For many entrepreneurs and employees alike, their work hurts other areas of life (family, friendships, hobbies, health, personal time, etc.).
Longer work hours, technological changes (in particular, our constant digital availability), and increasing complexity of tasks all play a role in this.
While it's important to address this through changes on a systematic/cultural level, this will take time (like most changes on that level do).
In the short term, it's mostly up to each of us individually to find a way to create more work-life balance. Of course, different people have different approaches that work for them.
To show you the variety of approaches people—even those in similar situations—can use, I asked several women for their best tips for a better work-life balance.
All seven women who contributed their advice are the owners of small, service-focused businesses based in the United States and in Europe (Finland, United Kingdom, The Netherlands). You will find their suggestions below (under III.).
But first, let's answer some other questions:
I. What exactly is work-life balance?
Work-life balance can be defined as "a lack of opposition between work and other life roles." What exactly that means is different for every person.
That said, work-life balance doesn't mean that all areas of life are equal in terms of the time or energy that you put into it. It is also worth noting that the right balance varies over time.
Sometimes, that might mean focusing almost entirely on your work. During other times, it's perhaps about prioritizing your family or your health. Ultimately, it's really about arriving at a place where you're fulfilled with your life and feel good about how you spend your time and energy.
II. What are some resources that can help with this?
There several things that can help improve work-life balance, including
- reducing stress (to avoid some of the negative effects that come with a lack of work-life balance),
- becoming more efficient and productive at work (which can help decrease overtime and free up time and energy), and
- getting crystal-clear on your priorities in different areas of life (so you know what to focus on and what to ignore).
In the video below, you will find additional suggestions that can help you have the life you really want while also being productive at work. (A Podcast version of this episode is also available.)
Here are a few articles I have written that can help you reduce work-related stress, improve your productivity, and get clear on what matters the most to you:
Work-Related Stress: How to Handle It Like a Champion
How to Work on Important Things When You’re So Busy Putting out Fires at Work
Family or Career? How to Make the Best Decision
I have also created a free mini-meditation (5 minutes) that can help you release stress and get clear on what not to do (this will free up extra time). You can listen to this every day!
Simply fill in the form below, and you'll receive this meditation as well as my weekly newsletter with additional tips on how to create work and a life that you really love.
III. How can you achieve better work-life balance?
1. Love your work
Find work that you TRULY and DEEPLY love doing! That way, work doesn't really feel like 'work' and life becomes one easy, natural flow...
~ Charu Sila
2. Take breaks
Remember to take breaks regularly throughout the day—stand up, stretch, have a healthy snack, make a cup of tea, step outside—even if it's just for a minute.
~ Durga Fuller
3. Connect to yourself and take care of your own needs
My suggestion is to get connected with your needs and take them seriously. Rest when you need to, get familiar with and respect your boundaries, don't overextend yourself—remember that you are valuable and your needs are not signs of weakness but there to help you thrive.
~ Anni Laine
My work-life balance is directly affected by my ability to notice my needs on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. It's counter-intuitive, because when I take my time to connect to what I need and then to take care of myself, I have less time to work.
But in that shorter amount of time, I'm focused, effective and able to prioritize, because I feel great. It took me a long time to get out of the mentality that I need to hurry and that there's not enough time, but now when I'm able to embrace a spaciousness in my days, many more things get done—both in my work and in my private life.”
~ Veronika Magali-Marosy
4. Connect to others
I connect to others and engage in the loving art of giving and receiving. It may be through my online groups, calling a friend of reading a story about someone.
~ Maria Mar
5. Connect to nature
I go for a walk once a day along the paths in my community garden and walk among the trees, breathing in the beauty of this world. I can feel my entire body relaxing and my frequency calming down.
~ Maria Mar
6. Take a digital break
Close the computer after a certain time every day, unless it's to watch something with high entertainment value—no email, and social media only if it's for fun.
~ Durga Fuller
7. Prioritize your mindfulness practice
Prioritize your spiritual practice, whatever that may be. When you're busy the mind will tell you 'I don't have time to meditate/go to Yoga Class etc.' but in reality, you don't have time NOT TO! Those precious moments every morning or evening connect you with your inner wisdom, an essential component of being effective at work and life.
~ Charu Sila
8. Drop the rules and have fluid boundaries
For me, one thing that’s been important is to drop the rules, and have fluid boundaries. I used to believe it was important to mark off specific times for work and family and to keep those sacred.
The problem is that when life would show up unannounced (and not on my predetermined schedule!) I’d end up stressed or annoyed, trying to deal w whatever situation arose all the while in my mind trying reshuffle and reschedule the lost time.
The same thing would happen if a work project needed more time. I’d then do the work, with my mind busy with resentment and guilt. Not helpful at all!
Now I have general guidelines say, for my office hours, but am perfectly happy to ignore those whenever my heart guides me to. Last week I stopped early to play a game of basketball with my daughter. I feel much more integrated and much more harmonious with this approach.”
~ Diane Douiyssi
9. Forget work-life balance and commit to work-life excellence
I hate the concept of work-life balance, which can often turn into an overstressed see-saw relationship between work and life. Work-life excellence, however, allows meaningful life to support meaningful work, and vice versa.
Gradually I began to treat the job as if it were a spiritual or heroic journey. I found live allies within the firm and many more from memories, particularly from how the British people survived the Blitz of World War 2 with courage, camaraderie, games of darts and tea in the bomb shelters. I discovered how throughout the firm, many people had simple workplace altars to remind them who they are and what really matters during stressful days.
Some of my favorite tips are:
1. Love the job you're with while you seek the job you love. Treat it as if it were your calling by being fully present to the task at hand. Be open to surprise as you treat workplace challenges as spiritual journey actions.
2. Begin each day with a commitment to purpose; end each day with a daily review and a prayer that lets you leave the work behind.
3. Build restorative body-mind-spirit boosters into your workday. Here's a piece I originally wrote for the American Bar Association, one of several that integrated the richness of spirit with the practical ways of work.”
~ Pat Sullivan
By applying one or more of these suggestions, you can start to create more work-life balance. Remember that this is a fluid process and that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.
The key is to find something that works for you by getting clear what most matters to you. Ultimately, work-life balance is not about having everything, it's about having more of what you really care about.
If you want additional support, I invite you join my email list. Simply fill in the form below, and you'll receive:
- a free mini-meditation (5 minutes) that can help you release stress and get clear on what not to do (this will free up extra time), as well as
- my weekly newsletter with additional tips on how to create work and a life that you really love.
I look forward to staying in contact with you!