Four leaders in mental health, career development, and personal coaching share their top tips on how to achieve work-life balance.
Let’s be honest: When you see how rewarding work and reaching goals can be, it can be easy to get wrapped up in your daily to-dos, only to forget your life as a whole. As firm believers in the “work hard, play hard” mentality, we’re big advocates of learning how to balance work and life.
Since doing so can feel pretty tricky, we tapped a few industry pros for their best advice on striking a balance between the work that funds your life and the life that makes work worth performing. Heed their ideas to improve work-life balance to thrive in all areas of your life.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance in 15 ways
1. Learn how to say no
“We sometimes like to be all things to everybody, but it drains us from head to toe,” says URAWARRIOR founder, podcast host, and TV personality Bershan Shaw. “Stop being a ‘yes’ person and do the things that you can realistically do, mentally and physically.”
This includes being able to voice boundaries with your bosses. After all, as Bershan—who’s also an international motivational speaker and executive leadership coach—points out, if you’re a perpetual people pleaser, the only person you won’t be able to please is yourself.
2. Design a balanced dream for all areas of your life
According to holistic leadership and mindset coach Amina AlTai, finding work-life balance is easier when you have a specific dreams you wish to cultivate.
“How do you want to feel in each area?” she urges you to ask yourself. “How much do you want to work? How often do you want to vacation? What is your ideal wellness plan for yourself? What are your dreams for work and life?”
Once you have your dreams in mind, Amina says to determine your non-negotiables in each area. “That way, before anything shifts, we know where we’ll make concessions and where we won’t,” she explains. “Are weekends off a non-negotiable? Daily meditations? Evenings with your children? Be absolutely clear what you’re willing to shift on, so when the pendulum swings, you’ll feel supported and have your boundaries respected.”
3. Have a plan B
As much as you might love the idea of your dream life—and as possible as it may be to achieve—Amina recommends always having a plan B for backup.
“When I’m working with clients to feel great in work and in life, I invite them to create two versions of their plans,” she explains. “An ideal scenario in which we have time to work out, meditate, get all of our work done, and spend time with our families, then a scenario in which we might have less time and resources. This condensed version of the plan allows us to prioritize when we need to adjust on the fly and ensure we uphold the most important parts of our lives.”
4. Determine your values
“When defining our priorities, it’s really important to be clear on what we value,” Amina continues, as that “shapes how we prioritize our lives and informs our happiness.” Next, she says that an overwhelming majority of Americans are unhappy. “I believe that unhappiness is a reflection of how out of alignment we are with our values as a culture.”
When working with clients, Amina invites them to get in touch with their own value systems to define how they can best embody their truest selves and live their fullest lives. “We highlight the top-ranking values we wish to orient our compass towards, with the goal of designing our lives around them,” she says. “Being in sync with our values lays the groundwork for alignment leading to greater overall satisfaction, success, and the freedom to live in a way that feels true to us.”
5. Designate a space for work
Since many of us work from home these days, therapist and relationship coach Risha Nathan, LCSW, HHC, says it’s essential to designate a workspace within your home. “Whether you’re in a shared space or a studio apartment, creating space separation can help create a boundary,” she explains. “Designate a space that’s comfortable and as separate as possible, and make sure to do work in that area.”
This tip on how to balance work and life is especially important for remote workers. After all, you’re never really “away” from your work physically.
“You need to develop barriers between your work and personal lives so you can avoid burnout,” adds Brie Weiler Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs. “Put your laptop in a drawer or closet when you’re done with work so you don’t see it and feel tempted to jump back in. Start and end your workday with some kind of ritual that signals to your brain it’s time to change from work to personal, or vice versa.”
6. Create time boundaries
In the quarantine era of social distancing, it can be especially easy to put all your time and effort into your career. However, an inability to disengage can negatively affect work-life balance. “Be aware of the reasons why you might be choosing work over other things,” Risha suggests. “With little else going on [personally] at this time, it’s been easy to work around the clock, so pay attention to time boundaries.”
7. Find a job that gives you more control over when, where, and how you work
That’s the dream, right? While many companies are recently allowing employees to work from home, that’ll only last for so long. And, after months of working remotely, heading back to an office might seem like the worst. Because of this, Brie recommends seeking remote and flexible jobs that let you take back control over your days, and, as a result, allow you to maintain the benefits of work-life balance.
8. Take a break from social media
There’s no point in denying that we’re pretty much all guilty of overconsumption. “Checking your social media every hour on the hour can keep you stressed and wasting a lot of time,” Bershan says. “Sometimes we don’t realize that scrolling through Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram is time-consuming, when we can be doing something [else] productive and meaningful for our own lives.” For that reason, taking a step back from social media can help us refocus.
9. Turn off your email after hours
Scary, but necessary. But turning off your email once you’ve finished a day’s work is important, as you shouldn’t be available all the time. “Let your teammates and manager know when they can expect you,” Brie says. “Let people know your general schedule and when you’re ‘off the clock’ so they aren’t left wondering.”
10. Check in with yourself regularly
As Amina points out, checking in with yourself helps us readjust before we get to the point of burning out. While you can do mental self-checks, she recommends writing things down.
“In my Nourishment Journal, I guide people to finding a full and fulfilling life,” she explains. “I ask them to examine all areas of their lives and check in at intervals to see how they’re progressing. “I invite my clients to check in weekly and sometimes even daily to ask themselves where they need to nourish themselves more and what might need to shift to do so.”
If you prefer a journal that lets you structure your own self-care and self-love evaluations, check out the Savor Life Planner. While the 90-day planner gives you prompts to check in each week, it also provides space for whatever you wish to write down or keep track of.
11. Forget the idea of perfection
While striking balance may seem like the perfect reality, Amina urges us to let go of this notion. “There’s no ‘perfect’ career or life, and there’s no perfect balance,” she says. “This idea keeps us stuck in an endless cycle of chasing new goalposts.”
Instead, she suggests approaching these areas of your life with kindness and compassion while simultaneously being clear on your goals. “If you miss the mark, learn from it and readjust so you’re better equipped the next time around,” she advises.
12. Find some alone time
Taking time to yourself can help clarify what it is you really want when attempting to achieve work-life balance. If you need to take a walk in the morning or at night, read a book, meditate, or whatever makes you feel good, Bershan suggests doing so. “Just step away from it alone. Spend your time just relaxing and being with yourself and your inner spirit,” she says.
13. Do things that make you feel good
This idea to improve work-life balance sounds so simple… and it’s because it is. Sometimes all you need is time to exercise, take a bath, cook a new dish, take online courses, learn photography, or do something around the house you’ve been putting off. “Now’s the time to spend doing things only you want to do,” Bershan says. “You’ll feel good about it.”
14. Schedule personal activities like you do work projects
Brie believes that most people struggle with the work aspect because they’re so focused on it. To help even things out, she recommends scheduling personal activities and have several go-to hobbies that you enjoy so you’ll have something specific to do with your personal time. “If you don’t have anything planned, like a hike after work or a puzzle project, you may find it easier to slip back to work unnecessarily,” she says.
15. Cater to your mental health
If it’s still iffy to risk close encounters, Bershan recommends joining a mental health support app. “Find a place for mental health support within a community so you won’t suffer in silence,” she says. “Join fun online workshops with a community, sign up for networking groups, and take part in online social clubs.”
Yes, the benefits of work-life balance are aplenty. Yet as wonderful as achieving a happy medium may sound, it’s important to understand that the idea is subjective.
“I actually don’t believe in work-life balance, as balance implies a 50/50 static split,” Amina says. “I believe that achieving harmony is less about being fixed, stationary, and perfectly symmetric in work and life. I’m more about cultivating nimbleness knowing that in certain moments work will take precedence and in certain moments life will take precedence.”
Brie adds to this, noting that balancing everything perfectly all the time isn’t going to happen. “Instead, know that the scales of your balance are going to tip back and forth,” she says. “Some days, you’ll need to put more focus and attention on the private side, and other days, on the work side.”