The difference between work-life balance and work-life harmony is pretty simple. With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work.
Work-life harmony, on the other hand, allows your work to be a part of your life. Work no longer needs to be seen as “bad” or an unfun activity.
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.
“Work” is seen as a necessary evil you 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 is no balance there at all.
Table of Contents
- How to Achieve a Realistic Work-Life Balance
- Recover the Sense of a Unified Self
- 17 Quick Hacks to Create a Healthy Life Balance
- 1. Start Your Day Early
- 2. Define Your Values
- 3. Rethink Time Management
- 4. Don't Forget to Prioritize Your Health
- 5. Let Go of Fear
- 6. Know When to Say No and Delegate
- 7. The Balance Changes Daily
- 8. Start Journaling
- 9. Proactively Manage Energy
- 10. Work for a Company That Values Work-Life Balance
- 11. Create More Family Time
- 12. Create One Hour a Day to Think and Relax
- 13. Do One Thing You Love to Do Every Day
- 14. Use Your Vacation Days to Relax
- 15. Use Systems to Stay Focused
- 16. Express Gratitude for What You Have
- 17. Practice Resilience
- Final Thoughts
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 for the negativity at work 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.
On the other hand, if one places all positivity into work life, then the work-life balance will look 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, and there will be poor life balance.
Gregory was one of these people…
Gregory is the CEO of a startup company. He started to expand his business around a year ago, and that gained him more reputation and wealth. However, he had no time to take good care of himself. He couldn’t sleep well, often felt stressed, 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 found his 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.
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 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.’
So, think about what you’re doing now. Is it something that allows you to embrace your passion? Or perhaps you might not even know what you love or enjoy doing. Why not explore and reflect on what gives you joy and contentment? Is there an area or industry that you could see yourself exploring to experience that fulfillment?
Can you find a deeper purpose in what you’re already doing?
When you’re able to find meaning in your work, you’re that much closer to achieving work-life harmony.
This will reveal to you a number of things:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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. He enrolled in 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 reprioritize his demands in life and reorganized his schedule.
He also made sure that he had sufficient time dedicated to 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 stressed at work, he knew how to handle this stress. He has since had better sleep and a healthier body and mind!
Eventually, Gregory was able to lead a realistic work-life balance like this:
Your renewed conceptualization from ‘balance’ to ‘alignment’ is an inner transformation that can empower you, whatever your current circumstances are.
If you want to find out how balanced your life is, take the Life Assessment here for free now, and get a customized report now.
17 Quick Hacks to Create a Healthy Life Balance
You will not find life balance suddenly, but you can begin with the following steps:
1. Start Your Day Early
The benefit of getting up early allows you to think and plan before you begin your day. This works well for people who have morning anxiety. People who experience high level of stress may have anxiety in the morning, due to their cortisol being at its highest in the first hour of waking.
Starting your day early will let you cope with morning anxiety before letting it affect the rest of your day, which leads to a healthier life balance.
2. Define Your Values
If you haven’t yet defined your personal values, you can get started with this article. Keep in mind, that your priorities will shift and evolve over time. This is normal and good!
3. Rethink Time Management
Make the most of your time at the office with good time management skills, and watch the value of your work increase.
- If it’s a big task, then it’s good to break it down into smaller bite-sized actions that will provide you with a clearer short-term benefit.
- When setting up tasks, give yourself a time limit.
- Once you have all your tasks written down, it’s time to prioritize them. Since you have a time limit, your focus should be on the top priority tasks. By doing this, you will already be able to get more done in less time at work!
Create a Chart
Creating a chart is an excellent way to help you envisage your day. You can pre-decide how much time you should focus on work, family, friends, and so on.
4. Don’t Forget to Prioritize Your Health
Your health might not be the first thing on your mind when you start your day. However, if you need to create a healthy life balance, you must focus on your health – including weekly exercise, a healthy diet, and quality sleep.
Effective weekly exercise includes both aerobic activities (e.g. walking, running, cycling, swimming) and muscle-strengthening activities (e.g. lifting weights and/or bodyweight exercises). Without an effective exercise routine, your energy levels will decline, and that will impact your ability to work and enjoy life.
A healthy diet is also essential. A recent study of full-time employees revealed that unhealthy eating led to emotional strain (guilt) and physical strain (digestive issues). These emotional and physical strains served as significant factors in decreased quality of performance at work (less helping and more withdrawal behaviors).
5. Let Go of Fear
Many worry that if they’re not working or seen to be working every day, they may miss out on something important. There is a sense that something bad could happen if not enough time was invested.
What if you believed you were good enough, and you were achieving and doing something meaningful. Once you have that belief and confidence, you can let go of the fear that there is “always more.”
This guide will help you get over your most irrational fears: How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)
6. Know When to Say No and Delegate
Saying no is a skill and one that develops over time.
If you feel that you need some time to focus on coping with stress, don’t be afraid to say no to that extra weekend project your boss wants you to take on. Kindly suggest that it can wait until Monday.
Or, if you find you already bit off more than you can chew, try delegating. Delegation allows you to leverage time from an external source, thus giving you opportunities to increase your quality of time.
Remember that delegation should be done with deliberate attention. Otherwise, you may end up over elying on others. If you find that you’re running into the problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.
7. The Balance Changes Daily
When you think of work-life balance, you may imagine an ideal world where you arrive home every weekday at 6 pm. Unfortunately, you may not be able to achieve these work hours every week.
The idea is to achieve balance as often as possible but not to stress out when one day feels a little off.
8. Start Journaling
The habit of writing in my journal felt like a small step but has been transformative. It has become a routine that has affected other parts of my life.
So, start keeping a journal. Commit to writing every day, even if it’s just five minutes, and see where your imagination takes you.
Here are some tips to kickstart journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)
9. Proactively Manage Energy
Many people find that their energy and ability to focus gradually declines throughout the day. If this happens, it may be time to learn how to manage your energy more.
You may need to get more sleep and use other stress management techniques to keep your energy steady throughout the day.
Science says afternoon naps can help boost memory, lift moods, and make you more alert.
10. Work for a Company That Values Work-Life Balance
Instead of attempting to change the dysfunctional culture of a large organization by yourself, do yourself a favor and work for an organization that values work-life balance.
If you’re looking for a new job, try to feel out the company culture during your interview. You can even explicitly ask the hiring manager on their thoughts on work-life balance.
11. Create More Family Time
This area means a lot to me and was one of the reasons I set up my coaching business in the first place.
I have two young children, and I wanted to see more of them and spend more time with my family. I take them to school sometimes and am often home for ‘family dinner’ and bedtime stories. Having the freedom to do this is essential in how I run my business and how I help other entrepreneurs run their businesses.
If you can create a bit of space to spend more time with the people that matter, you will see a massive difference. Here’s a guide on how to maximize family time with plenty of ways you can try immediately.
12. Create One Hour a Day to Think and Relax
I hear the phrase “I don’t have time” constantly. How about you change that mindset and start dedicating one hour a day to yourself?
One hour to work on yourself. One hour for reading. One hour to learn a new skill. This one hour a day could help us become more creative and increase our energy and focus.
13. Do One Thing You Love to Do Every Day
Recommit to do the things that give you the most pleasure. This could be reading, walking, meditating, learning an instrument or a language, or becoming a better cook or gardener.
It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you get joy from that experience. Try carving out time every day to do this one thing.
Do it for 30 days, and it will become a habit. Plus, it will help you reconnect with what you care about.
14. Use Your Vacation Days to Relax
Your paid vacation time is part of your compensation, so failing to use it is like setting cash on fire. Use this time away from work to recuperate your energy and focus on your mental health.
Studies show that vacations not only reduces stress, but also boost brain power and improves heart health.
15. Use Systems to Stay Focused
Do you have systems and habits to stay focused and productive? That’s one of the best ways to save time so that you leave the office on time every day.
You can start by creating some professional assets to increase your effectiveness. You can also experiment with different ways (and different times) to commute to the office.
16. Express Gratitude for What You Have
I believe it’s essential to include proactive gratitude as part of everyday life, to actually look at everything in our lives and appreciate what we have.
Try giving thanks for three things at the end of every day and see how this shifts your mood and mindset.
17. Practice Resilience
If you never had to experience struggles, challenges, or setbacks, you would never be forced to adapt and mature. So in theory, having to face obstacles in life is actually quite necessary.
Most of us think of setbacks and obstacles as negative. Though, if you’re able to maintain an optimistic attitude, you’ll almost always have a higher chance of success in overcoming those obstacles to reach your eventual goal.
Your attitude towards setbacks will determine whether you rise from the challenge or remain stuck in it. So, in order to achieve work-life harmony, it’s important to have a resilient attitude as challenges will always come your way–especially when you strive to integrate work into your life and not a separate or dominant part of life.
Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work-Life Harmony
5 Action Steps
If you have already created a good work-life balance, that’s great! If you’ve read through this list and realized that you’re missing a few pieces, it’s never too late to get started. Find what helps you feel both productive and fulfilled to create a life you can be proud of.
Featured photo credit: Cecilia Medina via unsplash.com
|||^||Healthline: Why Do I Have Anxiety in the Morning?|
|||^||CDC: How much physical activity do adults need?|
|||^||Journal of Applied Psychology: Does a healthy lifestyle matter? A daily diary study of unhealthy eating at home and behavioral outcomes at work|
|||^||WebMD: Health Benefits of Napping|
|||^||Travel and Leisure: 5 Reasons You Need to Take a Vacation, According to Science|