What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is a rare equilibrium between your personal and professional life, as they are kept separate but equally tended to. It’s the divine blend of a happy and healthy work-life that also allows room for your personal relationships, hobbies and mental health – which in the end, is more important than the daily hustle of our growing career.
The notion of a tranquil balancing scale of these often opposing forces might seem a bit unattainable at first. You’re a young working woman with bills to pay and a long list of ambitions to check off. But like anything you’ve accomplished in life, it’s not impossible it just takes a bit of elbow grease.
It’s a common misconception that millennials are the “lazy” and “entitled” generation. Especially when you look at the kind of workforce we’ve been propelled into.
Millennials are deemed the “job-hopping generation” by Gallup research since we are most likely to switch up our workplace more than any other age group. 60% of us are always looking for new opportunities because we work in a professional world where we’re not ensured a lifetime working at the same desk.
According to Forbes, many of us are plagued with debt right out of college as millennials are burdened with most severe student loan responsibility in history and at a time where the cost of housing is sky high.
Amidst high competition and low guarantees of job protection, once a millennial gets where they want to be, they might just work, work, work until they find themselves with a major workplace burnout.
Over-stressing yourself at work can also begin to affect your mental health. Developing the all-too-common chronic stress can then evolve into anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Striking a balance between work and play isn’t only a luxury, it’s an important goal you can attain and early in your work life too.
Here’s a full guide to soothing your millennial workaholic tendencies so you can start enjoying life more - both personally and professionally!
Work-Life Balance How-To Summary
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Before working toward finding your perfect work-life balance, it’s time to find out just how low the scales are tipped on the work side. Especially, if you’re passionate and invested in your line of work, chances are you are a little work addicted, but how much? Be honest with yourself and answer the following questions:
- Is your time often consumed more and more by work?
- Have you ever used work to get your mind off other things?
- Do you often end up working more hours than originally intended?
- Do you often find yourself thinking and talking about work when you’re away from it?
- Have you ever chosen your work over family/friends or other activities?
- Have you ever become physically ill due to work?
If you identified with all or even some of these questions, then you could very well be a work addict. Each question symbolizes another of the six psychological components of addiction, which are as follows:
- Salience: Work shouldn’t take over prominence in your life.
- Mood modification: Your work is becoming a good “buzz” to conceal other feelings.
- Tolerance: If work has you completely forgetting about other things, that’s a bad sign.
- Withdrawal: When you’re away you’re craving more of it, which is unhealthy for balance.
- Conflict: Work is directly cutting into other aspects of your life.
- Relapse: The more you work & continue the behavior, the less healthy you will be.
If these signs hit you a little harder with the truth than expected, don’t even sweat it. Take a deep breathe and read on.
Next time you’ve achieved your nine-to-five for the day (or any crazy number of long shift hours millennials often deal with), once you clock out, it’s really time to clock out.
At the end of a day even if you are devoted to your profession, giving any more of your time to it would be detrimental to your well-being. It can be difficult to identify this, walk away with content and then move on until the next day, but it’s the key to finding your work-life balance zen.
So to create a more defined line between being a professional and a human being, it’s time to set some boundaries.
Now that you’ve become mindful of the other important sectors of your life, think about how work has bled into these activities in the past. It can be as simple as a push notification on your phone, lack of planning when you come home or giving your employers/employees access to you after hours. Each one of these work imbalances can be avoided with a little communication to yourself and others.
Communicate Your Boundaries
It’s time to unplug. Make a conscious decision that you will not check your email until the next morning, you will snooze your workplace notifications and enjoy the portion of your day where you don’t have to be present, turned-on and available. If this currently poses an issue with your job, make an effort to speak with or email your coworkers and explain that your availability has been limited to business hours.
Plan your evenings. Even if there isn’t an event to attend or none of your friends are available for chill time, making a decision as to how you will end your day will give you something to look forward to and make it clear to yourself that planning out your personal time each day is just as important as your professional time.
Prepare for trespassers. It’s going to happen – a coworker is going to call you in the late hours of the night with a work-related problem or idea. It is well within your control to decide exactly how you will proceed when this happens before it does. Create a plan and stick to it.
When work takes over, oftentimes it can feel like it defines you more than anything else. After setting clear boundaries between work-you and you-you, it’s time to look inward and let go of the tendencies that have led you on the path to being a work addict.
Overachievers, I’m talking to you! There’s something ingrained into us to never be content with what we’ve achieved and to keep pushing ourselves harder and harder. Being an overachiever or perfectionist is a good trait to have and it has surely pushed you into exciting places of success.
It’s arguably the best answer to sell yourself to a potential employer during an interview when they ask what your biggest weakness is and you answer with “perfectionist“. While some may call it a positive habit to have, being a perfectionist certainly has its downfalls.
The best way to combat perfectionism is learning to let go of the overachiever attitude, and it’s more than possible to accomplish.
The next time you catch yourself spending too much time on a task, overthinking it or going too deep – take a step back. Chances are, digging too much into a task isn’t benefitting you and is wasting some of your valuable time. Give yourself a deadline and give it your all while working on your to-dos for the day, it’s perfect just how it is. This part is important: once you’ve finished it, allow yourself to move on completely from it and not look back.
Another habit work addicts deal with is an over-active mind, constant flurrying with information on what you need to do, how you’re feeling about this and that, etc. Allowing all the thoughts of your busy life to float over you like a giant, water-soaked cloud isn’t the way to go.
There are a few things you can regularly do for yourself to bring mindfulness into your life, and therefore allow some of your conflicting thoughts between work and life to be at peace.
Exercise. Taking time within your day to focus on your physical health is not only great for you in the traditional way, but it’s a great way to bring your energy to something that doesn’t ask too much of your mind. Whether you take a short stroll away from your desk on your lunch break or hit the gym hard, it will clear your mind and tire you out so you can sleep easy when you finally hit the pillow.
Write It Down. Instead of letting all your thoughts clash together up in your head, taking a few minutes to jot down your feelings, ideas, to-do lists, and routines is a really great way to practice mindfulness and understand what’s going on between your ears.
Meditation. The traditional Eastern practice is as easy as taking a few minutes for yourself where you can take some much-needed deep breaths, clearing your mind and seeing where it wanders to. Meditation is a process, best started by getting into guided meditations available all over the internet. Take about seven minutes to try it by pressing play on this calming session from The Mindful Movement. Check it out:
Letting go and practicing mindfulness isn’t a process mastered overnight but by looking inward and checking into yourself when the stress starts to get to you by practicing these routines regularly, you will start seeing a difference in your mindset at work and home.
Now it’s time to start letting in people and activities into your life that you never seem to have time for due to work. By focusing your efforts on what’s important to you in your personal life, you can continue to get to work on balancing the scales. Take a moment to open up the notes app on your phone or a piece of paper and answer these questions for yourself without a single mention of work:
- What defines you?
- What are your hobbies and passions? Or what would you like them to be?
- What do you want to work on implementing into your life regularly?
These are sometimes difficult questions to answer when work has started to define you more than anything else. Work shouldn’t stop you from pursuing all other sectors of your life and there can be an amazing balance with some organization and planning on your part. Now that you’ve identified who you are and what’s important to you besides your grind, it’s time to figure out how they fit into your life.
Convert your answers into a list, giving each thing its own line. Go through each of them and prioritize them, think about how it fits into your life now or how it can in the future. How often do you want these things to be part of your life? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Take a moment to roughly decide for yourself.
While in the business world, making money is certainly the currency you work for, in life, it’s time. In order to find the work-life balance you crave, your time needs to be effectively used with work activities and the important passions of life you’ve just prioritized by identifying them above.
Cut Time-Wasting Activities
If it presently feels like there just isn’t enough room to change the balance of your life, consider the time-wasting activities that often plague your days without being aware of it. Something such as checking your emails every time your phone pings with a notification or mindlessly surfing through social media for hours are good examples. By recognizing tasks that are messing with your days and implementing them into your life in more skillful ways, you’ll find yourself with more minutes and hours to enjoy. Turning off your email notifications and having specific moments in the day where you check them all at once could be a time-saver.
Embrace Your Weekends
On the other hand, when it’s your time off – allow yourself to just relax and be a fun-a-holic! Leave your laptop tucked away for a couple days once the weekend hits and just focus on yourself. Just like you schedule your meetings, schedule your fun plans ahead of time or decide that you’ll have a day completely devoted to going with the flow. Connecting with friends and family ahead of time and planning things throughout your month is a great way to break up your time and have something to always look forward to.
Set Up a Post-Work Routine
If you have a defined schedule at work and put some thought into your time off, what’s left to think about is how you will spend the hours in the evening after a long day at work. For many, going home after work means changing out of your heels and plowing on the couch for the night. Practicing self-care in the brief time you have between work days can be really beneficial to your health and is essential to work-life balance. Check out Cristina Viseu’s night routine to get a sense of how calming your nights can be:
Okay, let’s recap:
With this guide, first you have identified nasty habits of work addicts you need to be aware of, learned about setting boundaries between work and play, faced yourself and what can help you overcome these workaholic tendencies.
Then you defined what is important to your time and you’ve gained knowledge on how to find the extra time to fit them in. By soaking in some of these techniques and slowly implementing them into your life, achieving work-life balance will soon follow!