How to Make Work/Life Balance Easier
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How to Make Work/Life Balance Easier

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People talk about work/life balance on a regular basis. I read at least one article per week about how necessary that balance is to my career growth and overall health. This is usually followed by a list of tricks to leverage the “life” part of the balance to become more successful at work. Whenever I read these articles, I picture one of those dilapidated, rickety teeter totters in old playgrounds. They’re mostly safe, but it’s really difficult to truly balance them, even if someone of the same exact weight is sitting on the other side. You have to do a lot of maneuvering that wears you out more than it should. Work and life won’t ever balance perfectly, unless you wear yourself down to make it happen. So, instead of giving you advice on how to achieve the perfect balance, I want to share some things to avoid to make finding that balance a little easier.

Stop feeling guilty.
I feel guilty whenever I use my vacation time. I feel guilty when I call out sick if I have a horrible cold and can’t get out of bed. I’ll huddle under the blankets and, in my fever-induced delirium, conjure up every possible scenario in which something could go wrong because I’m not at work. But I’m also wracked with guilt when I stay late at work to finish a project because people at home have to wait on me for dinner or plans. I’ll make a list of all the errands I could have gotten done if I left work on time. It becomes a lose-lose situation. I’m guilty at work, I’m guilty at home. This guilt has pushed me to make choices I’m not 100% happy with in order to force balance that I’m told I should have. So I stopped letting myself feel guilty. If I waste my time agonizing over work guilt or life guilt, tasks I could be accomplishing in either get pushed to the side or are done poorly. Don’t feel guilty for doing your best and know that the balance will be pushed in a different direction all the time.

Don’t put yourself in a box.
Even if we consciously try to avoid labelling ourselves, we still end up giving ourselves a label. For me, this means I call myself either a success or a failure. I think of it as a rating system where one end screams failure and the opposite end is success. In the middle, tasks and projects and social interactions fall somewhere on that line. If I’m being honest, that’s usually closer to the failure end of the spectrum. Stop thinking you’re either highly successful or a major failure; we’re all somewhere in the middle-ish. When you get stuck calling yourself one or the other, there’s almost no point in trying to find a sense of balance that works for you. If you think you’re a failure at work, you may start tipping the teeter totter in favor of work work work. If you think you’re a smashing success at the office, you might start taking success for granted in your life. Basically, no one is a success or a failure at everything. You’ll be better at some things, worse at others. Trying to strike a happy medium in how I think about myself helps me manage work and life in a separate, but equal way. This doesn’t mean consider yourself mediocre for true work/life happiness; just be as realistic as you can be about how well you did something.

Try delegating tasks, both at work and at home.
I find delegating very difficult. I feel that I should be able to accomplish almost everything by myself and that, if I start floundering, it’ll make me look weak. I also hesitate to hand over tasks to others because I like for things to be completed a specific way and I fear that it just wastes time to have someone else do a thing when I’ll just have to go back and redo it later. Asking for help or assigning someone else to work on a project isn’t weakness; it will allow you to come a little bit closer to perfect balance. It will also allow your coworkers a chance to excel and shine, while you relieve a little bit of the stress that kept pulling at you.

Just like eight hours of sleep is not the perfect amount for every human, a perfect work/life balance is different for each of us. I prefer a little more work and a little less life; my sister is the exact opposite. You just have to find out what works for you and go from there!

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