It’s the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A pig with wings. The unicorn of the working world. You may know it as the all-elusive “work-life” balance. Everyone’s talking about it—how they need it and want it, but the question remains, does it even exist?
My take is this: yes, work-life balance exists, but it’s not a destination; it’s a constant quest. In fact, it’s really more of a mindset. I say this as someone who admittedly is not the world’s expert on finding balance between work and life. However, after hitting full-on burnout a few years ago and living to tell the tale, I’ve learned a thing or two. I know how to prioritize balance, and (hopefully), how to avoid hitting my breaking point again.
Here’s my recipe for work-life balance:
In 2021, my husband and I did something we had never done in our working lives. We packed up our laptops, our ski gear, our dog Tater, and headed out West. We spent five weeks working and playing in the snow in Park City, Utah. Since we each own our own businesses and can work from anywhere, we thought, “Why not?” It was a change of scenery, a chance to get away, and the perfect opportunity to disconnect from our normal routine. Or so we thought. Turns out, half-work/half-vacation isn’t the most restful. While we had a blast on our trip, we came home even more exhausted than we were when we left.
In early 2022, we learned our lesson. Instead of trying to do it all, we planned one three-week vacation that was just that—vacation. No laptops, no emails, no Slack messages. Just us, enjoying the chance to get away and really recharge.
While I know not everyone has the luxury of going all the way offline for weeks at a time, even an intentional day off can go a long way toward helping you recover and reset. In my experience, the key to work-life balance is not trying to juggle both at the same time; it’s choosing one or the other at a time and giving it your full attention.
Life moves quickly. If you’re anything like me, your schedule is pretty booked for the next couple of months. Whether you’re a business owner or you work for someone else, it’s easy to keep your head down and forget to build in time to rest.
One trick to avoid scheduling yourself out of a break is to block off your days on your calendar well in advance. Make an appointment with yourself and do everything you can to keep it. I’ve found it helpful to guard a few more days or half-days than I think I’ll need. That way, when work starts to seep into your rest time, you have a plan B—another optional day off just around the corner.
Find a cadence that makes sense for you and your needs and then pencil it in for the next six months or even year. Psychologically, it can be helpful to see a break coming up and know that you have a reward at the top of the mountain you’re climbing at work.
Work-life balance is a combination of daily boundaries and days (or weeks!) of disconnection from work. I’ve found that the daily rhythms and practices I establish to create work-life balance are just as important, if not more important, than extended periods away. One example is what I like to call “going on the moon.” If you’re an iPhone user, you’ve probably noticed the do not disturb function and the accompanying moon symbol on your phone. It allows you to mute incoming notifications, calls, and texts for a period of time. I’ve found this to be a helpful way to focus on whatever I want to prioritize—whether that’s making progress on a big work assignment or being present with friends and family.
I’ve also been trying a new scheduling method to improve my work-life balance. I save an hour at the end of each day for client communication—whether that’s following up from a phone call, sending contracts, or tying up loose ends on a project. So far, I’ve found that creating this buffer has saved me from scheduling calls right up until the end of my work day and has allowed me to avoid working late into the night on follow-up tasks that I didn’t have time to tackle earlier.
My advice to you is to notice where the line between work and life is blurry and consider what tools or processes will help you become more present and energized in either world. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Something that works well for someone else might not apply to your job or lifestyle, and that’s okay.
I owe it to my clients, my family, and myself to be the healthiest version of myself—and you do too! I encourage you to consider, how can you create boundaries, practices, and processes that help you achieve a greater sense of balance?
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