Sure, we all strive for work-life balance, but is it really attainable? If you’re anything like most Americans, the answer’s probably a resounding “no,” as more and more of us are so bogged down with our careers that we often forget about taking care of ourselves. Hell, as someone who works from home, even when I’m in front of my computer at 8 a.m. to start writing, I still don’t feel like I often get done everything I need to in a day — which typically leads to working long after 10 p.m. on most days. Some may say that’s the life of an entrepreneur, sure, but even those with regular 9-to-5 jobs are doing something similar.
So how can one really achieve this whole work-life balance thing? According to a recent piece in The Atlantic, it might start with readjusting how you think about it.
Look, we all know that there are 24 hours in a day, meaning that, if we devote nine of it in an office to work, plus another hour to commute between home and work, plus just two hours of downtime plus seven hours dedicated to sleep, we’re only left with a whopping five hours to think about ourselves. That might seem like a lot, but let’s think about how those five hours are often spent.
Much of it may be checking emails for work. Or maybe trying to stay ahead and work your LinkedIn messages looking for a new job. Some may have a side hustle that that time goes towards. Or, if you’re married, have kids, volunteer or take part in other activities, you’re probably burning yourself out without much time to just decompress. This is a major problem.
I know the whole premise of Shut Up & Hustle is to, well, shut the fuck up and hustle, but there has to be some sort of work-life balance in order to achieve success. Nobody can be a machine all the time, right?
That’s why readjusting how you think about work-life balance is important, according to Marcus Butts, a management professor at Southern Methodist University, who was quoted in The Atlantic story as saying the below.
Butts says that if you can, you should try to “segment” between your work and nonwork lives. But for jobs in which that’s not possible, he advises that the best way to think about your life is as “one big pie.” Busy people who see work and nonwork as two separate spheres tend to get angry when one bleeds into the other, Butts says. One coping mechanism might be to view your life as a seamless, worky fever dream. As unappealing as that sounds, at least you’re not surprised when it extends past 6 p.m.
Additionally, Butts isn’t the only one who believes that it might be time for people to retrain themselves when it comes to viewing work-life balance. Another person who suggests doing something similar is Brad Stulberg — the author, with Steve Magness, of The Passion Paradox. He added the idea of looking at balance as “seasons,” rather than only hours in a day.
Stulberg recommended seeing balance in terms of “seasons,” rather than hours in every day. “There might be a season where you’re writing a book, and that’s the thing,” he said. “There might be a season when you’re starting a family.” There will probably be fewer productive hours at the keyboard during the family season, and fewer boozy brunches during the book season, and that’s okay.
Of course, this is all easier said than done, but it’s an interesting strategy, as it almost tricks the brain into understanding that, while there might be 24 hours in a day to accomplish everything, when compartmentalized into categories, a person can find themselves more productive, doing the things they want the most.
How Common Is It For People To Struggle With Work-Life Balance?
It’s probably not too surprising to hear that lots of people struggle with work-life balance. But how prominent is it? According to stats released by Small Business Trends in 2018, the United States is in the bottom 20 percent of 38 total countries used in a research on the topic. The results showed that two-thirds of Americans with full-time jobs don’t feel like they have work-life balance, while one-third of employed adults in the U.S. say they work on an average Saturday, Sunday or holiday. Does anyone else see something wrong with this?
How Can People Stop Thinking About Work?
The easy answer to achieving some balance in life is to drop the anxiety that comes with work, right? Go ahead and laugh at that, because we all know that sure as hell isn’t happening. Our careers are our livelihood. It’s where we often feel the most reward. And it’s how we make our primary source of income.
However, there are some ways in which people can stop thinking about work all the time when outside the office. According to the Harvard Business Review, here are three tips that people can try to do to accomplish a better work-life balance.
- Focus on what you’ll do instead
- Change your environment to support your new behavior and discourage the old one
- Step away from work — and watch disaster not strike
That last tip is actually pretty critical. So many of us believe that the well-being of an entire company rests in our hands. If we ignore an email by letting it sit in the inbox overnight, who knows what could be the result, right? Well, it usually isn’t anything major, so once someone starts to begin refocusing on other things, they can typically find more balance.
What Ways Can Someone Find Work-Life Balance?
As mentioned earlier, there’s no magic potion that will suddenly relieve work stress from your life. Finding the right routine for you can be effective, though, and here are just a few ways in which work-life balance might be able to be achieved.
- Avoid checking your phone first thing in the morning
- Start by focusing on one activity outside of work and slowly fit it into your schedule
- Check in with someone, whether that’s a friend, family member or a therapist who can help put things into perspective
- Write lists of tasks you want to get done each day or week. By breaking things down into “seasons,” as Brad Stulberg suggested, you’ll focus on working more efficiency
- Detox yourself by disconnecting from work at a certain time, sticking to a 6:30 p.m. deadline for yourself each day
Understanding how to find work-life balance is up to every individual. Like most things in life, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. But, at the very least, the info and tips from above can help understand how to start taking the necessary steps in order to find the balance one needs so not to get burnt out.