Trying to achieve balance in your life can be stressful. When it comes to carving out enough time for all aspects of your career, and then incorporating those responsibilities with your personal and family life, you may end each day feeling like a poor juggler in a three-ring circus.
But is true work-life balance realistic in today's tech-crazy, time-pressured world? Although there is no set formula for what constitutes balance, there are techniques you can try that may help you find the best way to organize the time in your work and your life. Consider the following tips:
Decide What Works for You
It's often said that if you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there. The same is true when it comes to planning how to spend your limited time. If you don't set limits on how much of your day that you want to spend at the office, for example, then you'll be at risk of working around the clock and losing time you need for the "life" part of your work-life balance.
To mitigate this risk, you can develop your own work-life timetable. This can be as simple as taking a piece of paper, and writing out your ideal weekly schedule that specifies what block of time each day you will spend on each activity, starting from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. If you know, for example, that you're always going to work until 6:30 p.m., at least you will know what hours you have remaining each evening for your personal and family life. And by setting a limit on your work time, you will have a better chance to avoid working past your stopping point.
Don't Over-focus on To-dos
A daily to-do list can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you can see what you have to do in both your work and personal life. The curse is also that you can see what you have to do in your work and personal life! And while it can be satisfying to check items off of your list as you complete them, it can be frustrating to see how many items still remain.
The secret to making to-do lists work for you and not against you is to recognize that there will always be more items to add to them. A to-do list never really becomes "to-done." The nature of both work and life is that even as we complete certain tasks or accomplish certain steps, they only lead to our next steps, not to complete closure.
Instead of feeling frustrated about our ever-regenerating lists, we can learn to appreciate the progress we're making toward certain goals rather than focusing solely on goal completion. Once you accept that your list will always have items on it, then you're free to focus on your journeys as well as your destinations.
When You Feel Too Pressured, Let Up
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you're feeling the most stressed about managing your work and life responsibilities, that is when you most need to take a break. When you get stuck in overdrive, pushing relentlessly forward to try to cover more ground than you realistically can cover, your system will respond by activating your body's "fight or flight" response.
This mechanism, which is meant to spur you into action in a life or death emergency, will result in a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones being pumped through your body. Many studies show that over-activation of the fight or flight response can cause a cumulative buildup of stress hormones in your system, which over time can lead to a host of health problems, from headaches and high blood pressure to depression and increased susceptibility to infection.
To keep this from happening, you need to be proactive. Notice when you are starting to have too much on your plate, and take a step back before it's too late. Find ways to delegate what you can't handle instead of continuing to take it all on. Practice self-care before it becomes necessary. Sometimes simply giving yourself some recharge time from your challenges--whether a 15-minute break or a true weekend off--can be all you need to come up with solutions.