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What is Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance is something a lot of people say they want. But what does this actually look like?

Kara Large

Do you feel like you spend all your time at work? Are your relationships with your friends and family suffering because you’re so busy with your job? Do you want to make a change but have no idea how that could even be possible?

Does every day blur together because they all feel the same? You get up. You go to work. You stay at work until it's dark out. By the time you get home you’re so exhausted all you can do is lay around. And you might not even be able to sleep because you’re stressed about your job and running through each worry you have in your head.

The cycle continues with no end in sight. You can’t remember the last time you took a day off. You’re tired after work. You’re tired on the weekends. Your whole life revolves around your job and recovering from the work day.

I know exactly what this feels like. I used to work in law. I’d be the first one in the office before 7 a.m. and would leave around 8 p.m. I’d get home and crash. All I wanted to do on the weekends was rest. Living this lifestyle made me sick - literally. And that’s what forced me to make a change. In order to recover, I had to realize I couldn’t keep operating the way I had been. So I chose a job that allowed me to actually live my life. 

MacklinConnection prioritizes work life balance for our team. It is important to us that each member of the company gets to live their best life. We take time off when we need it. If we need to take care of our families, that always comes first. And we have helped hundreds of people discover the value of work life balance through our workshops.

Here, we examine what work life balance actually means. By better understanding work life balance, you can start to make manageable changes to live a life that actually fulfills you.

What is Work Life Balance?

Work-life balance seems like a simple concept. You have work. You have your life. You might imagine that each aspect exists on either end of a scale. If you spend more time at work, then you lose some time in your personal life. The goal is getting the two ends of the scale in perfect balance. 

Pretty straightforward, right? 

The problem is, this imaginary scale just doesn’t accurately reflect what life really is and all of the concerns we have.

Think of it more like an engine. There are lots of components to an engine. And if all of these parts are working properly, the engine won’t just run, you’ll actually get more power out of it.

What this means is if you want to be good at your work, you also need to be good at maintaining your relationships. And you also need to be good at taking care of your health. All of these things must be working in harmony with each other. All of these aspects of your life need to be taken care of. 

If you’re not good at taking care of one aspect, all of the other ones suffer as well. On the other hand, you can accelerate all areas of your life when each individual aspect is functioning properly. 

Instead of thinking of it as work life balance, consider it to be just life balance. 

And then you factor in how work fits into your life. How does spending time with your family fit into your life? How does taking care of your body fit into your life? How does your community involvement fit into your life? How do you keep all of these things running in a way so that by taking care of each one, they in turn take care of each other?

Ongoing Approach is Needed to Achieve Work Life Balance

It is important to keep in mind that this balance doesn’t magically come from a one-time fix. Research from Harvard Business Review has demonstrated that true work life balance comes from regularly engaging in a continuous cycle. 

This cycle involves:

  • Noticing where you are. Observe your current situation and reflect on what you feel. Are you stressed? Are you exactly where you want to be in life? If not, is your work the main factor in your dissatisfaction with your life? 
  • Becoming aware of your emotions. After you take some time to notice where you’re at, assess your emotional state. Are you experiencing negative emotions? For example, do you feel bitterness and resentment around how much time your job is taking from your life? By understanding how you feel, you can then start to make decisions about what changes need to be made in your life.
  • Considering your priorities. After you have an idea of your emotional state, you’ll have a more informed perspective to prioritize your time and energy. Through this process, you might consider where you have been making sacrifices, and if this is really necessary. If you’ve been seeing your coworkers more than your family, you might need to question if this is actually how you want to live. Will you regret this in a few years? If so, how can you start to make shifts to make better use of your time?
  • Determining your options. See if you can start to notice where you might have room to realign your life in a way that fits with what you want. Are there aspects of your job that need to change? Maybe there are adjustments you can make in your living situation to feel happier. 
  • Implementing changes. Start delegating more at work. Take initiative to work on projects that make you excited (we tend to complete tasks more efficiently when we enjoy the job). Maybe there’s a different role you can take on that will better fit your needs. Or maybe you just decide to put up firm boundaries around what you will and won’t do. (At MacklinConnection we call this your “stand.”)

This can be a complex process. For most people, it just isn’t feasible to quit your current job without having some kind of backup plan for financial security. But, by starting to move through this cycle, you’ll give yourself space to evaluate where you are. You can then start to make a plan that actually feels achievable.  

It’s also important to understand that you’ll likely have to keep checking in with yourself and working through this cycle. For example, if you are in an industry that favors long work hours, you’ll need to proactively keep yourself from backsliding into that same behavior.

You Can Achieve Work-Life Balance

If you feel like work has taken over your life, you might be struggling to figure out how to take a step back without compromising your career. You don’t want to keep missing out on life outside of your job. But how do you make a change?

At MacklinConnection, we believe you can have a fulfilling life at work AND at home. You shouldn’t have to give up one for the other. In our workshops, we spend a lot of time noticing where we are in life and where we actually want to be. You’re then given the tools and support you need to start making changes. We’ve seen our workshop participants go from being burnt-out to lit up with excitement for life. If it’s possible for them to change their situation, you can too.

To learn more about creating a more meaningful life for yourself, check out these articles: 

Checklist: Is Your Job Right for You?

Do You Feel Stuck?

Why are Connections Important?