Work life balance does not mean perfection or a life free of challenges. It means that there is flexibility between the spheres of work and home and that it is easier to navigate between the two, and this balance will look different for everyone. When the two are unbalanced, it can leave us feeling stressed, incomplete, or burnt out.
Maintaining a household and working outside of the home can increase stress and as a result we can experience difficulties with memory and experience health related consequences like depression and anxiety. It’s easy to be hard on yourself and expect perfection when in reality you are doing your best. Placing these high expectations on yourself can often lead to workaholism, and ultimately, burnout.
Here are 31 tips for figuring out what work life balance should look like for you:
1. Reach Out to a TherapistDr. Cali Estes
Going to therapy can be an excellent way to process your emotions and daily stresses in addition to identifying events and experiences from childhood that are impacting you in adulthood. While the process of finding a therapist can feel daunting, it’s crucial that you work with someone that you feel is a good fit for you. If you aren’t getting what you need out of therapy, it’s important to talk to your therapist about your concerns and look for a new one if they are not addressed.
2. Start Thinking of It as Work Life Harmony
“Trying to find better balance feels like you always have to compromise something or make it more manageable – like a trade off. If you look for harmony, it allows space for various notes of your life to play together at the same time in different patterns. The music will change and flow as you go through things, different demands come in, and your own personal needs change. Sometimes it’s ok to work really hard and play a section with lots of notes for a specific goal or project. Other times it’s more important to crescendo on quality time with your loved ones. Look at your life like a sheet of music that you can move and dance to!” – Hannah Ray, career & business coach
3. Figure Out Your Peak Performance Times
“This means if you are most energiv or creative at 4 am, knock out that specific task. If you have the most physical energy at 8 pm, clean the house. You do not need to follow a social norm of specific waking and sleeping time. Use your biorhythms to your advantage and your creative peaks to maximize both work and play.” – Dr. Cali Estes, Ph.D., ICADC, MCAP, MAC CPT, CYT
4. Create a Calendar
Being organized can help with obtaining better work life balance. There are excellent apps that can be downloaded where you can keep track of appointments, bills, upcoming events, and responsibilities. Having a calendar can help you to create a daily and weekly routine that works best for you and your family.
If you find that an electronic calendar doesn’t work for you, consider getting a planner where you can write everything in and color code it based on the amount of attention it requires. Maintaining a daily calendar can be a good way to start to think ahead and plan the next weeks and months. Also, using the calendar as a family can help prevent all the responsibility from falling on one person and also help to avoid miscommunication.
5. Take One Thing at a TimeKailey Hockridge
“When we’re overwhelmed, sometimes we quickly jump from task to task in an effort to get everything done at once, but then we end up feeling like we’ve gotten nowhere with anything. I often think about a conveyor belt for this strategy. There might be many things on the conveyor belt, but you can only pick up one thing at a time.
Multitasking can be helpful at times, but when you are trying to declutter your mind, taking on many tasks at once only adds to the clutter. Write down (journal!) what’s on your conveyor belt, organize and prioritize, and tackle one thing at a time. You will notice your mind feeling freer!” – Angela Ficken, Psychotherapist
6. Organize Parts of the Day for Work or Home Activities
“Many people dedicate mornings and nights to spending time with family, leaving the middle of the day to focus on work. This is great – but you can take a few steps to prevent too much overlap:
- Consider avoiding hectic morning rituals by getting everything ready the night before.
- Try staying at work an extra half hour to clear out as many lingering tasks as possible.
- Dedicate a day of the week to family time, like a Friday pizza and movie night – and let people at work know that you’ll always be unplugged at that time.
- Set up an office space at home where you can focus without interruption.” – Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LCMHC
7. Create Transitions In & Out of Your Workday
“If you’re working from home after historically having worked in an office, you’ve likely lost some natural transitions in your day, like a commute. It’s helpful to have “wind-up” and “wind-down” time between different parts of your day to help yourself transition into different modes. If you’re at home, can you transition out of work by taking a short walk or having a three-minute dance party. If you’re in the office, how can you mindfully use your commute home to give yourself a mental break? When you’re able to establish transitions around work, what you’re really doing is establishing boundaries for yourself so that your work – and thoughts about work – don’t spill over into the rest of your day, which can allow you to be more present in the rest of your life.” – Kailey Hockridge, LPCC
8. Delegate Tasks
Learning to delegate can be a major part of decreasing your stress and improving your work life balance. Coordinating and communicating clearly is essential in effectively delegating various responsibilities. Take an honest assessment of your work and home-related tasks.
Is there anything that can easily be delegated to someone else? Could a meal-prepping service reduce stress related to cooking every night? Can someone else take the lead in a project at work? Could a virtual assistant help you complete some of your tasks and provide you with a little more free time? These are important questions to ask yourself to strike a work life balance.
9. Practice Saying No
“A great way to start building your ability to achieve better work life balance is to find small ways to practice saying no. It can be challenging to say no to a boss if you’re not used to saying no.But, finding small ways to practice can help you say no to the bigger things. All the while, keeping in mind that we can’t say no without giving others what they want, and that is OK. It’s impossible to meet everyone’s needs and doing so often leads to overcommitting and burn out.” – Billy Roberts, LISW-S, Founder of Focused Mind ADHD Counseling
10. Evaluate Your Priorities
“Recognize that life is always changing, and as your priorities in life change, your work-life balance may shift, too. Start by designating your top three or four priorities in life and schedule exclusive time for them on your calendar each day. You’ll know what works best for you, but this may look like staying present and mindful when you are in the moment, whether at home or at work, by reducing screen time, turning off notifications, and re-evaluating the non-essentials in your life.” – Tricia Johnson, LCSW
11. Make Deliberate Choices About What You Really Want in Life
“Do not let life happen. Choose what you want from life and how you want to spend your time. Talk to the important people in your life and understand what is important for them. Instead of just letting life happen, people who achieve work-life balance make deliberate choices about what they want from life and how they want to spend their time.” – Sofia Souiri, Integrative Psychotherapist
12. Utilize the “Do Not Disturb” Feature on Your Phone
“Work life balance requires you to have simple boundaries around your phone. I suggest setting up the do not disturb feature to turn on automatically at a certain time each evening when you are committed to disengaging from work. This will send all calls to voicemail and will silence your text messages automatically. Sometimes, having just this tiny bit of space from your work can make all the difference.” – Kelley Stevens, LMFT
13. Stick to Your Boundaries
Setting boundaries for your time and honoring them can help you to navigate the spheres of both work and home in a healthy way. You can feel emotionally protected while still feeling connected to others. Recognize that there may be exceptions to the rule in emergency circumstances but make a plan to create and stick to your work boundaries. Keep in mind that the more you adhere to your boundaries, the easier it will be for those around you to respect it.
14. Make It Clear When You’re Unavailable
“So, maybe you can’t avoid overlap between your work and home life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your boundaries. If people at work don’t seem very considerate of your time at home (or if friends and family have a lot to say while you’re at the office), it’s perfectly acceptable to put your foot down. By letting everyone know when you are and aren’t available to talk, you can avoid having to keep too many plates spinning at one time.” – Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LCMHC
15. Create a Self-Care Regimen
Self-care is an integral part of managing stress and improving work life balance. It is a way to take care of your emotional and mental health so that you are better able to manage stress and be resilient when you have setbacks. Remember that it’s not selfish to make sure that your needs are met. Make a plan to spend some time each week completing a self-care activity. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or take up a lot of time, but it does need to be something that relaxes and/or recharges you. Pick up a hobby, take a class, sleep in a little later during the day, or plan an activity that brings you joy.
16. Maintain an Active Social Life Outside of Work or Home
“A strong network of friends, family members, and other connections will help you maintain a healthy perspective on things during both your personal and professional lives.” – Valentina Dragomir, Psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus
17. Identify Your Needs & Wants
Think about your needs of mind, body, and spirit. Understanding your needs and wants can take time but a great starting point is by identifying things that you don’t want and then considering the alternative. What are you doing to ensure that your relationships, your home, and your work all are fulfilling to you? Do you need more peace? Would more flexibility be life changing? Take inventory of your needs and how they fit into your philosophy for what it takes to live a happy and fulfilling life.
18. Take Advantage of Breaks
“This could include making sure you are using all of your vacation time, or making sure you take micro moments throughout the day. You can get creative with this such as taking phone calls outside, or taking some deep breaths in between meetings.” – Jenna Mamorsky, LMHC, Psychotherapist at Cobb Psychotherapy
19. Assess & Communicate About What’s Working & What’s Not
“When work-life balance goes off the rails it is usually a result of letting things slide as opposed to any type of intentional choice. Make conscious decisions to change what is not working.” – Sofia Souiri, Integrative Psychotherapist
20. Make a Plan for the Future
Take some time to create a two-, five- and ten-year plan. What do you want to accomplish? How do you want your life to change? Be specific and detailed in your goals and make sure to make both personal and professional goals. What is your dream job? How do you want to improve your relationships? Think about some of the smaller steps that will create the foundation making lasting and meaningful change. Consider your “why” and the way that you want to be remembered. A therapist, life coach, or career coach could be a great help in determining and implementing your plans.
21. Keep a Detailed Log of Your Schedule for One Week
“Look over your list and ask yourself how items in your schedule align with or differ from your values. Some activities may fit more than one value, while others may not fit with any of your values. Ask: ‘How do I feel about myself when I do things that follow/do not follow my values?’ Create a pie chart, with larger slices dedicated to the items that take up most of your time. Ask yourself: ‘What is keeping me from aligning with my values?’ Use creative problem-solving to make changes to your schedule. For example, you value love and closeness but arrive at home tired after work and tend to self-isolate. Add a quiet activity that you can enjoy with your child or partner like building legos, doing a puzzle, or coloring rather than watching tv alone.” – Jared Heathman, MD, Houston Psychiatrist at Your Family Psychiatrist
22. Have a Support System
Relationships are important and you can’t put a price tag on the value of having a quality support system. You need people in your life who can encourage you, challenge you and be a listening ear when you need one. Experiencing social isolation and loneliness can have a devastating impact on one’s mental health.
No one is an island and surrounding yourself with people who love and support you will make a significant impact in your ability to manage daily stresses. At the end of the day, relationships matter and making an investment in your relationships will reap dividends.
23. Understand Your Limitations
Life has ups and downs and we have wins and losses. While the path to inner peace and tranquility can look different for each person, it’s important to recognize that things will happen that are out of your control. Change is inevitable and it can be difficult to adjust when unexpected situations arise that impact our health and/or happiness. While we can make plans, there are times when the unexpected happens and we are faced with an adversity we didn’t expect. Knowing our limitations can help us to focus our energy and attention on things in our lives that we can change instead of becoming frustrated and disappointed.
24. If Working From Home, Establish a Dedicated Work Space
“When you’re done for the day, shut everything down and leave the space as if you are walking out of your physical office. If you carry a smartphone specifically for your job, and you don’t have to be available 24/7, leave the smartphone in your ‘office.’ This is a great way to set healthy boundaries and eliminate distraction. When you’re done working for the day (or night), make an effort to be fully present in your personal life.” – Lori Ryland, Ph.D., LP, CAADC, BCBA-D, Chief Clinical Officer of Pinnacle Treatment Centers
25. Be Willing to Grow & Change
There’s a good chance that you are not the same person you were five or even ten years ago. Our perspectives and thoughts can change as we live and have more experiences. Achieving a work life balance requires a level of flexibility so that as your responsibilities change, you can adapt and modify your approach. Personal growth is a part of this process that shouldn’t be overlooked or neglected. Make a goal of listening to a thought provoking podcast or read at least one book per month that gives you some new insight or perspective.
26. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
“When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to focus on their strengths and ignore their weaknesses — which can lead to problems and unhappiness. After all, we’re all uniquely different, so you shouldn’t feel the need to compare yourself with anyone else.” – Valentina Dragomir, Psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus
27. Set Your Own Parameters Around Success
“Use a guideline for everything you do in order to determine what success is and what it means for you. Having a strong sense of self makes you manage work-life balance as this allows you to know what makes you happy and strive more in your life.” – Sofia Souiri, Integrative Psychotherapist
28. Remember That It’s Not All Up to You
“Work boundaries are notoriously tough for my clients, and in order to help with this, I often ask them if they were to die tomorrow what would happen to the company? There’s usually an infrastructure in place that would allow for business to continue. Ultimately their position would get filled and people move on. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s important to recognize this because it’s this shift in mindset that allows for people to begin to set the necessary work boundaries in order to create the balance that they’re looking for.” – Emily Capuria, LISW-S, CHHC
29. Exercise Consistently
The body and the mind are connected. Exercising consistently not only has health benefits but it can also benefit your mental health and ability to manage stress. Engaging in cardiovascular activity several times weekly can decrease rates of depression and anxiety. You can also experience an improvement in your mood and increased energy. Carving out time for consistent exercise can be important in increasing your life expectancy and also improving your quality of life. This is also something that can be done with other people, which can help you feel more connected to others while still caring for yourself.
30. Find a Hobby & Set Aside Time for It Each Week
“This doesn’t need to be a money- or labor-intensive hobby; it could be something like trying a new recipe, listening to a podcast, or participating in citizen science projects with your kids. The purpose of a hobby in this context is that it allows you to put time toward something you do simply because you enjoy it, it fills you up. This is helpful in establishing and reinforcing our sense of self, as well as creating concrete moments to look back on throughout the week where we can easily recognize ourselves outside of work.” – Kailey Hockridge, LPCC
31. Start Small
“It can be easy to want to do a 180 and completely shift your life to create a work-life balance. This isn’t sustainable. Instead, focus on one specific habit you can integrate into your daily routine. Once it is no longer a conscious habit, but instead a part of your routine, then you can make another change. You’ll be surprised how one small change can make a huge difference.” – Ariel Landrum, MA, Clinical Director of Guidance Teletherapy
Successfully balancing a job and family responsibilities can leave someone feeling overworked and overwhelmed. It is not an exact science but rather a balancing act that constantly evolves as your needs change.