient when trying to do two things at once and would be often better off single-tasking both activities than trying to combine two things at once, particularly when both demand a high degree of attention.
There are, however, times when multitasking can work well, and these are the times to identify and utilize! It’s often helpful to pair two tasks that don’t take a lot of focus, such as listening to an audiobook and cleaning house, or reviewing one’s to-do list and schedule while waiting in line at the store.
Multitasking may not be something that works all the time, but it shouldn’t be discounted entirely, either; it just takes a little thought to plan it into your schedule.
4. Look at Your Priorities
One of the more important ways you can maintain work-life balance is to cut out unnecessary obligations. Chances are, you don’t have anything in your life that doesn’t seem entirely necessary at this point, and that’s understandable. However, in thinking about what you could cut out if you needed to, it’s helpful to think about the following:
- Examine your priorities. Are they connected to a core goal? Are they vital to one of the most important aspects of your life?
- What are your feelings about your commitments: which ones drain your energy and which ones feed it?
- What would happen if you cancel a given commitment: what’s the cost-benefit analysis? Is it worth the time it takes from other potentially important activities in your life, including exercise, time spent with family and friends, and leisure activities you wish you could enjoy?
When you take a look at your priorities and figure out what is important to you, you can then say “no” to some things, which will allow you to say “yes” to others.
Delegating tasks is something that comes naturally to some and very uncomfortable to others, so it’s a somewhat under-used strategy for some of those who could benefit from it the most. Delegating tasks—asking others to take on some of your workloads—can take many forms.
Can you offer trades with anyone, where you handle some of their workloads that you enjoy more, and they handle some of yours? Can you hire it out? Are there people who would be willing to pitch in if you asked them? Think about what tasks in your life need doing, and which could be done by someone other than you.
Life coaches help their clients get their lives into a more streamlined, functional state, and one of the more important ways they do this is to help clients identify and manage their tolerations—those things in life that drain our energy on a daily basis.
Your tolerations, or energy drains, may take the form of difficult people you must deal with (but could avoid, if you tried), messy rooms (which suck up your time when you lose something, but could be cleaned in an afternoon), or many other things that chip away at your available energy.
If you have several tolerations in your life, you may want to take a day or two to identify them and eliminate them. Once they’ve been minimized, you’ll have more energy for other things, and more balance in your life.
Improving stress management and increasing coping mechanisms can also help. If you have better-coping strategies, you feel more balanced and are better able to manage daily hassles.
Taking on new activities can fill up your schedule, but it can also fill you with life satisfaction. Gratifications are such activities; they take some time and energy but leave us feeling happier and less stressed.
Gratifications are pastimes that utilize our strengths and creativity in just the right way, leaving us fulfilled and making the time fly by. As your stress levels are minimized and your sense of fulfillment is maximized, you’ll be glad you did.
When you’re working on your work-life balance, it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to others or even to yourself during different situations. Keep in mind that work-life balance can mean different things to different people, and can look very different at different times in your life.