We live in a culture where hard work and dedication tend to be praised and encouraged. If we work hard, the more success we may achieve. Or if we dedicate ourselves to our work, we may obtain financial freedom. There is a saying “money never sleeps”, and this notion seems to send the message that we must work so that we can continue to make the money in order for success to happen or continue to work hard in order for us to be noticed by the people that matter. There may be some truth to the concept of money not sleeping, if we were thinking in terms of the stock market. While humans make money, humans are not currency, and humans need sleep and balance.

Many people tend to dedicate to their work for many different reasons; proving oneself to obtain that big promotion or being short-staffed and having to take on the work responsibilities of multiple people, or feeling that you have to work to show your children the value of making an honest living, and some people see it as an investment to secure retirement.

There is nothing wrong with a little hard work, and there is nothing wrong with being dedicated to the work you do. It doesn’t matter if you are working your dream job, or if you’re working with the job you have settled with for now. Work becomes problematic when there is no balance, as in work-life balance.  Some signs of an unbalanced work-life, may begin to manifest after a period of time.

These signs may include:

  • Stress (distress)
  • Unhealthy use of substances (alcohol, and other drugs)
  • Unbalanced diet due to not having time to prep meals, snacking, or eating out excessively
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of family time (complaints from children, significant others, or spouse(s))
  • Burnout

If you want to begin to develop a more balanced life, I would suggest first asking yourself the following 3 questions.

  • What does a balanced life look like to me?
  • What can I eliminate from (or add to) my schedule that can help me to gain more balance?
  • Has my life become more about just simply surviving and making a living over actually living?

Here are a few ideas to help improve your work-life balance:

Assess your workload

Are you working extra hours due to being short-staffed, or did you take on too many projects that you don’t seem to have enough time to complete? Is it possible to share the load with a co-worker, or is it possible to do the larger projects first, and tackle the smaller projects at a later time?

Assess your time management skills

It would likely be fairer to you, the worker, to only work during the hours you were hired to work. If you are only working during those hours, and still feel off-balance, it may be helpful to ask yourself if you have been taking work home. If you work from home, this still applies, move from the workspace into the home space, clear it out each day and try and avoid going back into that space during the non-work hours. However, if you keep a particular schedule, ask yourself are you adhering to it, are you scheduling or attending too many meetings that get in the way of your productivity? Are you procrastinating in the morning time and trying to complete projects you missed earlier in the day? Developing time management skills may take some effort, but it is possible.

When it comes to time-management, attention-deficit can also impact your level of focus in one area, which could lead to you working or being at work more hours than really necessary. Thus, it may also be fair to you to address this if it is an issue for you. A few ways to address ADD or ADHD in adults: mindfulness practices, short meditation practices (set a timer for 1-5 minutes to help you develop focus) write things down and cross each task out as you complete them.

Make it a priority and a commitment to do at least one thing that brings you joy

For example:  I will sit in nature or spend time walking in nature at least 3 times a week or as much as the weather permits. Doing things you are passionate about can be  healing, if you are passionate about the work you do, it is still important to set boundaries and take time away or that passion may become a burden for you.

Set clear boundaries at work

Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and say things like, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that right now.” It is okay to express that you have too much on your plate. If you feel it is not possible to do so, challenge yourself by asking yourself why you feel that way or discuss with a friend or a co-worker, they may have experienced a similar conflict.

Consciously develop a plan to make time for the ones you care for the most, and that includes yourself.

When we become active planners and observers in our own lives, it creates more opportunity for us to develop atomic habits that will help us to create the balance we need.

Lastly, but still a very pertinent point, set a reminder for yourself daily (until it becomes a habit) that you deserve balance and that obtaining balance doesn’t happen overnight, and it is often a process that may always need to be adjusted, but make that affirmation a part of your daily practice.

“Work smarter, not harder. ~ A.F. Mogensen 

By, Ashley Vazquez, MFT EAP Counselor