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Work-Life Balance – What Does It Even Mean?

Work-Life Balance – What Does It Even Mean?

January 24, 20179 min read

The phrase “work-life balance” is a funny notion.  After all, work is a part of your life, as are family, relationships, personal interests, giving back to others and your health. 

So why the distinction between work and life? If you are at work, are you not living your life? If you are living life, are you not working?

These areas all intersect, are all connected, and not so easily compartmentalized.

Instead of this or that (work or life), balance is about feeling you have the right proportion of all of these areas in your life, and it is different for each individual.

What is needed for every person — no matter your profession or position — is time to recharge and space for quality time in each of these areas.

This is definitely possible to achieve, once you change your mindset and habits to focus on what’s most important and let go of what isn’t.

For years, I regularly found myself working evenings and always being “on” and it got to the point where it was affecting my relationships and health.

Even just keeping up with all the demands during the work day left me with little energy and presence for my family or personal time at the end of the day.

At the time, I didn’t understand the impact and I certainly didn’t realize I had a choice.

I needed to take back control of my days and get clear on my priorities – I set strong boundaries between work, family and myself, starting with the cold turkey decision to stop working outside of business hours.

Breaking this habit was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and also one of the most rewarding.

I finally felt in control, performed better, accomplished what was most important, was more mindful and it changed my mindset to: there is always a choice.

And I made this change during perhaps the most demanding time of my corporate career.

Why does balance matter?

The small things matter. When we are not focusing our attention on the right things at the right time, we miss out on the joys and opportunities of each day – with our spouse, our kids, our employees, ourselves.

Balance isn’t just about creating time and space for the important areas in your life; it is also about being present. Are you in the moment and undistracted? Do you want to be where you are?

When you are partially present, whether it’s at work or at home, you are not balanced.

And let’s face it — many professionals are out of balance because they spend too much time and effort on work at the expense of the other areas of their life.

In our modern world of busyness, with more and more tools to stay connected, we have let our work seep into the rest of our life and need balance more than ever to be at our best.

And if you find yourself prioritizing your work ahead of all the other area of your life, you need to make a change.

Some great reasons why balance matters and should be closely guarded:

  • Your health and self-care affect your performance. Quality sleep, less stress, exercise, eating habits are proven to make a significant difference in your mental sharpness, decision making, attention, energy and performance.

  • Balanced leaders are better leaders.  Set a strong example for your employees and acknowledge that we all need time to recharge and to value personal time as much as business time.

  • Life is now.  Not when the kids get older. Not when we retire. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or down the road, so make the choice to enjoy and live more fully each day.

  • Simplifying and slowing down makes a difference.  There comes a point at which additional activity or work — no matter how desirable or we feel necessary — is counterproductive and actually reduces happiness and our performance.

  • There will always be more. More work, more household responsibilities, more things to do with your kids. Creating better boundaries helps us get very clear on what’s most important and our priorities, and what to let go. We can’t and never will do it all, so let yourself off the hook.

Study after study reflects that, when people look back at their lives, they regret not making more time for their family and important relationships along the way (not more time at the office!)

Are you in balance?

A moderate amount of stress improves our efficiency and our mental sharpness. But how do you know when your everyday juggling act has stopped being a motivating challenge and has become harmful to your health? Here are some signs:

  • You feel like you’ve lost control of your days or life

  • You often feel guilty about neglecting your different roles

  • You frequently find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand

  • You’re always tired

Take control – What are you going to do differently if you are “off-balance”?

Only you can decide and create a better balance for yourself. You can’t wait for your organization or boss to create it for you — even the best companies want to get the most out of you they can.

You are constantly making choices to juggle competing demands – are your choices on purpose or responding to what someone expects from you? Take control of your days.

Figure out what balance means to you — get clear on what you want to achieve, your values and priorities, set your boundaries and start making daily choices to fulfill that purpose. 

Achieving the balance you desire involves constant adjusting, corrections and experimenting – and the more you do it, the easier it becomes to notice when you are getting off track.

There are many resources available online for ideas how to achieve greater balance, be more productive and shift your mindset to “how can I use the hours and minutes each day to my best advantage?”

Here are some of the best habits of successful and balanced people:

  • Own your early morning routine. Create a morning routine that allows you to focus on yourself before jumping into taking care of others or your business — a walk, the gym, or reading —whatever it is that gives you healthy, productive time to start each day. Don’t wake up and immediately check email or social media — that’s reacting to others’ needs. With a strategic, productive start, you are positively priming the rest of your day.

  • Create a calendar block every morning for your most important task to get done for the day. For two uninterrupted hours each day, focus on one task or deliverable that is your priority. What will have the biggest impact on reaching your goal or objective at work? This will give you focused, productive, thinking time and ensure you are not scrambling at the end of each day. Save the meetings and easier tasks for the afternoon.

  • Schedule everything on your calendar. Rather than a to-do list, ensure you have calendar time for what must get done and understand the impact of your workload and commitments. Schedule time for exercise, leisure time, volunteering, etc. Leave time for family and relationships. If something important comes up, what comes off or gets pushed out? Say “no” to less important tasks or meetings.

  • Check email or social media only 2-3 times per day.  Instead of checking your email throughout the day, schedule 15-30 minutes to quickly and efficiently process your email i.e. respond, delete, file or schedule time in your calendar to complete action (if more effort is required). Email and social media are easy time suckers and make you reactive, rather than strategic with your time.

  • Create a “rule” to guide your decisions until it becomes a habit i.e. “I will be home for supper with family each night” or “I will turn my phone off during the evening”. If you know you will always pick up your phone, leave it in another room or off. Set yourself up for success and remove the effort to make a decision in the moment by being clear on how you will handle a situation.

Odds are, you’ll realize that being more productive at work though is very different from simply trying to do more and more.

It’s about using your time more wisely and creating space for other things so you can have that balance and still accomplish what matter most to you.

What will you do differently to create more balance?

Only you can change. Get clear on what matters to you. Find a goal to create more balance that is manageable, yet challenging and act on it.

We all have limited willpower, so make small adjustments to reroute the path of least resistance to build better habits (e.g. leaving laptop at work to stop working evenings).

Figure out a simple system to help you achieve your goal and hold yourself accountable. Small changes can make a big difference.


What Next?

We’ve been taught all our lives that more (and more) effort, being busy and sacrifice is what's necessary to be successful. This simply is NOT necessary.

I’ve transformed my thinking and habits over the past few years (even while I was in my demanding corporate career), and I’m still amazed by the difference it’s made, not only in my work but importantly with my husband and kids.

And, I see many others struggling – people who are brilliant, yet feeling overwhelmed, worried or frustrated, so not showing up as their best.

So, I’ve taken what I’ve discovered through my training, the biggest challenges my clients face and my own experience, and created a Be At Your Best Roadmap to guide you in being at your best and thriving no matter what's going on around you.

You can change your entire experience now . . . and not have to wait until you retire, the kids get older or wait for your company to change!

CLICK HERE to download your copy of the Be At Your Best Roadmap.

References:

– “Are you in balance?” source: Canadian Mental Health Association. Work-Life Balance: Make It Your Business
– Opening Photo Credit: Bob Elsdale

 

Stacey L. Olson

What Next?

You can sign up for Stacey's masterclass, The Confident "No" here.

Stacey Olson

Stacey L. Olson is a Leadership and Certified Positive Psychology Coach, has 15 years of corporate experience and has gone through her own transformational change from burning out to balanced in life while performing at a high level (both in her corporate career and own business). She works with professionals who want to work less, live more and be their best even with all the demands, high expectations and messiness of everyday life. Stacey is the founder of The Balanced Leader™ program and offers executive and leadership coaching, workshops, and speaking.

Back to Blog
Work-Life Balance – What Does It Even Mean?

Work-Life Balance – What Does It Even Mean?

January 24, 20179 min read

The phrase “work-life balance” is a funny notion.  After all, work is a part of your life, as are family, relationships, personal interests, giving back to others and your health. 

So why the distinction between work and life? If you are at work, are you not living your life? If you are living life, are you not working?

These areas all intersect, are all connected, and not so easily compartmentalized.

Instead of this or that (work or life), balance is about feeling you have the right proportion of all of these areas in your life, and it is different for each individual.

What is needed for every person — no matter your profession or position — is time to recharge and space for quality time in each of these areas.

This is definitely possible to achieve, once you change your mindset and habits to focus on what’s most important and let go of what isn’t.

For years, I regularly found myself working evenings and always being “on” and it got to the point where it was affecting my relationships and health.

Even just keeping up with all the demands during the work day left me with little energy and presence for my family or personal time at the end of the day.

At the time, I didn’t understand the impact and I certainly didn’t realize I had a choice.

I needed to take back control of my days and get clear on my priorities – I set strong boundaries between work, family and myself, starting with the cold turkey decision to stop working outside of business hours.

Breaking this habit was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and also one of the most rewarding.

I finally felt in control, performed better, accomplished what was most important, was more mindful and it changed my mindset to: there is always a choice.

And I made this change during perhaps the most demanding time of my corporate career.

Why does balance matter?

The small things matter. When we are not focusing our attention on the right things at the right time, we miss out on the joys and opportunities of each day – with our spouse, our kids, our employees, ourselves.

Balance isn’t just about creating time and space for the important areas in your life; it is also about being present. Are you in the moment and undistracted? Do you want to be where you are?

When you are partially present, whether it’s at work or at home, you are not balanced.

And let’s face it — many professionals are out of balance because they spend too much time and effort on work at the expense of the other areas of their life.

In our modern world of busyness, with more and more tools to stay connected, we have let our work seep into the rest of our life and need balance more than ever to be at our best.

And if you find yourself prioritizing your work ahead of all the other area of your life, you need to make a change.

Some great reasons why balance matters and should be closely guarded:

  • Your health and self-care affect your performance. Quality sleep, less stress, exercise, eating habits are proven to make a significant difference in your mental sharpness, decision making, attention, energy and performance.

  • Balanced leaders are better leaders.  Set a strong example for your employees and acknowledge that we all need time to recharge and to value personal time as much as business time.

  • Life is now.  Not when the kids get older. Not when we retire. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or down the road, so make the choice to enjoy and live more fully each day.

  • Simplifying and slowing down makes a difference.  There comes a point at which additional activity or work — no matter how desirable or we feel necessary — is counterproductive and actually reduces happiness and our performance.

  • There will always be more. More work, more household responsibilities, more things to do with your kids. Creating better boundaries helps us get very clear on what’s most important and our priorities, and what to let go. We can’t and never will do it all, so let yourself off the hook.

Study after study reflects that, when people look back at their lives, they regret not making more time for their family and important relationships along the way (not more time at the office!)

Are you in balance?

A moderate amount of stress improves our efficiency and our mental sharpness. But how do you know when your everyday juggling act has stopped being a motivating challenge and has become harmful to your health? Here are some signs:

  • You feel like you’ve lost control of your days or life

  • You often feel guilty about neglecting your different roles

  • You frequently find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand

  • You’re always tired

Take control – What are you going to do differently if you are “off-balance”?

Only you can decide and create a better balance for yourself. You can’t wait for your organization or boss to create it for you — even the best companies want to get the most out of you they can.

You are constantly making choices to juggle competing demands – are your choices on purpose or responding to what someone expects from you? Take control of your days.

Figure out what balance means to you — get clear on what you want to achieve, your values and priorities, set your boundaries and start making daily choices to fulfill that purpose. 

Achieving the balance you desire involves constant adjusting, corrections and experimenting – and the more you do it, the easier it becomes to notice when you are getting off track.

There are many resources available online for ideas how to achieve greater balance, be more productive and shift your mindset to “how can I use the hours and minutes each day to my best advantage?”

Here are some of the best habits of successful and balanced people:

  • Own your early morning routine. Create a morning routine that allows you to focus on yourself before jumping into taking care of others or your business — a walk, the gym, or reading —whatever it is that gives you healthy, productive time to start each day. Don’t wake up and immediately check email or social media — that’s reacting to others’ needs. With a strategic, productive start, you are positively priming the rest of your day.

  • Create a calendar block every morning for your most important task to get done for the day. For two uninterrupted hours each day, focus on one task or deliverable that is your priority. What will have the biggest impact on reaching your goal or objective at work? This will give you focused, productive, thinking time and ensure you are not scrambling at the end of each day. Save the meetings and easier tasks for the afternoon.

  • Schedule everything on your calendar. Rather than a to-do list, ensure you have calendar time for what must get done and understand the impact of your workload and commitments. Schedule time for exercise, leisure time, volunteering, etc. Leave time for family and relationships. If something important comes up, what comes off or gets pushed out? Say “no” to less important tasks or meetings.

  • Check email or social media only 2-3 times per day.  Instead of checking your email throughout the day, schedule 15-30 minutes to quickly and efficiently process your email i.e. respond, delete, file or schedule time in your calendar to complete action (if more effort is required). Email and social media are easy time suckers and make you reactive, rather than strategic with your time.

  • Create a “rule” to guide your decisions until it becomes a habit i.e. “I will be home for supper with family each night” or “I will turn my phone off during the evening”. If you know you will always pick up your phone, leave it in another room or off. Set yourself up for success and remove the effort to make a decision in the moment by being clear on how you will handle a situation.

Odds are, you’ll realize that being more productive at work though is very different from simply trying to do more and more.

It’s about using your time more wisely and creating space for other things so you can have that balance and still accomplish what matter most to you.

What will you do differently to create more balance?

Only you can change. Get clear on what matters to you. Find a goal to create more balance that is manageable, yet challenging and act on it.

We all have limited willpower, so make small adjustments to reroute the path of least resistance to build better habits (e.g. leaving laptop at work to stop working evenings).

Figure out a simple system to help you achieve your goal and hold yourself accountable. Small changes can make a big difference.


What Next?

We’ve been taught all our lives that more (and more) effort, being busy and sacrifice is what's necessary to be successful. This simply is NOT necessary.

I’ve transformed my thinking and habits over the past few years (even while I was in my demanding corporate career), and I’m still amazed by the difference it’s made, not only in my work but importantly with my husband and kids.

And, I see many others struggling – people who are brilliant, yet feeling overwhelmed, worried or frustrated, so not showing up as their best.

So, I’ve taken what I’ve discovered through my training, the biggest challenges my clients face and my own experience, and created a Be At Your Best Roadmap to guide you in being at your best and thriving no matter what's going on around you.

You can change your entire experience now . . . and not have to wait until you retire, the kids get older or wait for your company to change!

CLICK HERE to download your copy of the Be At Your Best Roadmap.

References:

– “Are you in balance?” source: Canadian Mental Health Association. Work-Life Balance: Make It Your Business
– Opening Photo Credit: Bob Elsdale

 

Stacey L. Olson

What Next?

You can sign up for Stacey's masterclass, The Confident "No" here.

Stacey Olson

Stacey L. Olson is a Leadership and Certified Positive Psychology Coach, has 15 years of corporate experience and has gone through her own transformational change from burning out to balanced in life while performing at a high level (both in her corporate career and own business). She works with professionals who want to work less, live more and be their best even with all the demands, high expectations and messiness of everyday life. Stacey is the founder of The Balanced Leader™ program and offers executive and leadership coaching, workshops, and speaking.

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