What Is Work-Life Balance – Tips For Entrepreneurs and Employees
Have you ever been at a friend’s birthday party, trying to relax and engage when your phone starts pinging with emails about work? Or, have you been sitting in a work meeting, unable cannot stop your mind from drifting to a pressing family problem?
If so, you’re likely having difficulties balancing your work life with your personal life. Especially with technology constantly at our fingertips, it can be difficult to separate our work from our personal and vice versa.
While the ever-blurring line between work and personal might seem standard at this point, it’s not healthy. In this post, we look at that line a closer and suggest strategies about how to create a work-life balance that can improve and relax your private and professional life.
What Is Work-Life Balance? – Definition, Overview
Referring back to the blurring lines, a Mental Health Foundation survey1 revealed that more than 40% of employees surveyed reported they felt the personal aspects of their life were being neglected due to work. Working long hours resulted in more than half of employees feeling more irritable, a quarter feeling depressed, and one-third feeling anxious.
What is work-life balance? Work does not have to permeate all aspects of your life, mind, and wellbeing. There are actionable ways to help you better create an equilibrium between the time and energy you give to work and time and the energy you give to your personal life. This is known as work-life balance.
Benefits – Work-life balance is beneficial both to employees and to employers. According to Invest Northern Ireland2, benefits to employees include stronger engagement, greater productivity, better mental health, and higher motivation and loyalty.
Benefits to businesses include stronger customer service, greater adaptability to evolving market conditions, attracting strong talent, and uplifted staff morale.
Challenges – Relatedly, creating a healthy work-life balance involves the actions of both employers and employees. Because striking a healthy balance involves many different partners and approaches, it can feel like a difficult task.
The following concepts and strategies can help you better manage the demands of personal and professional towards creating a happier, calmer, and more full life. For online learning enthusiasts, our list of personal development courses can be a good start too.
Work-Life Balance – Tips & Strategies
1. Determine what is important to you
The right work-life balance is not going to be the same for everyone. All of us have different expectations, goals, priorities, and things going on across all aspects of our lives. Some may require or desire for work to take a greater priority, and for others, personal life may need to take a higher position of precedence.
These priorities may shift across time, and that is okay. Recognize that a positive work-life balance is fluid and evolving.
Leida Snow, a theater critic, is quoted as saying3
Balance isn't doing everything at once. Balance is doing what is most important at the time. Sometimes you'll be super present as a dad. Sometimes you'll be super present as an international speaker. It's OK to put one down and pick the other one up. But you can't be both at the same moment.
To help you determine your priorities, take a few moments to consider what your values are and write them down. Ask yourself what motivates you, what brings you joy, and what gives your life meaning. Here is a tutorial l on how to set goals for more detail.
From there, consider how your daily activities and time distribution support these values and goals. Highlight the activities that align with your values and try to organize which tasks are non-negotiable and which can be moved aside. Our moments make up our lives, so try to figure out how each moment can help you create the life you covet.
2. Set boundaries
Especially with more of us working from home and our constant connection to technology, business operations can easily infiltrate our personal space and personal time. Boundaries are critical.
Limits will be personal to everyone, but examples include, putting away your phone and ignoring email each evening so you can enjoy a relaxing dinner. Or, passing on projects that you are unable to take on and standing firmly in that decision. Remember – “No.” is a full sentence. Learning to build good habits is an effective strategy to improve here.
Clearly communicate your boundaries to your colleagues, and ensure you enforce these boundaries once they are set. Sharing your limits with others can help keep you accountable and helps keep everyone on the same page.
Boundaries are not just for work-life, either. If the group text is flooding your inbox with memes and chit-chat, communicate to your friends and family that non-urgent messages won’t be read or responded to during working hours.
3. Less multitasking
It’s not uncommon to hear people boast ‘multitasking’ as one of their strongest skills. However, studies demonstrate4 that when our minds are redirecting between tasks, we are more prone to making a mistake and are actually operating with less efficiency.
Doing one task at a time actually lowers your stress level, allowing you to be more productive and makes the moment more enjoyable. Increasing productivity during work hours allows you to commit yourself to personal time later.
When we are only giving partial attention to a task or a person, it doesn’t serve them or us. But, with all the things we have going on, it can be difficult to break the bad habit of multitasking. The concept of deep work goes into more detail on this.
There are several tips to help center your mind and stop multitasking. These include:
- Write down a list of everything you need to do. Then, focus on one task at a time. Set a timer for small intervals of focus – five to fifteen minutes – and while the clock runs, focus only on the task at hand. When the timer ends, you have the option to check something else if you need or want it quickly, then return to one singular task.
- Set yourself up for success and when you are working, focus intensely. This includes limiting distractions from technology, such as muting your phone or closing all those tabs from your browser. There are apps available that help to stop the temptation to allow your focus to wander.
Breaking the cycle of multitasking allows for a better stability between the energy given to work and personal, as your brain is trained to stay focused and present.
4. Schedule time for yourself
Self-care has emerged as a trend5, but rather than dismiss this as a ‘buzzword’, recognize that it has real value to both your work and personal life.
Nourishing yourself allows you to nourish others and other aspects of your life. Attitude is important. For example, there is a difference6 in giving time and energy out of feeling helpful or that we have something to share, in comparison with feeling absolutely obligated. Caring for yourself first is essential. Procrastination can be a challenge here. Learn to overcome it.
Give equal weight and importance to all aspects of your life. As part of developing your daily plans in alignment with your values, treat each task as important. If you committed to going for a run in the evening to relax or committed to calling a family member after work to catch up, treat that with the same regard as an important meeting with a client.
Resources to Create Good Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is a huge topic and there are many resources available to support your journey. Think of websites, books, podcasts, lifestyle projects, or online courses here.
Work-life balance classes
The online learning platforms Coursera and Udemy or Skillshare offer several classes aimed at helping learners achieve work-life balance. Furthermore, we recommend looking into productivity courses to further define what is work, deliberate practice, or leisure time.
Work-life balance books
If you are interested in reading books on the subject, we recommend the following four:
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5
- Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
- Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life
- Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, & Money
- Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Work-life balance podcasts
Prefer to listen to advice? The blog Mindbodyspiritbliss.com compiled a list of podcasts on work-life balance. The list includes
- The Ken Coleman Show – View on Apple Podcats.
- WorkLife with Adam Grant – View on Ted.com
- Work/Life Imbalance – View on Wlicats.com
- The Work-Life Equation – View on Apple Podcasts.
- Workr Beeing – View here.
Work-Life Balance – Knowing and Overcoming Challenges
Work-life balance is challenging. But being aware of some potential barriers to a constructive balance7 helps you to avoid or overcome them.
Stress happens. A survey by the American Psychological Association8 found that during 2020, stress levels increased and this had consequences on physical health. This does not make for a mental and physical state conducive to creating a work-life balance.
Try to manage your stress through meditation and mindfulness (see list of meditation courses), treating yourself with grace, or even seeking outside support.
Work-life balance takes participation from nearly everyone in your life. This includes co-workers or employers, classmates, friends, and family. Be clear and consistent with your communication to express your expectations and ask others for theirs. Ask for support when you need it, and open the door for others to ask for help when they need it.
A work email arrives at 9 pm on a Friday – do you open it? Do you respond? Does this then drive you to work on a Saturday morning instead of going to brunch with friends?
If you do, it may be because you feel an obligation that this is what is expected of you. This assumption may or may not be correct. The only way to align expectations is to clearly communicate your expectations with others and ask them to communicate theirs to you. From there, work together to get on the same page.
Inability to plan
Work-life balance requires anticipation, foresight and planning. These skills are not natural for everyone. But, luckily, these are skills that can be learned.
There are many resources available online to help you improve your planning skills, but it can also be helpful to seek guidance from a personal or professional mentor. Be confident in asking others for tips while keeping in mind that no one is perfect, and we are all figuring it out as we go.
Work-Life Balance – Top Companies & Jobs
Business Insider9 lists the top 25 jobs for work-life balance. This includes data scientists, corporate recruiters, UI designers, and strategy managers as some of the best positions. If you are interested in such career paths, view our round-up reviews of data science courses, business analytics courses or Udacity nanodegrees to get started.
Glassdoor10 published a 2020 list of the 20 highest rated companies for work-life balance during the COVID pandemic. Coming in the top three spots were: Ryan, LLC (accounting), Digital Prospectors (tech) and Acuity Insurance in the top spot.
These lists are worth reviewing, and maybe take a moment to seek out and review others. It’s helpful to get an idea of which organizations and positions lead the way with creating a culture of healthy work-life balance.
Even if these jobs are not the fit for you, there are lessons to be learned from what these employers and employees are getting right.
Work-Life Balance Tips – Conclusion
Wrapping up our guide on how to create a good work-life balance. To be a better student, a better employee, a better employer, a better entrepreneur and a better friend, apply some of these strategies to your life.
Begin by defining what your ideal work-life balance is, set clear limitations, reduce multitasking and treat time scheduled for yourself with the same consideration, care and respect as an important professional event.
Work goals are personal. Life goals are personal. As the president and CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer explains:
Find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And thinking that way empowers you to work really hard for a really long period of time.
The physical, emotional, and potential financial benefits of work-life balance make the process of pursuing this equilibrium worth it. This process is continual, but you can use it today to take the first step.
Thanks for reading. I hope you can create a good work-life balance for yourself. If you have any questions or wish to suggest additional work-life balance tips please don't hesitate to do so in the comments below.