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Last Updated on January 28, 2021

How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance

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How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance

Kate is a hard-working manager working at a startup company. She toils at work but gets that nagging feeling that she’s missing out on living her life. And then perversely, when she’s not working, she tries to switch off ‘work-mode’ to enjoy her passions, friends, family. But eventually, she finds that she just doesn’t have the energy.

Many people are like Kate, misunderstanding the true meaning of work-life balance. They try to keep ‘work’ and ‘life’ separate, but this brings undesirable results.

The Mystery of Work-Life Balance

Those who are trying to maintain a work-life balance only by dividing their time – by driving a sharp wedge between work-mode and life-mode – are inadvertently dividing themselves.

When people juxtapose ‘work’ and ‘life’, they unconsciously think in terms of ‘work’ versus ‘life’ – and are constantly forced to choose one at the expense of the other.  In this framework, a gain on one side is always a loss on the other side.

And so, people start to see ‘work’ as the times when they are not living their lives. ‘Work’ is seen as a necessary evil that they must suffer through until it’s time to switch off. But if you encode everything related to work as negativity and suffering while your ‘life’ strains under the weight of unrealistic expectations of enjoyment, there really is no balance there at all.

Rebalancing work and life is possible by seeking out a new and enjoyable job to a certain extent. But no job is perfect. There are always going to be tedious aspects of any job. And before long, you’ll wind up on the same ‘life’ versus ‘work’ see-saw because you haven’t changed the old framework.

How to Achieve a Realistic Work-Life Balance

The true goal is to redistribute the positive (+) and negative (-) evenly across life.

Most people try to make it all positive off work to compensate the negativity at work like this:

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most people's work-life balance looks like this

    If it’s all negative at work and all positive when the work mode is switched off, the work performance will suffer – creating even more negativity. People will lean heavily on their off-mode life for happiness, but they can’t truly achieve happiness because they are not facing the problems at work.

    Conversely, there are those who do strive to put positivity into their work life. Their work-life balance looks like this:

    Some people's work-life balance looks like this

      Unfortunately, if these people are still stuck in the old on/off framework, all the negativity will shift to their off-mode self, and their relationships and health will suffer.

      Gregory was one of these people…

      Gregory is the CEO of a startup company. He loves his work and puts his heart and soul in it. He started to expand his business around a year ago and that gained him more reputation and wealth. However, since almost all of his energy was spent on his work, he had no time to take good care of himself. He couldn’t sleep well, often felt stressful, and suffered from back pain and continuous stomachache because of stress. These health issues even started to affect his work performance.

      He took our Life Assessment and this was his result:

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        Gregory’s focus was solely on his career. He simply neglected other aspects of his life, particularly his health. At that time, his body was warning him to change his routine.

        On the other hand, very few lucky people experience positivity on both sides of the equation. Their work-life balance looks like this:

          If you are one of those who experience positivity from both sides, lucky you! You are one of the less than 5% of the population.

          For the rest of the 95% of the population, here is a cure to having a realistic work-life balance.

          Recover the Sense of a Unified Self

          The solution is to recover the sense of a unified self.

          When you do, you’ll dismantle the competing work/life binary, and you’ll stop unconsciously labeling work as ‘suffering’ and life as ‘enjoyment’. Positive energy will begin to flow smoothly and effortlessly throughout your life.

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          To recover the sense of a unified self, ask yourself: Why do I really do what I do in life and work?

          Your answer to this question makes up your blueprint of a unified self, charged with meaning that relates directly to who you are and what you care about.

          Use your blueprint now to examine your life at work, your leisure time, and your relationships, and see if they align with each other. The new framework is no longer ‘balance’ but ‘alignment’.

          This will reveal to you a number of things:

          1. There are aspects of your work that are not suffering: Look again and you’ll find many positive aspects that reflect what you care about. For example, you may value creativity, and realize that you get the opportunity to show it at work every day.
          2. Things you care about at ‘work’ are the same as what you care about in your ‘life’: For example, you may value friendship in your life, and you also practice this value with your colleagues. Your values exist in all your interactions and serve your unified self.
          3. What you do at work and what you do in your life support and enhance each other: For example, the same generosity you show your friends can forge good client relationships when practiced at work. Your resourcefulness at work can be used to solve obstacles in your personal life.

          Crucially, you never need to use the on/off work model again because you’re constantly acting in accordance with what you truly value. As a result, you’ll find that your positive energy will not be subject to draining or overflowing, off/on, but will instead flow consistently through all your states of being in a perpetual positive feedback loop.

          Going back to Gregory, after realizing how much he had to change his daily habits, he decided to sign up for a programme that could help him effectively. So he enrolled for our Full Life Framework Programme.

          With the Programme and the help of my team, Gregory started to understand the importance of leading a full life – that a life aspect that wasn’t taken care of carefully could bring down all other aspects. He first learned to reprioritized his demands in life and reorganized his schedule. He also made sure that he had sufficient time dedicated for self-care and exercising. In addition, with the help of our Busy Yet Fit Programme, he began doing workouts at home to build back muscle to help relieve his back pain. Since he started to learn how to take good care of himself, even when he felt stressful at work, he knew how to handle this stress. He has since had better sleep and a healthier body and mind!

          Eventually, Gregory is able to lead a realistic work-life balance like this:

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            Your renewed conceptualization from ‘balance’ to ‘alignment’ is an inner transformation that can empower you whatever your current circumstances are.

            For example, it may reveal that you truly are suffering in your current job. But now you can unroll your blueprint to identify the cause of the negativity (i.e. what isn’t aligning with what you value?) and either remind yourself why you’re really doing what you’re doing, make a tweak, or change your job.

            Even in the latter, you can still be sustained by positivity until you find that new job. You may hate your everyday tasks, but one of the things you value is to be a good provider for your family – so you’re spurred on, knowing that you’re doing that every day.

            Or if you’re a workaholic, your blueprint may reveal that what you previously undervalued as ‘off-mode’ (relaxing, having fun, pursuing a passion, spending time with family and friends) actually contains a wealth of values that support – and even enhance – a well-rounded working life.

            If you want to find out how balanced your life is, take the Life Assessment here for free now, and get a customized report!

            Final Words

            A value-rich and optimally tuned work-life alignment helps maintain a flow of positive energy and happiness in all aspects of being. So go ahead and make the blueprint for yourself!

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            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on September 16, 2021

            Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

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            Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

            If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

            Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

            Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

            Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

            Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

            1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

            Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

            For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

            Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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            Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

            That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

            2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

            Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

            The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

            So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

            Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

            The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

            Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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            Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

            Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

            3. The PEW12 Method

            Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

            Here’s how it works:

            Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

            You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

            At the end, burn the pages.

            As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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            And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

            The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

            But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

            4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

            Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

            For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

            I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

            And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

            In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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            These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

            5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

            Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

            At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

            If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

            But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

            The Bottom Line

            For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

            Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

            You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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            Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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