The truth of the matter is that if you want a fulfilling career, work-life balance isn’t a nice to have—it’s a must-have. Not only is it one of the top predictors of job satisfaction, but attaining a work-life balance can set you up to be more focused and creative in the office.
It’s simple: When your work-life balance is out of whack, so is your stress level. And when your stress level is out of whack, that means you expend your energy looking for ways to survive at work, rather than looking for ways to thrive.
So, how do you get started? Here are three simple strategies that you can use to create a foundation of balance that will serve you for the length of your career.
Know what balance means to you.
The idea of work-life balance is a bit of a misnomer, because it articulates the concept of a perfect 50/50 split between your work life and your private life. The reality is much more fluid. There is no such thing as a “perfect” balance that will work for every person and at every stage of life. What you may consider “balanced” when you are a young professional just starting out in the working world is going to be very different from what you consider “balanced” when you are in your 40s and have kids that you want to spend as much time with as you can.
That means that it’s on you to decide what balance means to you. Don’t rely on anyone else to tell you what it is or how to do it best—it’s an individual proposition that will change over the course of your career.
Try this simple strategy: To start figuring out what work-life balance looks like for you, create a vision of what your ideal experience looks like across a variety of areas:
- Friends and family: What do you want these relationships to look like? How large do you want your circle to be? How much interaction do you want to have?
- A significant other: Are you in a relationship with a partner? Do you want to be? What do you want from that relationship so that your personal needs are fulfilled?
- Physical health: Do you want to work out regularly? How many days a week? What type of diet works best for you, and what is the time commitment required to achieve it? How much sleep should you be getting?
- Your professional career: Do you enjoy the hustle of an extended work week, or is it more important for you to keep it to 40 hours?
- Fun and leisure: What do you do when you’re not working? What would you like to be doing? What hobbies are important for you to start, restart and maintain?
- Spirituality: What role does faith or a spiritual practice play in your life? What role do you want it to play?
- Anything else that’s important to you!
Once you know what you’re shooting for, then you can start to make some decisions. Look at your list and consider what your top priorities are and why. Use those priorities to determine how much time is appropriate to spend at work, and how much time you want to set aside for yourself. From there, you can create a plan to take control of your days and serve the areas that are most important to you.