It’s 4:50pm and you’re finishing up a regular day at the office. You get an email from your project manager that you received feedback from your client and they’d like a revision back first thing tomorrow morning. You’re going to have to stay late to work on the new revision. This is fine—you’re excited about the project and want to make sure you’re in great standings with your client and co-workers, no matter what. You text your friend to cancel on drinks tonight, because you know it’s going to be a late one.
Does this sound familiar? Putting in extra hours, to most of us, is par for the course—something that we need to do to move up in high-pressure, high-energy industries. But what happens when this scenario begins to become the norm, and you find yourself struggling to find time for a social life, your family, and yourself?
The term “work-life” balance immediately creeps into the back of your mind and we know it all too well.
Work-life balance is a classic misnomer. It assumes that there is a perfect “balance” that we should be seeking to have a fulfilling career and life. But, its name doesn’t consider that this balance is entirely unique to each person. We all have different priorities, different thresholds that we can withstand with our careers, and different life structures. There is no true “balance” that we need to be worrying about achieving.
Let’s look at it as a “work-life blend.” It’s very rare that the lines between work and life are fixed. Rather, especially with how entirely connected we are through technology, the lines are quite blurred. Sometimes, work will take the front seat, while other times other areas of your life will take control.
There is a constant ebb and flow between these states. However, there are some small things that we can do to help to regulate this flow, to bring order into our work and personal lives which will bring peace of mind:
While we can’t always leave work at work (and many of us don’t want to), find time to unplug every day. It can be difficult to feel like you might miss out on something, but often times, it can wait until the morning. This could mean turning off your email notifications after a certain hour, or even removing your work email from your phone all together. It’s about establishing a small tech boundary. While some of us do have work expectations that we need to be accessible at all hours, try to minimize your screen time outside of this—especially in social situations. When you’re with your family, or spending time with your friends, practice being fully present and put your phone back in your purse for a bit.
Do Something for Yourself
And try to do it every day. This could be a morning spin class, meditating, reading a book that isn’t strategy-related—anything that makes you feel like you. Waiting to have time often creates more chaos in our lives, and even some guilt if we don’t find the time to do it. So, make time and plan ahead. You’ll realize that it’s actually not as hard as you think when you make it a priority.
Reflect and Prioritize
As we get older and our careers take shape, we have less time for menial things that aren’t as important as they may have been. Sit down and reflect on what matters and take note of the things that you feel don’t deserve your energy. By consciously taking the time to prioritize and decide on what’s important to you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
If you have certain relationships in your life that you’re concerned may be affected by your career, schedule, or personal life events, take the time to communicate with them. This could be your friends, or even your co-workers. Touch base with them ahead of time, if possible. Communicate if you anticipate a busy week at work, or if you’re going to have some family matters to take care of. This will help you feel less overwhelmed if something comes up that needs your full attention.
Research Your Time Commitment
If you’re about to enter a new industry, accepting a new role, or looking for a new career path—do your research about how much of a commitment your new job may demand. You may find yourself surprised by the time that will be required of you. It’s usually fairly transparent when looking at jobs to know if your work will span longer than a 9-5. Look at your priorities and decide whether you’re at a point in your life where you’re going to be able to manage it. Trying to mitigate after the fact may be more work in finding a good harmany with your personal life.
—or, any different day of the week but choose a day that you dedicate to yourself, and keep it consistent. Maybe this is a day where you get brunch with friends, or finally change that lightbulb in your condo. You’ll feel more prepared during your work week when you put time towards personal matters.
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
Do your best not to plan everything down to the hour and schedule every single activity out. Life has movement and is fluid—don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it all done. We’re all trying to manage it and, at the end of the day, we all understand what it’s like.