Do you ever wonder how to achieve work life balance without settling at work (and what to do when work life balance feels impossible to you)?
In a world where you’re always busy, increasingly under pressure and expected to do more with less, work life balance can feel impossible. Especially when you want to give 100% to everything you do.
But work life balance doesn’t have to be synonymous with settling in your career. And balancing work with life isn’t as complicated as it seems either. The trick in mastering the work life balance juggling act is in making the right trade-off’s.
In this article, you’ll learn the 3 steps for how to achieve work life balance. And to help you get started immediately, be sure to download 5-Minute Stress Solutions, which has science-backed mindset and stress management strategies for less stress, increased resilience and emotional control.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
When Work Life Balance Feels Impossible
Before we dive into how to achieve work life balance, it’s important that you understand what work life balance really is. Because it’s not the overly generic, one-size fits all definition that looks like a see-saw or scale.
The traditional definition assumes that work life balance is about the amount of time you spend working versus doing everything else, and that you should equalize the two sides. But that’s not realistic (which is why so many people end up frustrated and get to a place where work life balance feels utterly impossible).
The good news is that work life balance has little to do with equalizing your time. Instead, it’s about choice. . . Making choices that you’re happy with (instead of second-guessing them all the time). And how you choose to feel about your circumstances, no matter what’s going on (yes, this is a choice).
The first place you need to start is in how you define what work life balance is. It’s your blueprint for how to make the right choices for yourself so that you can create a life that feels balanced. And that means that it should be tailored specifically to your values, goals, and life.
I’ve extensively covered how to redefine your work life balance definition in another article (if you haven’t read it, I suggest that you do and then come back here).
How to Achieve Work Life Balance and Succeed at Work (aka What to Do When Work Life Balance Feels Impossible)
There are three steps for how to achieve work life balance (that don’t require you to settle in your career):
- Develop a calm, resilient mind.
- Set your priorities.
- Act with intention.
Before we dive into each one, I have a warning: this isn’t for you if you’re not up to making tough choices.
When work life balance feels impossible to you, it’s often because you don’t want to accept that there are trade-offs. But here’s the thing…
Life is about trade-offs. You make trade-offs every day (even if you don’t know it). The key is to accept that you must make trade-offs so that you’re willing to act with intention and make the right ones.
Although it’s not always easy, your path forward will get easier as you go because you’ll start feeling calmer, more confident and in control (instead of chaotic, overwhelmed and stressed out).
Step #1: Develop A Calm, Resilient Mind
If you want to know how to achieve work life balance, the #1 thing is to develop the right mentality. This is the foundation of it all (and you can’t move onto the next step without starting this one). And it happens to be BEST thing to do when work life balance feels impossible – it’s what will turn the impossibility around by giving you more control.
You need to cultivate a growth-oriented and mentally resilient mentality. That’s what will empower you to:
- Act despite fear.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Be resilient to stress and failure (so that you can confidently keep going regardless).
Now the question is. . . how do you do that?
You can use proven practices that change how you relate to your thoughts, rewire your brain to be more present, and create a more positive, resilient mindset.
I’m talking about practices such as meditation, mindfulness, re-framing, and gratitude. None of these are difficult to master (and all can easily be fit into your life).
To help you out (and see how easy it really is), download 5-Minute Stress Solutions. This powerful resource contains proven practices to help you cultivate a strong, resilient mind and drastically reduce stress levels. The best part is that each practice can be done in 5 minutes or less!
Why How You Think Matters In Creating A Balanced Lifestyle
The practices mentioned above work because they help you do two things: (1) become more aware of your thoughts, and (2) change how you process and relate to your thoughts.
This matters because your thoughts are what create your reality. They generate feelings and emotions, which directly affect your behavior. When work life balance feels impossible to you it’s because of your thoughts and the effect they have on your life.
Think about the last time you had an unpleasant surprise, such as your car breaking down on your way to a busy day of work or being interrupted in the middle of an important meeting to pick up a sick child.
How do you typically respond to these types of events?
You might curse your bad luck, complain incessantly, and react in a chaotic frenzy or. . . You might choose to utilize practices to quickly calm your mind and reset while accepting that life sometimes gets messy. Your thoughts have a HUGE ripple effect within your life (both good and bad).
To take this even further, listen to my podcast episode around using Mindfulness For Stress Prevention.
How to Cultivate the Right Mentality: Be Consistent and Persistent
It’s time to start utilizing the strategies and techniques mentioned above so that you can take control of how you process and relate to your thoughts.
Not only will this reduce stress, but it will eventually rewire your brain for better, more positive thinking. And that will change your long-term behavior (creating a positive ripple effect in your life).
Please note that this isn’t a one and done thing. You need to be consistent in your practices.
Your mind is pre-wired to be negative (it’s a survival instinct). Thankfully, it’s also elastic and you can counteract your mind’s go-to instinct to be negative through consistent practice.
To help you do that, don’t forget to grab your copy of 5-Minute Stress Solutions, which includes proven strategies for developing a more positive mindset. Download your copy here:
Step #2: Set Your Priorities
If you want to feel good about your life and your decisions, then you need clear priorities to guide you. The reason why work life balance feels impossible is because you don’t know which trade-offs are the right ones for you (this is what’s making you feel stuck).
Having clear priorities are what enable you to make the right trade-off’s without feeling like you’ve settled. Trade-offs such as:
- Choosing a reduced hours track while your kids are young, or
- Hiring an after-school and evening nanny to help get your kids to/from school and dinner on the table so that you can take a big promotion at work.
Although there are trade-offs with both options, that doesn’t mean you need to feel bad about whatever you may choose. It’s possible to feel great about these type of decisions!
How do you get to that place? By having clarity around your core values, your needs, and your vision for your career and personal life. Knowing these things are what enable you to know what you want – and what’s truly a priority – so that you can make decisions you feel good about (no matter the so-called trade-offs).
Why You Need to Know Your Values
Your values are important to your happiness. They’re your guide to what motivates you – even gets you excited about life. And they’ll help guide you to making the right decisions (especially when faced with tough choices).
Using your values as your decision-making guide is the BEST way not to second-guess yourself or regret your decisions. And honoring your values will give you a deep sense of peace and inner calm.
How to Determine Your Core Values
Let me ask you a few simple (yet for some, difficult-to-answer questions):
- Who are you (note: I’m NOT asking you what you do for a living)?
- What’s most important to you in life?
- Why is that important?
- Who do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
Your answers to these questions will help to reveal your values.
If you’ve redefined what work-life balance means (according to the article I mentioned above), then you know your core values. If you haven’t yet read the article (or have, but haven’t taken the time to identify your core values), that’s your next step.
Personal Needs: The What & Why
You have personal needs that must be met to feel and be your best. I’m not talking about food, water, shelter, or the air that you breathe. Your personal needs are unique to you based on your life’s experiences, current circumstances and your core values.
Here are some examples of personal needs:
- To be accepted
- To be cherished
- To improve others
It’s important to understand that personal needs can be satisfied automatically through habits, routines, and systems. For example, I need to feel emotionally strong and have created a network of support to help keep me strong during times of stress difficulty.
Your needs are important because unmet needs will hijack you – you’ll work (even if subconsciously) to get them met. If you don’t know what they are, it’s difficult to get and keep them met on a consistent basis. And that leads to unhealthy coping behaviors.
How to Determine Your Personal Needs
To determine your personal needs, think about when you’ve felt needy or vulnerable. And also identify when others have hurt you (and you’ve felt betrayed or as if a need wasn’t getting met).
Pay special attention to times of extreme stress, big life changes, and/or emotional challenges. Needs tend to be exposed during these times.
When going through this exercise, be specific about what was going on, how you felt, and why. And then identify common patterns and themes. These commonalities should lead you to needs.
Please note that needs can change depending on circumstances. I recommend you identify the signs that mean a need isn’t getting met (and watch out for them), and to also check-in with yourself occasionally to observe whether any new needs have been exposed.
If you have trouble identifying your needs of understanding how to get them met, get help from a trained coach. There are plenty of coaches that can help you identify and get your needs met.
Redefine Success On Your Terms
One of the most important keys for how to achieve work life balance relates to how you define success for yourself.
Most of us tend to think of success in terms of achievement and financial gain – and as a place you strive to get to. But there’s more to success than that (which is why so many people following the typical path of success end up feeling empty).
If you want to be happy with your success and where you end up, you must redefine what success means to you based on your core values, your personal needs and your unique work life balance definition. And you need to think of it as a way of living.
Success isn’t a place you get to – it’s about how you behave and make decisions for yourself.
Your success definition is what guides you to set goals and make big decisions in life (such as going after a promotion or taking a new job).
If your definition of success isn’t the right one for you, then you’ll either give up unmotivated or you’ll work hard to achieve something you don’t feel good about (and hence feel completely unbalanced in life).
Once you know your values, understand your needs, and set your success definition, it’s easy to determine your true priorities because they are how you live out those things. You live out your version of success by aligning your life around your values while meeting your needs.
For more about how to redefine success in this way, listen to my podcast episode about How To Redefine Success From The Inside-Out.
Step #3: Act With Intention
Once you’ve set your priorities (that meet your needs, honor your values, and empower you to live out your success definition), it’s time to act with purpose.
Acting with intention is about:
- Setting and working to achieve values-based goals that help you live out your success definition.
- Creating (and enforcing!) strong boundaries to protect your priorities and ensure your well being.
- Letting go of non-priorities (by either delegating or dropping them completely).
- Using your unique strengths to help you achieve your goals more effectively (and have more fun).
This is really about prioritizing what’s most important (and letting go of the rest). And make no mistake: this is essential if you want to be successful. It’s especially necessary for anyone in a leadership position. After all, there’s only so much time in the day (and so much of you to go around).
[Want to know what it takes to be a good leader? Ready my article on What Makes A Good Leader (10 Essential Leadership Traits)].
Let’s talk about how to start acting more intentionally…
How to Make Prioritizing Easier: 3 Truths
Prioritizing is about choosing one thing over another and either putting off or letting go of everything else.
The problem is that it’s hard to prioritize. Here’s what to keep in mind:
There’s No Such Thing as Perfect Choices (Otherwise It Wouldn’t Be a Real Choice)
There are pros and cons to every big decision you make. Thinking that you need to make the right or perfect choice puts you under unnecessary pressure and makes it harder to make a good decision.
All you can do is make the best choice for you at that time. One that’s grounded in what you want out of your life and career, what you value most in life, and the priorities of your family.
Luckily, your choice will be easier when using your new success definition as a guide. You’ll have a good reason behind why you’re choosing the way you are.
You’re Always Choosing (Even When You Don’t Know It)
You choose every day. It’s just that you might not be aware of it.
And when you do things according to everyone else’s rules and say that you don’t have a choice, you’re choosing. It’s just that you’re choosing to give up your control.
To help you make these choices a bit easier, remind yourself that:
- There’s risk in NOT making a proactive choice;
- Doing nothing is a choice (and it’s a BAD one);
- Perfect doesn’t exist; and
- You can always course correct if you determine you need to.
Courage Is a Choice (That You Can Start Making Now)
There’s no such thing as being fearless. Courage is about taking the first (and then the next) step forward even though you have fears. That’s something people who are viewed as courageous know to be true (and that you can live by as well).
There’s a bonus to doing this. Each step you take forward increases your self-confidence, making it easier to take the next step forward.
Your #1 Priority is Your Well Being
I want to make something clear: your well being is primary and should come before just about everything.
I know that might sound selfish, but it’s not. Prioritizing your well being will enable you to be and do your best. That means that you’ll be available mentally, emotionally, and physically to serve others to the best of your ability.
Some people have real trouble with this – and feel guilt or shame around it. If that’s you, go read 5 Reasons You Feel Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself (and What to Do About It).
How to Use Your Strengths to Your Benefit (and Have More Fun)
Understanding your strengths is important. They enable you to make a bigger impact – and hence give you meaning and purpose.
But beware: your strengths can be used against you. Ever get roped into something just because you’d be good at it (yet you didn’t enjoy and/or it didn’t relate to a priority)? Make sure that you’re using your strengths to further your priorities and in a way that you enjoy.
To identify your strengths, ask yourself the following questions:
- What strengths do you use to help get things done/make things happen?
- How do you influence others (when it’s easy)?
- What comes naturally to you that’s not easy for others?
- What do people come to you for help with?
Notice that I’m not talking about skills, but instead unique strengths that are inherent within you. If you’re not sure about your answers, ask your family, friends, and coworkers. They’ll know.
3 Common Roadblocks for How to Achieve Work Life Balance (and How to Deal With Them)
As you get started, you’ll probably start feeling better (most people do when get work on their mindset). And then you’ll likely excited as you reconnect with your values and start to redefine success on your own terms. But then you might hit a few common roadblocks.
Here are three areas where you might get stuck (and what to do about each one):
Roadblock #1: You’re Having Trouble Setting and Enforcing Boundaries
Boundaries are rules that enable you to focus on your priorities (with your #1 priority being your well being). Most people focus on the enforcement part when trying to set them. That’s a mistake because it creates confusion around what boundaries are and their purpose (making it less likely that you’ll set strong boundaries for yourself).
What Are Boundaries (And Why Have Them)?
When determining where and how to set boundaries, focus instead around why you want (and need) boundaries in the first place. The entire point of having boundaries is to ensure that you feel your best, are respected by others and can prioritize the things that are most important to you.
Having strong boundaries will give you a more positive outlook on life, increase self-confidence, and improve your relationships (because you won’t feel angry, resentful, or taken advantage of). And they’ll ensure that you’re able to serve others to the best of your ability.
For more about what boundaries are – and how to start changing your mentality around them – listen to my podcast episode around Setting Boundaries For Success here.
When it comes to enforcing your boundaries, you’ll sometimes have to say no. And that can induce anxiety. When that happens, get curious about why. Ask what rule you feel like you’re breaking. And then challenge that.
For example, you might feel like you’re not being nice by saying no. But note that you’re also not being nice by saying yes and later being angry over it. Additionally, consider how well you’re serving other people when being stretched too thin because you didn’t say no when you should have.
Roadblock #2: You’re Not Sure Where to Start
When you haven’t been prioritizing well in the past, it can be difficult to figure out where to even get started. Here are a few easy places to get started:
There are things that you put up with that zap your energy and distract you. These are called tolerations.
Some of the things you tolerate seem minor, yet aren’t. I once had an entire coaching call around a messy closet that was distracting the heck out of my client – it even made her feel inadequate.
Make a list of the things you’re tolerating and start going after them one by one. Start with the easiest first 2-3. And then move up and go bigger. Reducing tolerations will give you more control over your life and will free up mental space and energy.
Limit Clutter at Work (and at Home)
When your space is cluttered, so is your mind. Clean off your desk and in your desk drawers. Put things away at home (and if there’s not a place for something, create one). Throw stuff away.
Also, stop responding to emails. They clutter your mind (yet most are unimportant).
You don’t need to respond to the vast majority of emails you receive immediately (and many never need responding to). Emails tend to seem urgent even when they clearly aren’t.
Put a system in place for when to check your emails, how to follow-up, and for filing them. And communicate this with clients and colleagues.
Eliminate and Reduce Digital Notifications
Unsubscribe from email lists that you don’t need to be on, decrease or eliminate news notifications and updates on your phone, and eliminate notifications from your social media accounts. You really don’t need them.
These are easy places to create simple boundaries (that will give you immediate – and real – relief).
Also, implement regular time periods when your phone is turned off or in another room (so that you’re not being bombarded with email or texts). This is especially important when spending time with family and friends and during self-care alone time.
Roadblock #3: Mindset Blocks
It’s common to believe that you don’t have enough time and/or have no choice. But these are just mindset blocks – excuses that your subconscious is throwing at you that aren’t true.
The truth is that you have the same amount of time as everyone else. And you have plenty of choices (it’s just that you might not have the perfect one – which almost no one has).
With respect to time, it’s up to you to determine what your real priorities are and to make time for them. And with respect to having choices, the real issue (that I see come up again and again within my clients) is fear of making the wrong choice, being judged and/or failing.
Our brains love to convince us that it’s easier to stay put in the “comfort” of what’s known (even though you’re miserable) rather than make a change that has new, unknown consequences. But remember that there’s risk in doing nothing (and the long-term consequences are likely worse).
When you start thinking that you don’t have a choice, get real about what’s going on by saying out loud:
“I’m choosing to [insert what you’re doing] and not make time for [what you want to be doing].”
This will help your brain to realize that you’re making a choice (and might give you a bit of confidence to do something different).
[Recommended Reading: start taking better care of yourself using these 5 Easy Self-Care Activities (You Can Even Do At Work)].
Ready to Make the Choice for You?
We’ve covered a lot today. My question for you is what are you going to do next? Will you start adopting simple strategies to quickly reduce stress (and help make you stronger and more resilient)?
Or are you already doing that and ready to move on to identifying your core values?
Let me know by leaving a comment below now (and ask any questions you have – I will get back to you).
Before you go…Don’t forget to download your copy of 5-Minute Stress Solutions for proven and effective mindset and stress management strategies to help you feel calm, more confident and emotionally in control. These strategies will help you take your first step to creating a healthy work life balance.
Until next time…