Far too many of us know first-hand how an unhealthy work-life balance can lead to burnout over time. Burnout is a serious matter. And when burnout happens, you are forced to invest time towards recovering that would otherwise be spent working on your goals. You need rest, and your body will get it, somehow. If that means getting sick or being so exhausted that you are forced to take time off, so be it. It’s how your body works.
My preference, as I’m sure is yours, would be to choose the times I work and play.
Yet most people struggle to find a healthy work-life balance. The mindset you need to be good at it runs contradictory to the world we live in. Smartphone in hand, it’s not an easy task to detach from all the things vying for your attention at any given moment, and to carve out enough space for leisure.
Beware of Burnout: Avoid These 4 Obstacles to Work-Life Balance
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
Work can mean many things, including a job, school, a side hustle, or a sport. For the sake of this article, let’s classify ‘work’ as something you are engaging in regularly that takes away from your free time.
But for your sake, and for the sake of the goals you’ve set, you may want to consider making your work-life balance a priority.
Below, you’ll find four of the most common obstacles that prevent people from enjoying a healthy work-life balance. Avoid burnout by applying any of these to your life, and you’ll soon see things get better.
You focus too much on things that don’t matter
This is probably the most common reason that people burn out or don’t have a good work-life balance.
Productivity is a useful concept — but it should never override or surpass intentionality. What is your goal? I can guarantee you there are only one-to-two things you truly need to do today to get you closer to that outcome. We don’t like focusing on one thing for long periods of time, because it’s difficult. It’s easier to split three hours bouncing back and forth between eight projects than it is to concentrate on one thing for the same amount of time.
What is the one thing you must do today? Do that, and do it well. If it can’t be done in one day, set a clock on it and work until the buzzer goes off. If there’s time after for minutiae like checking email, reading stats, or hitting the sauna, go for it.
Work-life balance is not a fancy way of justifying your commitment to working less so you can spend more time doing other things. It’s exactly the opposite. Work-life balance is an energy-efficient approach to maximizing the time you spend at work and in play.
You want to be able to flip that switch at the end of the grind at peace, knowing you did something that truly mattered that day. Concentrated focus on one task will give you that result.
You haven’t decided what matters to you most
If you’re working aimlessly, hoping to figure out what you should be doing along the way, you are wasting time. You will be hard-pressed to find work-life balance when you aren’t efficiently using the limited time you have. Make sure you know why you are putting in the work.
My suggestion to you is to block off your working hours until you figure out what matters to you most. What do you want to achieve? What strategy will you use to achieve your goals? Treat this type of guided discovery as work, and don’t stress too much if the answers don’t appear right away. Research, reach out to people, and shuffle through previous experiences. Embrace the process.
Achieving work-life balance will be very unlikely without guidelines that make both fulfilling. Caring about what you do and being clear on why you do it is a good first step or even a way to add a spark into a journey you’ve already started.
You don’t shut it down when you’re supposed to
In my opinion, this is the greatest risk-factor for burnout, and the one that ultimately determines whether you can achieve a healthy work-life balance or not. Do you shut it down when you’re supposed to or not? Are you present with family and friends, or is your head in the clouds? If not, are you willing to take a different approach for the sake of reaching your goals?
It’s a binary decision. No one but you can shut it off when it’s time to call it a day. No one can force you to be present with your family or friends. Don’t justify your inability to control your mind with being “too passionate.” Save that for amateurs. The results you seek do not come from the work you put in. They come when you recover from the work you put in. The space between matters most. Whether through physical recovery or reflection and self-growth, the path to your goals lives inside of that truth.
Work-life balance cannot be achieved by an engine that’s constantly running in one direction. This will only lead to burnout in the longer term, and sabotage your health and goals. You must feed two wolves to truly reap the benefits of a good work-life balance.
You measure your work-life balance in days, not weeks
A day is too small of a sample size to measure success for work and life. On any given day, you are subjected to hundreds of different stimuli in both arenas, all begging for your attention. There will be days when life wins, and you will be dragged away from your point of focus. Balancing work and life means finding ways to eliminate unnecessary stress whenever possible.
My suggestion is to use one week as the container of time within which measure your successes. There’s a natural ebb and flow to a week, opening up slots for you commit to plenty of work and leisure items. It’s also a good way to improve your mindset around getting work done. Maybe you really can’t get everything you want to done on Monday. If you plan for it, maybe you finish it first thing Tuesday before you move on. At the end of the week, look back and see what worked. Consider what didn’t, and fix it for the following week.