Work-life balance is defined as “the amount of time you spend doing your job compared to the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy,” according to dictionary.com. I found it amusing as it had a bullet point right underneath the definition stating, “It can be difficult to get the right work-life balance.” I guess it sums up the challenges many people experience about their work-life balance.

Work-life balance has been a forever topic as long as my memory serves me. Being a Gen X, I remember how my parents worked long hours and into the weekends so that they could provide us with the best living and education opportunities possible. Ever since the greatest invention of the technology, we are not only able to connect with others around the globe but are also bounded by constant demand via phones or tablets throughout the day and night. While I was writing this post, I was reminded of my husband’s Blackberry work phone beeping till 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning once upon a time. Then when COVID hit, juggling between remote work and kids’ online classes made the balance seem even more impossible, and the boundaries between work and home are no longer as clear as it once was.

What’s so important about work-life balance? Please continue reading to find out more about the importance of it and the tips to improve your work-life balance.  

Let’s deep dive in the importance of work-life balance

  • Stress and burnouts

We all get stressed from time to time, but burnouts occur when one feels overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. Stress and burnouts can affect every aspect of your life and reduce the level of commitment and motivation. Furthermore, it could lead to other physical issues, like overeating causes overweight, high blood pressure and/or heart diseases.

  • Overall health

According to Mayo Clinic, overworked and overtired can cause fatigue. Unrelenting exhaustion and stress not only impact physical health, but also affect emotional and mental health.  Additionally, based on research done in UK, working three to four hours overtime was associated with a 60% higher rate of heart-related disease.

  • Productivity and engagement

People maintain a steady work-life balance are more productive, and working long hours, on the contrary, actually makes people less productive. Employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour-work week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours, so much so that people who put in 70 hours produces nothing more with those 15 hours, said Stanford University.

  • Meaningful relationship

We all only have 24 hours a day. When we allocate so many hours into one bucket, surely we have less to spare for other buckets in hand. I am not solely talking about how much time you give to your loved ones, but the quality time and undivided attention you spend with them. When was the last time you were at your kids’ function, but your mind was on that unfinished project at hand?

It’s about being present and giving your full attention to others. What do you think it will do for your relationships if you are able to be fully present and engaged? 

  • Happiness, fulfillment and success

Steve Jobs said, ‘your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Work-life balance is ultimately about being in control of your life! When you are able to do so, you will feel more well-rounded, more productive and more fulfilling which leads to happiness and success in your personal and professional life!

Tips on improving your work-life balance

  • Boundaries

In my earlier years of entrepreneurship, I welcomed clients to contact me whenever they needed me. I ended up working 15 hours a day almost every day. I learned the lesson of no boundary but not without a price. Both my physical and mental health suffered, and I almost risked my marriage with it.

Communicating your work hours to your colleagues or customers is the first step to set healthy boundaries, which includes when you are and when you aren’t available to respond. Utilizing the modern technology, you can simply set up an auto reply when you are offline or on vacation.

Did my business suffer after I took the courage to set the boundaries? Not at all!

  • Prioritization

Prioritization is about identifying what’s truly important, and you devote your time and energy for the high-value activities and relationships both at work and in life. While you are allocating time and investing on activities and relationships, don’t forget your own being! Set aside quality time for yourself to unwind, to breathe, to learn or to take on hobbies.

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself as you plan for your life priority: What and how long am I willing to sacrifice? How crucial is it? What regrets do I have and will have if I change nothing today?

  • It’s okay to say “no”

Are you the person who can’t say no to any requests? Do you say yes out of obligation, guilt or pressure?

Saying no could be one of the hardest skills for many professionals, and it takes time to learn and practice it. One great tool to help assess when to say no is the Eisenhower Matrix which is a task management tool to help you organize and prioritize tasks by their urgency and importance. When it’s not urgent neither important, remind yourself, it’s okay to say no.

  • Breaks

Breaks include lunch break, 50/10 breaks and extended breaks also known as vacations.

The 50/10 break means for every 50 minutes spent focusing on working, allow yourself a 10-minute break. The 10-minute break into every hour will help you avoid burning out, cut down on distractions and help you be more productive. As for the lunch break, take it, and eat mindfully. If lunch is not for you, get up and go for a walk or do a quick stretch, and don’t work through your lunch break!

Vacations are great, but it doesn’t mean you have to go to any exotic vacation spots to get recharged; instead, you can simply use the time to rest and relax, unplug, do something you enjoy and make yourself rejuvenated.

  • Being mindful and intentional for the change

Time for action! This includes taking initiatives to ask for flexible work hours, telecommute, implement exercise during the week and/or set the expectation of communication outside of the office hours. I recently heard a friend took on the work sabbatical that her company offers, and she is currently on her 2-month sabbatical leave. Letting go wasn’t easy, but the determination to live a balanced life for her family allowed her to make the change.

Work-life balance has always been a topic people talk about. I don’t believe in perfect or one-size-fits-all work-life balance, so don’t try to strive for perfection, but a realistic one. And remember it’s an ongoing learning and adjusting process. Like Steve Jobs said, ‘your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Reach out, if you are in need of a partner to support your journey of a needed work-life balance.