Work-life balance is a process, not a destination.
We have all had those weeks where the workload is never-ending, the deadlines don’t seem to cease and our mental health feels fragile. For many people, chaotic, demanding, long hours are a sign of career development and advancement. However, the question we all ask is, “how to improve work-life balance?”
Unhealthy work habits, time and again, have proven to be harmful to both the employee and their employers. Burnout is one of the leading causes of career change, loss of talent, and business disruption in most industries.
Yet, we all struggle to navigate healthy work habits and create a healthy, more sustainable way of managing our careers. What does it take to break the cycle and get better at managing work-life balance?
How to Deal With Poor Work-Life Balance
After discussing and delving through our collective years of experience with our Psych Company life coaches and therapists, they offered us the following feedback on how to rethink our work strategies to increase balance in our lives. Our Psych Company therapists work with professionals on how to manage their careers every day.
It comes down to three things.
- Increasing self-awareness and questioning assumptions. What is going on in my inner world? What defines good work habits and a productive workload?
- Intentionally redefining your role. What is your actual job and how much of that do you do?
- Accepting change is constant. Knowing that this “cycle” is ever-evolving and requires constant attention as our lives change and priorities evolve is vital.
“If we try to condense all of the achievement of our careers in just a short burst of energy then we will without a doubt burn out – if not this time then for sure at an upcoming surge or attempt!”
Read along to learn more about how you can start redefining your work, understand the work-life balance cycle, and adopt strategies to manage it for sustainable success.
Consider Where You Are in Your Career
Objective observation is critical when you are trying to understand where you are within your career cycle and increase self-awareness.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What is currently causing me to feel anxious or stressed?
- Why am I feeling dissatisfied?
- How is this all impacting my health and personal life?
- What am I sacrificing and prioritizing?
- Am I getting lost?
Are Your Goals Actually Aligned With What You Are Doing?
Most of the time a lack of work-life balance is caused by a misalignment between what we are doing and what our actual goals are – and if we are constantly just “doing” without having goals to strive towards, then this can also be a source of great stress.
Once you have given yourself a chance to reflect on these questions, you can acknowledge these factors and begin to unpack them for yourself.
Make a List of Your Priorities and Goals
Heavy thinking can feel daunting, so writing things down and making a list of all your reflections can be very helpful. Write down what is important to you, what your priorities are in life, and what your goals are.
Think about everything from the people in your life, your social or spiritual life, and what your work and health goals are.
Next, write down how you can achieve them.
If you can’t achieve your goals, why not?
Do Your Values Align With Your Lifestyle?
See if your values align with the way that you are living. Misalignment and incongruencies between our values and how we are living our lives have been reported to instill a broad range of deeply unsettling sensations ranging from “sharp jabs” to “a dull malaise” or even “a sense of pointlessness or dread” when we’ve polled our clients.
Over time, these inconsistencies add up and filter into our work, personal and professional relationships, and how we treat others and ourselves.
Are Your Goals In line With Work-Life Balance?
If you find that your work and life goals are somehow mismatched, it may be a good time to pause and rethink how you want to change and reprioritize things. However, in some cases you might find changing how you perceive your situation more beneficial.
For some people, it may be acceptable to work very long hours. Spending some time acknowledging the temporary and long term trade-offs can be helpful to finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment with this type of choice.
For example, we see many clients who are justifiably working in jobs they don’t necessarily love or even like in order to retire comfortably and to provide a certain standard of living for themselves and for those they love.
We all process, perceive, and define what “personal sacrifice” is differently from one another. Therefore, it is important to develop a firm sense of what is right for you and to really own it. That way you can feel proud about your lifestyle choices because they align with your goals. Rather than feeling like you are personally sacrificing your work-life balance, you can acknowledge that you are choosing to put more of your time and energy into work because you want to.
Do You Feel Resentment Relating To Your Work Commitments?
Some of us feel resentment when we have worked so hard and yet don’t perceive a reasonable amount of “return on investment”.
Some examples of high ROI might be: demonstrable gratefulness from family members, enough time to actually enjoy vacations and good mental and physical health to name a few.
Some are aware of and accept that these areas of their personal lives will take a hit for a few or more years and so are more at ease with putting on their game face at work. It is important to note, however, that, in many cases, this sustained, but perceived as acceptable personal sacrifice can percolate over time and eventually turn into issues.
A Professional Can Help
Balance is always elusive given that priorities at work and home change daily. This is where we can all use help from a professional with the training, experience and insight to help us navigate this tricky tightrope walk daily. A professional, in part, can help us to achieve a better work-life balance by helping us better understand ourselves.
Pay Attention To Your Feelings
Once you have had a chance to reflect on your current situation, check in with yourself and consider how it makes you feel.
Are you happy? Resentful? Sad or energized? Do you dislike your company culture? Are you afraid you have no personal time? Are you happy with your professional life?
For some, asking these questions may help identify some deep-rooted negative feelings surrounding work-life balance. For others, it is an opportunity to separate themselves from their situation in order to isolate certain negative emotional states such as the feeling of being agitated or grumpy.
Are You Always Tired and Grumpy?
You weren’t always a tired and disgruntled person, but if you are now it may be a great indicator you need to refocus on a good work-life balance.
Being aware of your emotional state is essential in helping you figure out what changes you need to make in your work routine and in other aspects of your life as well as how to pursue these changes.
Looking Inward Can Be Difficult
Sometimes when we look within, feelings of shame or even “imposter syndrome” can surface especially when it comes to work.
In some stances, we are unfairly harsh on ourselves when it comes to harboring “imposter syndrome”. The good news is that there are many practical ways to help people deal with these thoughts and feelings. We find that they can often present themselves at critical career defining moments.
Conversely, there are cases in which a person ought to reassess their circumstances in order to continue moving in the direction of their goal(s). Such a scenario takes shape when a person has realized their potential in their current station and needs to decide upon their next steps in order to continue to grow and seek fulfillment. Simply because you are “good” or even great at something doesn’t mean you should be doing it indefinitely and closing the doors to all other options that could be better suited to you.
Rethink Your Priorities
Developing emotional awareness will assist you in identifying the areas that you need to reprioritize in your life. This will be instrumental to finding a healthy work-life balance.
Is there anything that you need to adjust? Has your health been jeopardized by your long work hours? Is it worth it? Is it inevitable? Is this the best long-term plan for your personal life? Will your professional life suffer ultimately?
Realign Your Priorities With Your Ideal Work-Life Balance
Now it is time to realign your priorities with the way that you want to live. It can feel both scary and empowering identifying the changes that you may need to take. Seeing a therapist can really help you work through the fear.
Go slow and take time to consider all of your feelings and what you are going through. In most cases, it has taken a long time to get to an unhealthy way of living and therefore it will take a similar amount of time to make the corrections necessary.
“When we drive off to a new destination we often refer to a roadmap or guide – why not do this for how we live?”
Consider What Your Alternatives Are
Before you can find a solution, start by reflecting on how your work and life can be different in order to align best with your priorities. Think about the areas that you would like to see changed. Consider how much time you would like to spend with your family or taking care of your health.
Implement Your New Work-Life Balance Plan
Once you have taken the time to evaluate and map out the challenges and options that can help you improve your situation, you may take action.
Implementation can be done in a few different ways:
- Public change you can leap and change outwardly, for instance by taking on a new role that changes your work schedule. Perhaps it is a position that compresses your work hours.
- Private change is a change that is not presented outwardly but will impact inwardly, such as choosing to limit your availability during off-hours which has the effect of adjusting your work schedule to permit more personal time but does so in a subtle manner.
Focus on the Journey
Improving your situation will take time and experimentation. We highly recommend focusing on the journey and the lessons that you will pick up through the experience of implementing change as opposed to being fixated on the destination. When you only focus on the final result you are waiting until you achieve your end goal before feeling good and proud of yourself. Alternatively, when you break the process down and focus on what is learned as you go, you have many things to feel great about. This will boost both mood and motivation.
When deciding on change, the most crucial element to the approach is sustainability over time. As well, you will need support from your network.
It is not enough that you know that you need to adjust your out-of-work hours. You now need to book a meeting with your manager to let them know that you need their support in making these changes.
After reviewing the above points, it is essential not to see these in isolation as they all work together and must come together to navigate positive changes. As well, it is necessary to note that it is not a one-time action.
Moving towards work-life balance will be one of change and ever-evolving adjustments as life changes. Hopefully throughout the process you’ll discover what does and doesn’t work for you, eventually settling on a healthy balance.
If you are looking for help in your life or career, we have a specialized group of therapists and life coaches that can help you navigate all of life’s milestones. Schedule a consolation with us today so that we can work with you on what you need.