Work Life Balance Is A Myth...Or Is It?

Creating personal work life balance is an essential skill in today's hectic environment. Avoid stress and enjoy life with this guide to creating balance.

High expectations, new technology and competitive work environments erode the boundaries that should exist between work and personal life.

If you feel your work life scale is unbalanced it may be that one area of your life is demanding most of your time and energy.

And for most of us that area is work.

work life balance scale

Stress, frustration, anxiety, depression and burnout are some of the very real effects of poor work life balance.

Adjusting your balance and learning to enjoy many experiences in life will help you to manage and reduce the effects of these symptoms.

Work Life Integration

The concept of work life integration is often preferred to 'work life balance'.  Working towards the goal of successfully integrating your work life and personal life suggests that this is a personal journey.

You create a lifestyle that works for you. There is no set formula that can be applied equally to everyone.

Some people may enjoy spending more time in their work environment. Others might say "family comes first". No-one should judge your decisions as long as your lifestyle is not contributing to increased stress.

In my experience many of us do not realize that stress may be active in our lives and we do what we can to cope. Many of the executives I work with appreciate an objective view as they are not always aware that a few changes can make a great difference to their enjoyment of life.

Work & Home...Work & Home...Work...

It's so easy to get caught up in a cycle between work and home. 

We spend most of our day at work and then go home in order to eat and sleep so that we can go to work again the next day.

A psychiatrist colleague once told me that this routine is the road to burnout.

If you find that you are caught in a cycle like this then you need to take action and begin to add other interests into your life in order to create some degree of work life integration and avoid stress and burnout.

Perhaps a career change is the answer you need? Time Magazine once reported that 21% of career changes are made to improve work life balance.

More recently Time Magazine has published articles questioning if work life balance exists and noting that men are less likely to take advantage of flexible work schedules.

There are lot's of other things you should be doing to achieve work life integration before you resign and walk out of your job!

Four Life Areas for Work Life Balance

Success with work life balance allows you to manage stress and fatigue, and avoid burnout altogether. You'll also have a wider circle of supportive friends and find you're not the one missing those important family events.

One way to understand work life integration is to look after four areas of life:





This means we should concentrate on

  • Looking after and renewing the SELF
  • Looking after and renewing the FAMILY
  • Looking after and renewing WORK
  • Looking after and renewing our place in SOCIETY or the COMMUNITY

We need all four of these for long term work life balance.

work life balance stones

Integrate Self, Family, Work and Society

What do you need to do to integrate these areas?  Here are three questions to consider:

  1. What needs to change?
  2. What could be the difficulties in changing?
  3. What help do you need to make the changes?

People who enjoy a healthy integration of work and personal life meet these 5 fundamental conditions:

  • They enjoy good physical health.
  • They have good mental health.
  • They feel successful (they are self-confident and believe in their potential).
  • They have a purpose and believe in creating meaning in their lives.
  • They feel they are in control of their lives. They believe the decisions they make affect what happens in the future and are aware of what they can and cannot control in their lives.

What should I aim for?

Well, in an ideal world someone with great work life balance would include the following in their day and week:

  • An 8 hour working day - maximum.
  • 8 hours of sleep at night.
  • Plenty of time for breakfast and travelling to work in the morning.
  • One hour for lunch.
  • A balanced, healthy diet.
  • No work on weekends.
  • Quality time with their partner.
  • Quality time with their children.
  • Quality time for self.
  • An hour for exercise every day.
  • Social activities at least twice a week.
  • Regular contact with family and friends.

Now, I'm not sure about you, but if I do the math there are not enough hours in a day to do all of this!

The key is to create these ideals as intentions rather than expectations.

Make it an intention to include these in your week. You don't need to rush into this. Add them at a pace you are comfortable with.

If you are not as successful as you'd like to be, notice what stopped you achieving work life balance. Then try again, this time managing whatever blocked you before.

What is Your One Thing?

Achieving work life balance means we need to begin focusing on what is important to us.

You can have it all, but probably not all at once.

Here's my all-time favorite activity for deciding what's most important in your life. I call it...

Curly's Law:

Do you remember a 1991 movie called City Slickers? One scene I  remember is when Curly (Jack Palance) tells Mitch (Billy Crystal) about deciding what's important in life...

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]

work life balance: Jack Palance as Curly in City SlickersPhoto courtesy of Alan Levine

Curly: This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.

Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"

Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.

So, what is your "one thing"?

If you were told to choose the one most important thing in your life to focus on, what would that be? Take a moment right now and decide what's most important to you.

When you've decided on your "one thing" add a few more priorities. After your "one thing" what else is most important in your life? And after that? Write down your top 5 priorities in life.

The secret to achieving work life balance is to focus on your priorities and to stop doing anything that's not moving you in the right direction.

This is where life coaching and mentoring can be very useful to help you practically move toward work life balance.

work life balance stones

Practical Tips

Here are some ideas to help you achieve work life balance:

  • Keep a diary for a week. Make a note of how you spend all your time. How much is devoted to time for yourself and how much is devoted to work?

  • Learn to create and maintain boundaries using a relaxing self-hypnosis session.

  • Speak to your manager about working flexible work hours, or working from home more often.

  • Put yourself first. Make real time for yourself.

  • Start an online business focused on your interests. This way you spend time focused on what you enjoy and you can make it your full time business when it's earning enough money. This takes time but is easier than you may think. Here are two ways I use that will show you how to do this starting today:
    SBI! Full support to create a business based on your passion 
    Earnster.Ninja online mentorship: your personal mentor for an online business. 

  • Let others help you. Your partner, children and boss are not mind readers! Let them know what you want to achieve and ask them to help you. Get professional help in the form of a life coach to support you along the way. Use your company EAP or wellness program if you have one.

  • Leave work at work.

  • Include your family. Include your children and decide together what needs to be done at home and who will do do it. You may need to remind them but they'll get there!

  • Make time for fun. Take one evening a week to do something for yourself.

  • Learn to be assertive. Know what you will and will not do and then draw firm boundaries for yourself.

  • Put First Things First. Use time management techniques to help you focus on what is important. Stephen Covey has some great thoughts about time management in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His 4-quadrant time management model is part of the third habit: Put First Things First.

Achieving work life balance means you need to develop attitudes, skills and behaviours that support this in your personal life.

Here are some useful habits that are necessary to develop in the pursuit of work life balance:

  1. Learn how to relax. Teach yourself to achieve effective relaxation quickly and safely using self hypnosis audio sessions. Learn how to relax your body and mind.

  2. Live according to your values. Discover your values and then use these as positive guides in your life.

  3. Diet and Exercise. Eat healthily and get plenty of exercise during the week.

  4. Get plenty of sleep. It's hard to focus on what's important when you are tired. Sleep issues are very responsive to hypnosis and you can use self hypnosis to ensure you get a good night's sleep.

  5. Create and use a strong support network. Find people who care for you and who will listen to you without trying to 'fix' everything.

  6. Decide what's important. Stephen Covey says 'Begin with the end in mind'. Focus on what you want to achieve and don't let the unimportant stuff get in the way.

  7. Practice self control. This is one of the essential elements of Emotional Intelligence. Control your emotions so you don't react to situations. If you get angry it does not need to be destructive.

  8. Get organised. Clear your desk and living area of clutter. Organise your diary for today and tomorrow. You can get rid of a lot of stress by organising your life.

  9. Manage your time well. Focus on what is important and be in control by managing how you spend your time.

  10. Laugh, a lot. Don't take yourself so seriously. Make the next DVD a comedy rather than a drama. City Slickers is a great example!

Assess Work Life Balance Regularly

Remember, work life balance cannot come from the expertise of professionals.

Real work life balance comes from your own awareness of what's right for you. You can only be happy by being you.

Each of us is different. Some don’t have any need for family. Others have little need for work. Or for money. Or whatever.

Take some time to discover what's important for you. When you know what's important to you learn to put that first. And learn to trust your awareness to continually bring it back into balance.

Work life balance is not something you do once. Make it a habit to assess your balance at regular intervals and make any adjustments that are necessary.

work life balance family

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