According to Statista, 72 percent of Americans believe work-life balance is important. Despite this awareness, 60 percent of people say their 40-hour workweeks simply don’t cut it. A survey conducted by Groupon found that the average worker feels they need to put in an additional four hours per day just to complete their work. It goes without saying working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every single day doesn’t result in a work-life balance.
Brian Dyson, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, explains the importance of maintaining work-life balance with this analogy: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—work, family, health, friends, and spirit . . . You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls—family, health, friends, and spirit—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
Whether showing up as a leader at work or showing up as a leader at home, balance is essential because it helps high achievers live full lives that generate a positive impact no matter where they are. To do this, find out more about what work-life balance is and how to cultivate it over time.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is the healthy management of a person’s professional life and private life. Unequally distributed time, resources, and energy in the different areas of life results in problems. For example, this could look like a CEO who spends 15 hours a day at work then feels too exhausted to spend quality time with family. As a result of working too much and lack of emotional connection with their partner and kids, those relationships suffer. Usually, a lack of work-life balance isn’t exclusive to the part of life that needs more balance. Like the domino effect, it manifests in other areas and can disrupt all facets of life.
A few causes of disruptions in work-life balance could include:
- Being a perfectionist and needing to control outcomes.
- Saying “yes” to too many opportunities.
- Having no strategy for working productively.
- Not setting clear boundaries between work-life and home-life.
- Forgetting to set aside time to tend to your mind, spirit, and body.
- Lacking a daily regimen.
- Starting a family or figuring out how to juggle other new responsibilities at home.
5 Tips for Great Work-Life Balance
Increased focus is key to creating more balance in your life. As entrepreneur and speaker Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Use the five strategies below to develop a more harmonious life by learning how to be more intentional with your time each day.
1. Stick to a Daily Routine When Working Remotely
Finding a daily rhythm can be challenging, especially as more people find themselves transitioning to remote work. For example, a study from Upwork found as of 2020, almost 60 percent of teams are now partially remote. Typically within an office, people develop a daily routine that guides how their day unfolds. However, working from home can present difficulties because of the loss of a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday structure. Nevertheless, with the right time management skills, there’s no reason that in-office workdays and remote workdays can’t be equally productive. Establishing positive habits that become daily routine is one of the best ways to do this.
To create a daily routine that promotes balance:
- Start each day off on the right foot. This might look like setting a goal to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to express gratitude, meditate, or pray, get in a morning workout, eat a healthy breakfast, and prepare for the day.
- Take the first ten minutes of each workday to make a prioritized list of that day’s goals.
- Use a planner to map out the time you will work on your top goals for the day.
- Predetermine the time you will end the workday.
- Use the rest of the day to work on other priorities in your life, some of which might interconnect to your job. This is especially true for leaders whose lives are mission-driven. For example, this might look like mentoring someone from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Balance is about prioritizing time to make room for what matters most to you.
2. Abide by the Rule, “Better Done Than Perfect”
While it’s okay to strive for excellence, perfectionism is a different story. People who are perfectionists fear that if they make a mistake or cause an error, they’ll be considered less valuable. Because their self-worth is intrinsically tied to their success, they avoid anything that could potentially lead to failure. As a result, they rarely push boundaries, embrace challenges, or adapt to change. Yet, all of these are necessary for business owners, leaders, and employees to be successful.
A perfectionist mentality is a work-life balance destroyer because its focus is “perfecting” work instead of completing it. Rather than working to close out projects, time is spent obsessing over every intricate detail. This is counterproductive because, over time, work piles up, which means more hours at the office.
To combat perfectionism:
- Slowly begin welcoming the concept of failure by setting new, more challenging goals.
- Shift into a growth mindset and realize that abilities develop over time. A person reaches great heights by pursuing learning and development opportunities. However, those with a fixed mindset believe they’ve already reached the pinnacle of accessing their gifts.
- Get to the root of your fear. Whether it’s unresolved limiting beliefs or allowing your success to be defined by someone else, tackle what’s driving your perfectionism.
3. Plan Vacations and Recharge Days
There is nothing wrong with working hard and pouring heart and soul into your business. With that being said, no one gets an award for letting the hustle grind them down to the point of exhaustion. Burnout causes lack of concentration, energy depletion, long-term health problems, and poor performance. Together, these factors severely affect work-life balance because stress and fatigue negatively impact your professional and personal lives. This is why it’s extremely important to build a team of leaders you can trust to run the business during the times you need to rest and recharge.
Teaching employees how to maintain momentum without you brings peace of mind and confidence that the business won’t fail in your absence. Begin growing a network of organizational leaders. Mentor those who show leadership potential, demonstrate how to do what you do daily, and start delegating some of your responsibilities. As a result, you can relax when you take time off because you’ve ensured that you won’t come back to a million organizational fires.
Once you’ve built a group of leaders at every level, start:
- Taking time off from work. Although an occasional check-in is okay, allow yourself the space to recharge. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found CEOs “worked 79 percent of weekend days at an average of 3.9 hours daily, and 70 percent of vacation days with an average of 2.4 hours on those days.” Remember, it isn’t a vacation if you’re still mentally tied to the office.
- Planning self-care days. This might look like going to the spa, dedicating a day to your spiritual practice, or connecting with your creative side by writing, making music, or painting in a peaceful environment.
- Scheduling regular stress relief breaks into your day. For example, make time to practice yoga, meditate, work out, eat a healthy lunch, or call your mentor.
4. Establish Clear Boundaries
When work-life balance goes awry, it could be a sign you need to set a few boundaries. Think about some of the complaints you’ve received from friends and family members. This might sound like, “You’re not fully present when you’re at home,” or “You’re working too late again.” Next, eliminate the habits that prevent you from fully connecting to those in your personal life. For example, if you’re constantly checking email, set a boundary to not look or respond to messages past 6 p.m. In addition to this, communicate that boundary and its purpose to your colleagues and team members. Most importantly, ask them to help by holding you accountable.
The same can be said for establishing boundaries that keep your home life from affecting your work. This could look like taking out stress from home on team members or consistently running late to work when trying to juggle early morning routines with the kids. Try to amend behaviors and habits that negatively impact those around you with clear boundaries such as, “I will leave any conflict from home at the door.”
Other tips for developing boundaries include:
- Finding the why behind the setting of a boundary. For example, why is it important to be fully engaged at home?
- Making the boundary a commitment to another person. Research shows those who have an accountability partner are more successful at keeping their commitments than those who don’t.
- Saying “no” to the things that aren’t on your list of priorities. You cannot say “yes” to everything if you desire a work-life balance. Stick to your boundaries and don’t be afraid to turn down whatever doesn’t align with your goals.
- Explaining the importance of maintaining a boundary when someone crosses it.
5. Increase Your Productivity Levels
Research shows that people who spend more hours working and have poor work-life balance are actually less productive than those who work standard hours. As reported by CNBC, a study from Stanford University found “productivity per hour decline sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless. And, those who work up to 70 hours a week are only getting the same amount of work done as those who put in the 55 hours.”
The key to becoming more productive is increased focus and better time management. First, get clear about what you need to accomplish each week. Include responsibilities you have at work and at home, then use The Eisenhower Matrix to label and prioritize them.
Use the following key:
- Do first—urgent and needs immediate attention.
- Schedule—not urgent, but will need to be completed in the future.
- Delegate—urgent, but can be handed off to a competent person.
- Elimate—not urgent and non-essential.
Next, use a planner or planning app and time block your priorities. This can include planning, strategizing, team growth activities, mentoring, family time, making meals, attending a baseball game, or meeting up with your parents for lunch. Give each minute of the day a purpose and make your time work for you. Above all, don’t allow more work or new opportunities to pop up on the calendar unless you have the extra time. This is a part of maintaining boundaries, as discussed above. Once your calendar is set for the week, follow it as a guide and watch your productivity and work-life balance improve.
Work-Life Balance Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game
It’s important to note is that mission-driven leaders’ lives can’t be easily categorized as “work” and “life.” As productivity expert Tim Ferriss writes on his website: “Even though it is sometimes unavoidable, thinking about work and the rest of life as a series of trade-offs is fundamentally counterproductive . . . find the potential for each part to help produce success in the others, you cannot then capitalize on synergies in places most of us don’t see or hear.” Ferriss means there are overlaps and places where the various facets of life intersect with—and complement—one another. “Work” and “life” aren’t two entirely separate categories. For example, this might look like serving the community alongside your family and your team.
Getting clear about your purpose and pursuing it in every aspect of your life is essential. When people feel their work has little value and meaning, burnout ensues, productivity levels decrease, stress increases, and life becomes less joyful. However, the opposite occurs when a person lives in alignment with their life’s purpose. Nothing creates more balance and fulfillment than this.