Simple Ways to Fix Your Work-Life Balance

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”
Albert Einstein

I’m not saying that Albert Einstein wasn’t smart but maybe he got it wrong with his thoughts on balance. I’ve been thinking about his quote above and wondering if we really need to keep moving to achieve balance in life or if our constant activity is causing the imbalance in the first place.

Modern life is so hectic and rushed that sometimes we barely have a moment to stop and think. Most of the time we’re simply hurrying from one task to another troubleshooting apparent urgencies like deadlines to be met, kids to be fed or lawns to be mowed.  There’s no time to step back and watch the frantic activity we’ve created for ourselves or wonder why we’re really doing it.

So why are we doing it? Sometimes there really is an urgency that has to be met. But often work is done out of habit or a sense of obligation. Occasionally boredom, ego or simply a lack of imagination are behind it.

Take 10 minutes to reassess your work-life balance now for a lifetime of rewards

The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.
Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)

There’s no doubting the need for balance in life. Countless articles, websites and books about the work-life balance are testament to the major problem finding a balance creates for most of us. It’s both sad and comforting to learn from Euripides that humans have been struggling with the need for balance for 2,500 years.

But reducing this problem to a search for work-life balance over-simplifies it because there are more than just two things we need to balance out for happiness and success.

Sadly we all know what work is but life’s complicated and work-life balance isn’t a seesaw which can go in one of two directions, I’ve come up with eight separate areas we need to balance, so it’s not just work and life.

The ultimate goal for all of us is happiness but that simple goal often proves elusive because one thing or another is lacking in our life, wether it’s relationships, career or play.

If you’re feeling disatisfied, stressed out, depressed, over-worked, unloved or worn out then there could be one of several things missing in your life. When you have a look through the list below you’ll probably know which areas are being neglected and which areas are bogging you down.

Working out what’s lacking in your life is the key to restoring the balance and getting back your mojo.

8 Elements of Work-Life Balance

Just as a business will run more smoothly when all the departments agree and focused on the same goals, your sense of well-being and performance in all aspects of your life will increase when you strive to balance these eight areas.

1.  Friendships – For me this is hard to balance. There have been times in my life when friends have been everything and other times when friendship is neglected because of work or geographical coflict and you end up feeling lonely.

2. Relationships – Includes family  and may include some or all of the following – life partner, parents, siblings, kids and extended family.

3. Chores – Includes finances,cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening and the like.

4. Work – Includes professional development and networking.

5. Physical – Includes exercise, diet, nutrition and sleep.

6. Emotional – You may call if your spiritual side and it’s not easy to pigeon hole. Some people go to traditional place of worship, others meditate, or do yoga. I go surfing or for a walk on the beach.

7. Self – Nurturing your inner child with fun and play. Includes holidays, hobbies, peace and quiet, adventure, creativity, reading.

8. Community – Being part of something greater than you and helping others creates a sense of belonging, usefullness and being selfless actually makes you feel happier too.

How to Retune Your Work-Life Balance

1. Shift your priorities.

Decide what’s lacking in your life, which areas need to be focused on to create more balance and make time for them.

It is nice to believe your employer, business, family or friends would fall apart without you. It’s flattering to consider yourself an indispensible part of the economy and people’s lives. But sadly it’s not true. It’s a chimera, a mirage which has seduced you into wandering off into the desert and probably left you feeling very thirsty too.

Work out what your priorities lie and then make sure they really do come first.

2. Seek winning combinations.

Wherever possible try to find activities that satisfy two or more areas of your needs at the same time. Try to create a balance by working from home or doing a job which you love and which is inline with your values.

For example, going for a walk on the beach satisfies both my emotional and physical needs. If I walk with my husband it takes care of our relationship too. Working from home allows me to be there when my kids come home from school and hang out with them fulltime during the school vacation. Choosing web design and writing for my career satisfies my creative urges, indulges my desire to help other people and brings home the bacon.

3. Balance yourself first.

Be careful not to subjugate your needs to those of other people.

A lot of us are people-pleasers who want to make other people happy. You can only be responsible for your own happiness and you owe it to the people you care about, the family and friends who also care about you to look out for yourself.

4. Be present.

Keep work where it belongs and family in their place.

Allow yourself the time to fully participate in each activity without worrying about what you have to do next or hurrying to move on to the next thing.

Being passionate about something is good but you also need to create a balance and be able to engage fully in other activities.

How balanced is your life?

“I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.”
Oprah Winfrey

Balance is about not being one-dimensional but allowing you to get in touch with the multi-faceted parts of your personality and unite them in a way that makes you feel happy.

Remember life is more important than work. Life isn’t something you fit in once your jobs have been done. Life is your reason for being, not a perk that comes from working.

Yes, life is about creating balance and today is the time to start balancing your various needs. If you’re not convinced you need to sort out your balance right now try turning Einstein’s quote around like this:

Time’s always moving on so we need to find balance or life will pass us by.

Follow Up

Try putting these eight areas of your life into order of most to least important for you. Is the time you allocate to each one in proportion to that?

Which areas are threatening to throw the others out of balance? And which are being neglected?

Spend a moment thinking about it and leave a comment so we can see if any patterns emerge. Or share your tips for achieving balance.

Thanks for Reading

A warm welcome to all my new subscribers and welcome back to the old faithfuls – it’s great to connect with you. Thanks to Ella’s Dad for use of the photo.

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  1. Connie February 24, 2010 at 4:31 am - Reply

    I read recently that’s it’s not okay to answer “Busy” when you asked how you are. If you answer that way then something is out of whack. From now on I will be purposefully answering “Fine” or whatever instead of “Busy”. Anyway, this post made me think of that idea. It’s insightful as usual :-)

  2. Hulbert February 24, 2010 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Nice post Annebel. I like how you said at the end that life is our reason for being, not the perks that come from working. We can be working all day, but forget to spend time with our family or enjoy the activities that make us happy. In my opinion, it’s hard to remain balance when we are constantly on the move. That’s why it’s important to sometimes take a break and figure out what areas in life we need to balance out.

  3. J.D. Meier February 24, 2010 at 7:52 am - Reply

    “Seek winning combinations” is such a great way to put it.

    That’s really the key — finding synergies and living your values at work and life.

  4. Annabel Candy February 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Connie – I think when someone tells me they’re busy they’re trying to make an excuse for not having time to talk properly. And when I say it sometimes it’s as social proof that business is going well… We are supposed to always tell people we’re great but I think with people you know well it’s fine to tell them the truth!

    Hulbert – Yes, definitely a case of prioritizing the fun stuff and the important stuff (family & friends) first:)

    J.D. – Glad you liked the winning combos. I was pleased with it too:) If something only satisfies one area then it does become a problem because it squeezes out other important stuff.

  5. Randall February 25, 2010 at 12:38 am - Reply

    I Love the “balance yourself first”! Without taking time to balance yourself you cannot be effective in anything. Part of balancing yourself is to take time for you! Time spent in meditation in whatever method you chose is a time to center, calm down, reflect, and re-prioritize your day. You will be amazed at how you will begin to feel about things and other people. Take this time to think deeply about your life and then focus on the really important stuff! Life is like riding a tiger sometimes. It can be a wild ride all day long! If you don’t take time for yourself in silence you never get off the ride!

  6. Annabel Candy February 25, 2010 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Randall – Hehe, I like your comment that life’s like riding a tiger:) Yes, definitely agree time alone is so important. My walks on the beach give me that too. Although I do take Lady Gaga with me sometimes (on my Ipod). She helps me walk faster!

  7. Randall February 26, 2010 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Does’nt she remind you of Elton John’s little sister?

  8. Annabel Candy February 26, 2010 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Haha, luckily I can’t see her, but the beat keeps me moving!

  9. Karol Gajda February 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this Annabel! While I’m traveling my friendships/relationships balance gets out of whack. It’s not always easy to keep in touch with people when you have a 10 or 14 or however many hours time difference. And then making new friends in new places is sometimes a bit of a challenge.

    I send texts/e-mails and phone calls when possible.

    Thank you for making me think about this. I think, in some ways, I need to do better at this aspect of my life! :)


  10. Annabel Candy February 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Karol – Glad it gave you a little push. It is hard when you’re on the road hanging out with new friends and the old ones get neglected. I find with really good friends that it doesn’t matter if you’re not in touch for a while. Once you have a strong bond it will stick:)

  11. Flippa Chick February 28, 2010 at 6:01 am - Reply

    Excellent post!

    I oftentimes wonder if we’re busy because we truly don’t know how to manage our time — or because we are afraid of what life is like without tasks to fill up our day.

    …sometimes, as much as cry out for time to ourselves, it seems as though when the opportunity presents itself, we find more time to do the very things we try to break free from.

    As someone who works from home, I can say this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis.

    • Annabel Candy February 28, 2010 at 8:07 am - Reply

      Flippa – Great to hear from you:) Yes, you do have to be careful when you work from home that work doesn’t encroach on yourhome life and vice versa. I’m in the same situation and striving to keep the laundry and household chores to a minimum when they could easily take over my whole life! I wrote a post called How to Liberate Yourself From Drudgery about it with ideas on how I manage it that might help you too:

  12. Tom | Build That List February 28, 2010 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    There are so many great points I could comment on in this post, but my favourite one is to shift your priorities! I think this should be a regular part of our week – where we check whether the things that we are doing are taking us in the direction that we want to go!

  13. Shakira March 1, 2010 at 6:46 am - Reply

    That’s really the key — finding synergies and living your values at work and life.

  14. Annabel Candy March 1, 2010 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Tom – Lovely to see you here. Yes, it’s so easy to get destracted by the trivialities and focus on what really matters. If you can, you’re sweet.

    Shakira – Thanks for dropping by and your great summary.

  15. Dave Doolin March 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Tough one.

    I’m in a phase right now where stuff really does have to get done. “Balancing” out would require a very large change of direction.

    It’s “bleed from the eyeballs” time for me right now.

    Won’t last forever!

  16. Great article! I like point 3. Balance yourself first.

    Some of us simply have too many balls in the air to maintain sanity, calm and balance. Interestingly, there comes a point when the harder we work, the less we achieve.

    Clearly, quantity and quality are different things. Have you ever met someone who’s always busy achieving not much? It seems that for some folk, busy-ness doesn’t amount to anything particularly positive. Busy doesn’t always equal productive. Or happy. Or healthy.

    Sometimes busy equals stress, anxiety, poor health and an ever-increasing to-do list. Sometimes busy is just busy. Some people are so focused on building their best life that they’ve forgotten how to laugh, relax and switch off. They’ve forgotten how to be in (and enjoy) the now.

    “I don’t have time for fun right now.”

    They have been so busy for so long that they have lost their way and forgotten about what matters.

    Considering that we live in the journey, we best learn how to enjoy it. Some very busy people have a to-do list which is so huge that they end up doing fifty things badly… while simultaneously working their head, heart and body into various states of disrepair.

  17. Annabel Candy March 2, 2010 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Dave – Ouch, that sounds painful! Sometimes we do have to just go for it but hopefully you can redress the balance later!

    Craig – Thanks for joining us, great to hear from you. Yes, I used to be like that myself. Never gain:) Life’s too short! LIfe first, work second:)

  18. Stanley Lee September 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    You have articulated a lot of hardships/problems that made my college years absolutely miserable to go through while overworking myself in the wrong things due to other people’s demands, despite being a walking zombie most of the time.

  19. Riley Harrison February 10, 2011 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel
    Thought provoking blog. I think the perfectly balanced life is an illusion – we need to strive for good balance but lifelong perfect balance cannot be maintained. We need the awareness and the courage to act when life is terribly out of balance .The analogy might be a sail boat that cannot sail a straight line (i.e. maintain constant perfect balance) but has to tack back and forth to stay on course.

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