Do you feel like you are “winging it” when balancing work and life? Do you often find yourself thinking or saying any of the statements below?
- I am only one person.
- I can’t get it all done.
- I just don’t have the time.
- That person has it all together, why do I feel like a hot mess?
If so, you are not alone! Knowing how to balance work and life, or finding that equilibrium between your work life and life outside of work that makes you content, is more important than ever in today’s unpredictable times.
No matter what career or life season you are in, the below five tips can help you achieve work-life balance.
5 steps on how to balance work and life
1. Understand what work and life balance means to you.
Work and life balance looks different for everyone! Balance doesn’t necessarily mean equal nor does it mean perfection. Sometimes, either work or your personal life takes more weight, depending on what is going on at that moment.
To define what balance means to you, it helps to explore the amount of energy and time you put into your work versus other aspects of your life and how they impact one another. Understanding where you are today is important because it will help you declare where you want to be to feel fulfilled.
Remember, balance is achieved over time, not each day.
2. Focus on the critical few.
It can be overwhelming when looking at a growing to-do list and not knowing where to start. Prioritizing and focusing on the critical few things will help you establish reasonable expectations for yourself and with others as well as understand where you may need to delegate or ask for help.
How do you determine the critical few things? Similar to the Pareto Principle, determine what 20% of tasks, energy or time will drive 80% of the results. Also, determine what tasks are going to allow you to see or accomplish the big picture.
By focusing on the critical few, you can do them well versus feeling rushed to just get them done. Who doesn’t want to get an “A” on the right things, versus a “C” on many things? As much as we all like to believe we can, no one can do it all.
3. Manage your calendar versus the other way around.
This is easier said than done! We have 24 hours in a day and often find ourselves double or triple booked. Technology has also blurred the boundaries between work and home. Block out time to accomplish work, and ensure you have personal appointments and activities on your calendar.
For example, block out two hours on Friday afternoon to wrap up tasks from the week or prepare for the following week. I have found what works best for me, is to create a “to do” calendar block that has my outstanding items detailed in it. I move this calendar block from week to week.
Say no or propose reschedules if needed. If you continue to allow work time to creep into your personal time, the lines quickly become blurred. If you feel conflicted with where to spend your time, take a deep breath, and remember what your critical few things are, as well we how you want to define your balance.
When creating a schedule that works for you, think about the best way to achieve balance at work and in your personal life. It is up to you to keep your calendar in check.
I used to feel guilty leaving work before 5:00 p.m. I remember rushing out the door one day at 3:45 p.m. to get to my son’s soccer game for 4:00 p.m. I saw a co-worker coming in the door as I was leaving and felt the need to clarify that, “I am heading out to my son’s soccer game but will be back online right when I get home.” I had already put in eight-plus hours before leaving that day and accomplished what I needed to.
Several months later in a discussion with my leader regarding work-life balance, I reflected on this and other instances and discovered that I was my barrier to unplugging. I needed to give myself permission to unplug and hold myself accountable in doing so.
The importance of work-life balance is so great because you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to take time to fill your cup and recharge. Give yourself permission to unplug as well!
Everyone unplugs differently. Find what works best for you! For me, it’s hiking with my family or finding a quiet spot and reading.
Live in the moment and make quality time with yourself, friends and family – true quality time.
5. Start small, build consistency and don't compare.
You can’t expect to achieve balance overnight. It takes time and practice. You also need to be fluid as there will be times where your balance is challenged. Once you see success, keep building on it. If you don’t find success, learn from it and move on.
Don’t compare how you manage work and life to others. Remember, it looks different for everyone. Even though you may see someone on social media who appears to have it all together, chances are they don’t. We are all a work in progress in this area!
Searching for a job that provides better work-life balance?
At Schneider, we know the importance of balancing work and life. That’s why we have a huge variety of jobs with various schedules so you can find one that works best with you and encourage using your paid time off in order to rest and recharge.
Lisa originally started at in Schneider in 1996 and then rejoined the team in 2005. Over the last 20 years, she has held various HR roles and is currently the HR Director supporting Schneider Logistics and Intermodal. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay, as well as HR certifications. Lisa is an active GB SHRM board member and serves on the NWTC HR and Leadership Advisory Board.