Most people like the idea of having a healthy work-life balance. It certainly sounds nice on paper. But what does a healthy work-life balance actually look like? And what steps can you take to achieve this in your own life?
The Idea Behind Work-Life Balance
We all have to work to make a living – or at least most of us do. But it’s easy to get bogged down in thinking that work is your top priority. If you have a demanding employer or if you’re particularly ambitious, you might try working 80 hours a week, skipping your breaks, or letting your vacation days expire without using them.
You might make a lot of money or climb the corporate ladder by doing this, but you’ll be putting your health and happiness in jeopardy. Working too much can increase stress, increase your susceptibility to heart disease, diabetes, and countless other health conditions, and ultimately make you miserable.
Work isn’t your top priority. You and your family are.
A healthy work-life balance, then, allows you to continue working hard and pursue your career while still giving you time to relax, decompress, and find happiness in your personal life.
What Does a Healthy Work-Life Balance Look Like?
Where do you draw the line? How much work is “too much?”
A healthy work-life balance looks something like this:
- You make enough. Don’t forget the “work” part of “work-life balance.” You’re in a good spot if you’re making enough to achieve your financial goals.
- You take time off. You should take breaks throughout the day and vacation days throughout the year. Otherwise, you’re working too much.
- Most of your weekends are free. Your days off may not fall on the weekend exactly, but wherever they happen to fall, your weekly days off should be truly days off – you shouldn’t spend them fielding requests and writing emails.
- You don’t spend much time on work outside of work. Similarly, it’s important to keep work at work during the weekdays. If you’re constantly scrolling through emails and catching up on things in your evenings, you’re not living with a healthy balance.
- You only feel overwhelmed occasionally. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and feel stressed at times; this is a sign you’re being challenged. But this should only be occasional. If you feel overwhelmed on a weekly basis, you might be overloaded.
That said, work-life balance means different things to different people. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you, so you have to discover what makes a healthy work-life balance in your own life.
How to Work Toward a Healthy Work-Life Balance
So how do you work toward a healthier work-life balance?
- Identify your career goals. First, identify your major career goals. Do you want to be CPA certified? Are you hoping to make a certain amount of money? Is there a specific position you want to attain, or are you hoping to start a business? With this context, you should find it much easier to identify when you’re pushing yourself too hard.
- Find the right culture fit. Most people who overwork themselves do so because they’re in a workplace whose culture demands it. If your bosses and peers all expect you to work 15-hour days or work through every weekend, it’s time to find a new place. You need to find an environment that respects you, your time, and your health.
- Take your vacation days. If you work full-time, you probably have vacation days. They’re there to use, so use them. Taking a vacation isn’t just about having fun – it’s also about improving your health and coming back to work even more productive. Think of it as an investment in yourself.
- Turn off. When you’re away from work, don’t hesitate to “turn off.” You don’t have to answer every phone call. You don’t have to respond to every email. Turn off notifications and stop thinking about work when you’re not actually on the clock.
- Be upfront with your personal limits. Finally, be honest and upfront about your personal limits. Talk about where you draw the line and what it takes for you to be healthy and happy as an employee. For example, you can tell your boss you’re not going to respond to emails after 7 pm unless it’s an emergency, or designate every Sunday as an uninterruptable personal day. This may not work in every career field, but in most settings, it’s incredibly valuable.
Once you identify a healthy work-life balance as a personal priority, you’ll already be well on your way to achieving it. Work with your bosses, your peers, and even your family members to establish a healthier, more sustainable system that keeps you productive while also keeping you sane.
This content is sponsored by Larry Alton.
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