Working Fewer Hours Doesn’t Mean You’ll Be Happier
It’s easy to believe that simply limiting how much you work will result in a greater feeling of happiness. This can work in the short-term. With more “free time,” you can reconnect with friends, hobbies, and your lifestyle. But soon after adjusting your work hours, you’ll feel like you’re out of balance again.
Work-life balance isn’t simply contingent on the number of hours you work (or don’t work) in a week. You might find that you’re just as stressed out and tired after working four hours as you are 40.
You Can’t Evenly Split Your Time Between Work and Life
This is hard to swallow, but important to internalize. You’ll never strike an even balance between work and life. The fact is, how much time you spend on either of these things ebbs and flows. Some weeks you’ll need to put your head down and really concentrate on that big work project, and other weeks you need to fully invest in your family.
Rather than believing that you have to perfectly balance the two, recognize that the scale can slide back and forth. Your sense of balance should be holistic, looking at how these two elements give and take from each other over time, rather than focusing solely on one or the other.
Everyone’s Idea of Work-Life Balance Will be Different
I hate to say it, but there’s no one “perfect” way to balance your work and life responsibilities. It’s easy to believe that your co-worker who clocks out and leaves at 5 p.m. every day has it figured out, especially if they spend the rest of their night posting fun pictures on their social media accounts. The balance that works for them may not work for you.
It’s important that you understand what your goals are, and what it will take to achieve them. For some, that means working an extra 20 hours a week to finish a major project. For others, it means maxing out their PTO as soon as it refreshes.
Your definition of what work-life balance looks and feels like will be unique to you. By carefully examining your relationship with yourself, and your identity both at work and at home, you’ll find a balance that works. Ultimately, you’ll want to create an identity in which one adds to the other, rather than subtracting. To do that, consider these processes.
You’re Focused on Your Priorities
We’ve all got just 24 hours in every day and a to-do list that’s always expanding.
Just accept that you can’t get it all done every day, and that’s ok.
Instead, focus on what’s most important to you and spend most of your time on those things. This might mean that you have to schedule your time a little more carefully. I understand that scheduling things like “family bonding” might feel a little hollow, but it prioritizes that time, ensuring that the quality of time you’re investing is better. Of course, don’t neglect less important tasks, but don’t let them overwhelm you either.
You Understand that Your Balance Might Shift in Response to Different Circumstances
Eventually, you’ll find a balance that feels right. But what feels right today, might not tomorrow. Similarly, what feels right when you’re working one job might feel different at another. Rather than getting stressed out that you’re spending too much time at the office, or that you just can’t get caught up on those home renovations on the weekend, recognize that you have to spend your time somehow, so it may as well be on the most pressing things.
Find the Things that Help You Feel Balanced
I’ve just told you to be flexible in how you spend your time and what to expect from it, but now I’m going to tell you the opposite. Find the things that help you feel balanced no matter the circumstances and commit to them. These are your “non-negotiables.” For some, exercise is a great way to decompress after a long workday, preparing them for time at home. For others, it’s a cup of coffee at the start of the workday. Having little pillars like these give you a sense of structure, even when you don’t feel like you’re doing a great job of being balanced. Embrace these things, make them priorities and you’ll always feel a little more balanced.