How to Have a Work-Life Balance
Why is it important to have a good work-life balance?
When we put too much emphasis on our work and not enough emphasis on other areas of our life like our family, our friends, and our own personal needs, that area of our life can fall to pieces. This can lead to us getting divorced, becoming estranged from our kids, or even causing us health problems which come from neglecting our own health. When we don’t put enough emphasis on our job and put all of our emphasis on our family, we might set ourselves up to lose our job, our car, our home, and other possessions. Then our family no longer has a secure income or place to live.
So what’s going on here?
According to the American Stress Institute, the number one cause of stress in the workplace is workload. Because of our workload, we end up working so much we lose balance in our lives. Job stress is so closely linked to heart attacks in police officers, that if an officer suffers a heart attack they are automatically assumed to have had a workplace-related injury even if they were at home when it happened. Our workload can also affect us at home where we feel like we have so many things to do and keep up with that being away from work feels like a job in itself. As a matter of fact, the stress that comes from the workload of life can also lead to us medicating ourselves with things like food or alcohol.
What do we do now?
How do we fix this? There’s an excellent quote from James Patterson in his book, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, which goes, “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls— family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” This is the mindset you need to have in order to keep your work and life stress-free.
Here’s my simple two-step process for how to apply this mindset to your life:
Step 1: Write down your biggest job responsibility, the thing your job revolves around doing. Make that your sole responsibility at work and only divert from it for important and urgent things.
You should be spending at least 80% of your time focusing on the #1 thing that your job depends on. For example, if you’re a teacher, then your main responsibility is teaching kids. If you aren’t teaching kids well, then you probably won’t last long as a teacher. The other things like the PTA, field trips, organizing community events, attending conventions are all secondary to that. If you’re a nurse, your main job is to take care of your patients. If you don’t do that well, your patients’ health will get worse and the hospital will throw you out. If you’re self-employed, then your main job is to try to get clients because, without clients, you have no business and no income. Deal with the main responsibility of your job first, then deal with the important and urgent “fires” when they get out of the way.
Step 2: When you leave work, do NOT do anything related to work.
If you have a work email, don’t check it. If someone from work calls you, don’t check it. My uncle was a teacher for 40 years and I asked him how he was able to do it for so long. He said that his motto was, “If it isn’t done by 3:00, it isn’t done by me.” I didn’t know it at the time, but he was talking about his work-life balance. The only reason he was able to make that work was that he was so productive at work due to focusing on the one thing his job required him to do above all others: teach the students.
Step 3: In the other areas of your life, decide on one action you can take that will help you get those other areas taken care of. Build one habit per month in these areas.
When you’re not at work, you’re going to constantly feel like you’re putting out fires. You’ll have to constantly go from one thing to another in order to “keep the balls from breaking” when they hit the ground. This is normal. To help make this easier, we’re going to think of only one thing we can do in each area that will help us take care of those areas and lower our stress. The areas we want to focus on our health, spouse, children, friends, and self.
Here are some examples. Use these if you like or come up with your own:
:: For your physical health: exercise three times a week.
:: For your spouse: set aside time each day for you two to be alone with no interruptions and enjoy each other’s company.
:: For your kids: set aside 30 minutes each day where you focus only on them and listen to them talk about what’s going on in their life, what may be bothering them, and talk to them about it.
:: For your friends: set one night per week as the night you all go out and do something together.
:: For yourself: pick one thing that you really like to do and make it a daily habit to enjoy that thing once per day. If it’s sports, try to catch some sports on TV. If it’s movies or TV, then get on Netflix and watch a couple episodes of your favorite series. If it’s running, then start a daily running routine.
Start with your physical health and do that for 30 days. Then move onto your spouse and do that action for 30 days, then kids, and so on. It takes 30 days to build a habit.
What to Watch Out For When You Do This:
When at work, don’t take your focus off your main responsibility for too long. If you do, you’re going to find that your life is going to get harder and you’re going to get stressed out again because you aren’t doing the one thing that your job hired you to do.
When away from work, build each habit one at a time and spend 30 days on each habit. If you go for less than 30 days or you do more than one habit at a time, the habit won’t stick, you’re actually going to get stressed out, quit, and end up right back where you started. Follow the process and you will get great results.
ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR
Hi, my name is Benjamin Tiller and I’m a productivity coach. As a productivity coach, my focus is helping people who are stressed and overwhelmed double their productivity so that they can work less and enjoy their lives more.
I hold a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree in music, and I’m a certified public school teacher in the state of Texas. In addition to these studies, I have backgrounds in cognitive-behavioral therapy and developmental psychology which I use to help my clients achieve their personal career goals and lead happier lives.