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The Real Meaning Of Work-Life Balance (& How To Achieve It)

by | Work Life Balance, Success In Life

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Does work-life balance always feel out of reach? Start by understanding the true meaning of work-life balance because you can’t attain something you don’t comprehend. And unfortunately, the typical definition of work-life balance doesn’t actually work.

Whether you prefer to call it work-life balance, work life integration, or something else entirely, your personal definition of work-life balance is the key to achieving it. In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What work-life balance isn’t.
  • The common reasons behind a poor work-life balance.
  • How to rethink the meaning of work-life balance (and create a personalized definition).
  • Three steps for achieving work-life balance.

Let’s dive in.

 

Table of Contents

What Work-Life Balance Is Not

There are 5 common work-life balance misconceptions that distort the true meaning of work-life balance (leading most of us astray):

 

Top 5 Work-Life Balance Myths

 

Work-Life Balance Isn’t About Equalizing 2 Sides of A Scale

Work-life balance often creates images of a see-saw or scale – with life on one side, work on the other. The goal is to somehow balance the two sides into equilibrium.

There’s just one (big) problem with this way of thinking… It’s not realistic.

The truth is, work takes up more hours than any individual “life” category. And it’s not uncommon for work to add up to more hours than all non-work “life” categories put together (especially during your prime working years).

The real meaning of work-life balance isn’t about balancing two sides of a see-saw (or equalizing two columns of a ledger). Your whole life is integrated. Which brings me to my next point…

You Can’t Separate Work & Life Into 2 Categories

Work is part of life, yet it’s often treated as though it’s separate from your “real” life. But let me ask you:

  • When something goes wrong at work, does it impact your thoughts and behavior outside of work?
  • Does what’s going on in your personal life affect your performance at work?

And what, exactly, gets included within the “life” part? Relationships? Self-Care? Community activities? Hobbies? Your spiritual side?

That’s a lot to fit onto one side of the see-saw.

Besides, didn’t you choose your profession for a reason? Do you derive purpose from your work? You’re likely a “yes” for both of these questions.

The big problem with this way of thinking is that it pits work against the rest of your life, causing an internal struggle between the two. A struggle that can’t be won.

This internal struggle is what causes guilt and shame around working (especially for those of us who want professional success).

Stop discounting the part of you that wants to work. It’s creating an unconscious presumption that career success is bad (it’s not). You’re a whole person and it’s okay to want to succeed in your career.

Tradeoffs Aren’t Inherently Bad (And The Truth Is, They Are Necessary)

When you compartmentalize into 2 boxes, you know what happens? Your brain presumes that it’s an either/or choice, which forces you to compare the amount of time you spend working versus everything else (such as: playing with your kids, bonding with your spouse, or even taking time out for yourself).

As covered above, you spend more time working than doing those other things. So of course, you start to feel guilty about how little time you’re spending doing those things and how much time you’re spending working.

Prioritizing work doesn’t mean the rest of your life must be ignored (or vice versa). Plus, priorities change over time, by season and even based on the day/week (you might prioritize work one day and family the next).

I’m not saying that you won’t have tradeoffs. Life is full of them. And tradeoffs aren’t inherently bad.

The key is to make intentional decisions about what the right tradeoffs are for you based on your values, priorities and circumstances. But when you have a compartmentalized either/or work-life balance definition that riddles you with guilt, you’re not likely to make decisions in this way.

Time Isn’t The Real Issue (For Figuring Out The True Meaning of Work-Life Balance OR Achieving It)

There’s not enough time in the day/week/year… right?

The current work-life balance discussion presumes that time is the biggest issue. Which is why most of the so-called solutions relate to:

  • Being more flexible with your time,
  • Managing your time better, and
  • Being more productive with your time.

Our culture is obsessed with time. And most people are convinced that they’ll be happier, more productive, and more balanced if they just had a bit more of it. But is that really true?

Here’s the thing about time: it’s the one thing everyone has an equal amount of. And, although most people haven’t figured out how to find balance, there are those that have (and are quite successful too).

What do they know that everyone else keeps missing?

Achieving work-life balance isn’t about how much time you have but about how you choose to spend your time. Which – once again – comes down to making intentional decisions around the tradeoffs you’re willing to make.

Work-Life Balance Is Not One-Size Fits All

When trying to create a more balanced life, most of us focus on:

  • Limiting the number of hours worked per week,
  • Getting home by a certain time each day,
  • Having a more flexible schedule overall, and
  • Increasing the amount of remote work.

The problem with these strategies (in addition to their being primarily focused on time) is that they are too limited.

We tend to have a one-size fits all definition of what work-life balance should be, based on having a specific type of schedule (while working more from home). But there’s more to attaining work-life balance than that.

Case in point: despite having more flexibility and an increasing number of employees working remotely, workplace stress is on the rise. Clearly, it’s not just about flexibility, remote work or the time of day you leave the office.

Where This Leaves Us

You and your life are unique. Your circumstances, what you want out of your career, what brings you fulfillment, how you relate to loved ones, and so on – are each specific to you and you alone. It’s time to take that into account when considering the true meaning of work-life balance.

Instead of using society’s (or anyone else’s) meaning for work-life balance, create your own definition for what work life balance means. One that is tailored specifically to you and your life.

And because your circumstances, priorities, needs and desires will change over time, it’s important that your definition not stay static. This calls for a more flexible approach (or framework, if you will). Because how you perceive what work-life balance means today will be different than your meaning of work life balance 5 years from now.

 

Woman drinking coffee, contemplating the true meaning of work-life balance

 

5 Common Causes Of Poor Work-Life Balance

Gaining an understanding of what causes a work-life imbalance can provide valuable insights into the true meaning of work-life balance and, ultimately, help you enhance your own equilibrium.

As someone who serves as a mentor and coach to legal professionals, I’ve discovered that there are five prevalent factors contributing to a poor work-life balance. These causes go beyond simply working long hours.

While excessive work can undoubtedly erode work-life balance, it is often either a symptom or the tip of the iceberg. There are underlying reasons that drive us to work excessively, as well as other often overlooked causes of an unbalanced work-life dynamic.

Now, let’s explore the five common reasons behind a poor work-life balance:

 

5 Common Causes For A Poor Work Life Balance Hardly Anyone Ever Talks About

 

No Autonomy At Work

High-achievers don’t do well when they don’t have autonomy at work. You won’t feel like there’s any upward movement and will worry that no one trusts you. Worst of all, you’ll feel as if you have no control over your career trajectory.

Which (of course) you’ll want to counteract. In my experience, this usually leads to “proving” oneself by taking on more and more…Until you can’t take on any more due to imbalance.

Trying To Do and Have It All

Most high-achievers (especially women) have been raised to believe they can have it all. Which then translates into trying to do it all.

But it’s not possible to do it all. And what does “having it all” even mean?

Let’s say a senior counsel with a young family wanting to be promoted to partnership is presented with a lucrative case that will make big headlines. The type of case that – if handled well – would guarantee promotion to partnership. The problem is that it will require long hours for a lengthy period of time (the case could go on for 2 years!).

Even though she has been waiting for this type of case for years, the timing isn’t ideal. Should she take it, knowing it will mean many long nights, weekend work and time away from her young children (potentially for years)? What if saying “no” means delaying partnership for more than just another year or two?

She has only a couple of options:

  • Take the case while creating sound standards and boundaries to ensure she spends some time with family (yet clearly not as much as she’d like).
  • Say no and risk not making partn for many years (maybe forego the opportunity at her current firm altogether).

There is no perfect answer. She clearly cannot have “it all”.

Pursuit of a meaningful career and life involves making tough choices around what’s most important. This requires thoughtful analysis and intentionality, and sometimes having to choose between short-term tactical concerns (“Should I say yes to being room mom for the year?”) and long-term strategic matters (“Do I take this case to ensure I make partner?”).

Not only is it impossible to have and do it all, living in this way inevitably leads to chronic stress and unwittingly dropping things that are important.

Living A Life of Should’s

Do you primarily do what’s expected of you (without giving much thought to – or ignoring – what you want)? Do you often say yes to others and end up frustrated that you can’t seem to get to the things that are most important to you?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’re living according to what others want for and from you (what I call living a life of should’s). You’ve ceded control over to other people.

Living your life this way will inevitably lead you to attempt to fit it ALL in (other people’s priorities plus yours). But as already discussed, you can’t actually do it all. Over time, more and more of your priorities will be crowded out. And then you end up resenting the fact that you can’t ever get to the things you want.

Prioritizing Too Many Things

Do you feel as if you’re:

  • Always fighting fires,
  • Constantly drinking from a fire hose, and/or
  • Consistently jumping from one emergency to another?

Although you probably think your problem is lack of time, that’s not it. You have a prioritization problem.

It’s easy to think virtually everything is a priority. Especially when faced with decisions that pit short-term issues against long-term strategic matters. But the fact is this: everything can’t be a priority.

When you prioritize too many things you don’t have any priorities at all!

Proper prioritization is a necessary component to achieving work-life balance. And if you’re not prioritizing properly, then it’s difficult to have any control over your life (and hence impossible to find balance).

Which is why improper prioritization is a root cause for poor work-life balance.

Toxic (To You) Work Culture

Your work culture matters. Obviously, if you’re in an overtly toxic culture (of bad managers who scream, requiring you to be available 24/7 and so on), then you’re going to feel stressed, overwhelmed and imbalanced.

But you don’t have to be in a “bad” culture for the culture to be toxic to you. The truth is not all cultures are a good fit for everyone.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

  • Law Firm A has great benefits and supportive managers who take time to train team members. But they also require you to work in the office (remote working isn’t an option).
  • Law Firm B is fully remote with little oversight from managers (you’re expected to figure things out on your own). It pays well but has less benefits than Law Firm A.

Neither place is bad but both could be toxic for certain types of people (and perfect for others).

For example, Law Firm A might be a perfect fit for someone who is outgoing and craves human connection (and a bad fit for an introvert who needs flexibility due to their young kids and ailing parent who lives with them).

On the other hand, Law Firm B would be a toxic place to the attorney who needs human connection yet the right fit for someone who needs flexibility for the next 3-5 years.

Staying in a culture that’s toxic to you will cause feelings of unfulfillment, lack of control and chronic stress. It’s not worth it (find the right fit!).

The Real Meaning Of Work-Life Balance

The five common causes of poor work-life balance discussed above emphasizes:

  • The need to personalize the meaning of work-life balance for each individual, and
  • Why it shouldn’t be a static definition, but rather must be adaptable.

What you need is a flexible approach to your work-life balance definition. Aim for a framework that can be tailored to your personal values and aspirations, and that can also evolve to your changing circumstances, needs, and desires. Which brings me to my three work-life balance pillars:

 

The Real Meaning Of Work-Life Balance - 3 Pillars

 

Craft Your Own Personal Meaning Of Work-Life Balance

When reviewing the common reasons for a poor work-life balance, it’s clear that part of the problem stems from the (very human) tendency to want to please others. This leads to prioritizing others’ expectations ahead of what you want and need.

From my own experience as a mentor to young lawyers and now as a coach, I’ve observed that many even lose sight of their own values. They end up feeling ungrounded and out of touch with who they are. This loss of identity leads to a perceived lack of control over their time and decision-making.

So, how can you regain control?

The key lies in what I call the three pillars of work-life balance: purpose, peace of mind, and prosperity (in time, energy, and spirit). These three pillars will reframe the meaning of work-life balance for you, serving as a powerful framework for shaping your own unique definition of work-life balance.

 

Woman with a better sense of purpose, looking down a read

 

Pillar #1 For Understanding The Meaning Of Work-Life Balance: A Sense Of Purpose

Most people I know get (at least a little) uncomfortable when asked what brings them purpose, meaning and/or fulfillment. If that’s you too, then I have good news…

You don’t have to go on a long quest to “find your purpose”. And no, it doesn’t mean you must “start over” either.

There’s a misconception that finding your purpose is about finding your one true purpose or passion. But for most of us, there’s no such thing! The secret is that you don’t “find” your purpose, you create it for yourself from the inside-out by:

  • Aligning around your core values.
  • Utilizing your strengths for the benefit of others.
  • Forming deep connections.

Let’s dig into what each of these mean.

Your Core Values

Your core values act like an internal compass, guiding you towards decisions that align with who you are. They’re like your North Star, shaping your perspective on the world and where you fit into it. By keeping your values front and center, you naturally make choices that leave you feeling content, empowered to say no without guilt, and clear about your true priorities.

In essence, your core values are the foundation for making intentional decisions that bring you contentment. And as we’ve discussed, being intentional is crucial for achieving work-life balance. That’s why your values play such a vital role in reshaping how you define the meaning of work-life balance.

To learn more about how your core values bring happiness and fulfillment, read my article about How to Redefine Yourself Into Happiness here.

Your Strengths

Finding meaning and fulfillment in life comes – at least partially – through making a significant impact. And the most powerful and effective way to do that is by leveraging your unique strengths to serve others.

Your strengths go beyond mere skills. They are innate qualities that people recognize within you and are drawn to. When you utilize these strengths, it not only benefits others but also gives you an incredible sense of satisfaction.

By incorporating your strengths into your personal definition of work-life balance, you can experience happiness and fulfillment in a way that brings you genuine joy.

Not sure what your strengths are? We’ll get into how to identify them below.

Connection

Belonging is an inherent need for humans. It’s about being accepted, loved, and needed. This requires forming deep connections with others.

But here’s the thing: I’m not just referring to feeling connected to your immediate circle of family and friends. It’s crucial to actively seek connections within a larger community and the world as well. Without that, you’ll feel like you don’t belong in this world.

So, when we talk about work-life balance, we mustn’t overlook this aspect of connection. Take a moment to reflect on what you require to feel a stronger sense of belonging. Consider your relationships within your family, a larger group (of friends and colleagues), your community, and even the world. It’s all part of understanding the true meaning of work-life balance.

 

Happy woman with peace of mind sitting on a countertop

 

Pillar #2 For Understanding The Meaning Of Work Life Balance: Peace Of Mind

Peace of mind is about contentment. Your starting point is to align your goals, decisions and behavior with your values. By doing this, you can avoid overanalyzing and second-guessing major life choices.

However, finding peace of mind and achieving work-life balance involves more than just values alignment.

It is equally important to develop a resilient and growth-oriented mindset that allows you to stay present and calm amidst life’s challenges. This mindset empowers you to make intentional, well-informed decisions instead of reacting emotionally during difficult times. Moreover, cultivating this mindset fosters a sense of positivity and groundedness.

When we talk about the meaning of work-life balance, it encompasses:

  • Being resilient to stress,
  • Maintaining a calm demeanor,
  • Staying present in the moment, and
  • Feeling grounded and content.

That is what peace of mind really means.

 

A woman who is prosperous in time, energy and spirit

 

Pillar #3 For Understanding The Meaning Of Work Life Balance: Being Prosperous In Time, Energy & Spirit

When we talk about prosperity, we often associate it with money. However, that’s not what I mean when I refer to achieving work-life balance.

What I mean is:

  • Making time for what truly matters to you, including taking care of yourself.
  • Feeling energized and motivated by your life, instead of constantly feeling drained.
  • Being confident in your decisions and how you present yourself to the world.

Without these elements, work-life balance loses its true meaning. It’s important to consider all of these aspects when striving for work-life balance.

And again, your own meaning of work-life balance will be unique to you, based on your values, current situation, and needs.

The Meaning Of Work-Life Balance For You

Achieving balance is attainable as long as you release the rigid, either/or concept (which is impractical!) and redefine it based on what gives you purpose, brings peace, and fosters prosperity in time, energy, and spirit.

These three pillars form the essence of the true meaning of work-life balance. It’s a fresh perspective that can be tailored over time to suit your individual needs, desires, and circumstances.

However, don’t stop at merely creating a new, customizable understanding of work-life balance. These pillars serve as your guide to how to create the right balance between life and work for you.

Blueprint For Achieving Work-Life Balance

Now that you more fully understand the meaning of work-life balance (and have your own individual work-life balance definition), it’s time to create the balance between work and life that you want.

Here are your next steps for actually achieving work-life balance:

 

3 Steps To Achieving Work-Life Balance Infographic

 

Step 1 For Achieving Work-Life Balance: Cultivate A Growth Mindset

Your starting point for achieving work-life balance is to develop a mindset that is growth-oriented and resilient. Without the right mentality, it will be difficult to take the necessary action needed for achieving work-life balance.

Your mindset is what determines how you approach life. It influences your decision-making. And your goal is to train your brain to:

  • Be calm under pressure (and not ruled by emotion).
  • Take intentional action (despite fear, worries and doubts).
  • Be stress-resilient (so that you can confidently keep going and learn as you go).
  • Have a grounded and positive outlook (even when life feels chaotic).

How do you do that? Through the use of proven tools that are designed to change how you relate to your thoughts, process them and even think. Tools like cognitive reframing, gratitude, journaling, affirmations, mindfulness and meditation. None of these are difficult to master (and all can easily fit into your life).

It’s important to note that these tools aren’t one-and-done. And you don’t have to use them all at once or all of the time. Think of them as tools within your mindset toolbox.

That being said, you will want to utilize at least a few of them regularly so that you can rewire your brain the way you’d like. Which tools you use regularly are up to you – and will depend on current circumstances, needs and even your own personality.

 

A woman using the mindfulness tool of journaling to manage stress

 

The Benefits: How These Work-Life Balance Strategies Work

The mindset and stress management tools mentioned above will help you:

  • Become more self-aware of your thoughts and stress triggers,
  • Process your thoughts in a healthy way, and
  • Change how you relate to your thoughts.

They will change your habitual reactions and enable you to adopt better habits over time. Basically, they will help you to stay calm no matter what curve balls get thrown your way and make more intentional decisions. Which means that – over time – not only will your reactions change but the thoughts themselves (even some beliefs) will change too.

Think about the impact this could make in your daily life.

When something unexpected happens (such as your car breaking down on your way to work or a client cancelling a big project you were counting on to make your revenue goals for the year), how do you tend to react?

Do you curse your bad luck, react emotionally and then complain incessantly? Or do you take a few minutes to mindfully breathe (maybe even meditate or journal) so that you can calm your stress response, reframe the situation and move forward intentionally (and more positively)?

Think about the ripple effect of each of these responses. One clearly has a better ripple effect than the other (and one is likely to cause added stress).

You cannot force what you want to happen. Nor can you control other people. But you can control you – how you process your thoughts and how you respond. This where you have full control.

Dive deeper into how to cultivate the right mindset and not just manage – but prevent – stress within the following resources:

 

Picture of a clock shows how important it is to prioritize your time wisely

 

Step 2 For Achieving Work-Life Balance: Prioritize What’s Truly Important

We often prioritize based on what feels most urgent, not necessarily based on what’s most important.

Because the truth is that the project you’ve been asked to help a colleague on that needs to be done ASAP may not be a priority for you. Yet it is likely to be prioritized due to urgency (which, along with your desire to please your colleague, may have falsely seduced you into believing it IS urgent).

And also because the short-term desire to get something off your plate (that doesn’t take a lot of brain space) often takes precedence over long-term strategic work (that is more important but takes more brain power and time).

Achieving work-life balance requires that you prioritize properly. There is a finite amount of time in each day, week, month and year. Which means that you must make tough choices around what’s a true priority, what to delegate to others and what to drop.

This begs the question… How can you ensure you’re prioritizing correctly?

You only need to do two things:

  1. Use your values as your guide.
  2. Utilize the Eisenhower Matrix.

Know Your Values

It’s impossible to prioritize properly if you aren’t crystal clear on what your values are. Because your values are what determine what you truly want out of work and life (and hence, your priorities).

It’s time to define what your values are – with specificity. Not sure how to put words to your values (or uncertain how to identify them so specifically)?

Don’t stress (it’s not like we learn this stuff in school). The good news is that they’re in there – your subconscious knows.

Get started by identifying:

  • The principles you hold dear (and why).
  • When you tend to be upset with yourself because you’ve dishonored something you feel to be important (i.e., a principle or value).
  • The times when you’ve felt most grounded and content.

Look for patterns and identify the similarities. They point to your values.

Pick a word for each value that best represents what it means to you. But don’t worry too much about the word you choose. What matters is how you choose to define what the word means to you.

Here are a few examples of potential values:

  • Connect: to be present and listen fully when with other people, and to seek out ways to understand others more fully (even strangers).
  • Service: to inspire others to be their best and fulfill their fullest potential while serving them in the best way possible, given the circumstances.
  • Be the best: give 100% effort on everything (including work, hobbies, relationships).

Now it’s your turn! Identify and define your core values.

Want more guidance around values (and how to stop feeling stuck by aligning around them)? Listen to this Life & Law Podcast about How To Get Unstuck In Your Career here.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a prioritization tool named after the 34th President of the United States and five-star general, Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Eisenhower quoted an unnamed university president as saying:

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

While I do not agree that what’s urgent is never important (and what’s important is never urgent), the unnamed university president had a point.

We often prioritize based on how something makes us feel (not necessarily based on what’s most important), which is how you end up:

  • Prioritizing too many things (and not getting much done as a result).
  • Spending too much time on easy, quick things (and not enough time on long-term strategic priorities).
  • Feeling as if you’re always drinking from a fire hose, with zero free time of your own.

The Eisenhower Matrix will help you clarify what is and is not a priority, while also identifying where you need to implement or strengthen your standards and boundaries.

How To Use The Eisenhower Matrix

There are four quadrants to the Eisenhower Matrix, which looks as follows:

 

Eisenhower Matrix Infographic

 

Quadrant 1: Do

Quadrant 1 is for tasks that are both urgent and important. In order to be included in this quadrant, a task must:

  1. be truly urgent (i.e., need to get done within the next 24-48 hours),
  2. have clear consequences if not completed, and
  3. relate to or impact a value or goal.

These are the activities that go onto your current to-do list.

Quadrant 2: Schedule (& Do)

Quadrant 2 activities are not urgent yet are priorities. This would include activities that relate to a goal or your work that aren’t urgent because they are not “due” or aren’t due for some time. Although these are not urgent, they are important.

You will want to get into the habit of tackling these items once your urgent priorities are finished. And even more importantly, you’ll want to schedule many of these items into your calendar (and then do them as scheduled).

This is where time management tools and strategies can best be utilized (along with, to some extent, with Quadrant 1 activities). My favorites are:

  • Time blocking (where block of 90-minutes to 2 hours of time to get big work done).
  • The Pomodoro Method (working in 25-minute periods with 5-minute breaks).
  • The Pareto Principle (the idea that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your actions, so you should focus primarily on the 20% that gives you the best results).
Quadrant 3: Delegate (& Build Boundaries)

Quadrant three includes urgent tasks that:

  • Do not relate to a goal (or a value),
  • Can be done by someone else (either just as good or good enough), and/or
  • Would not be the best use of your time.

Although these tasks are urgent, they likely do not require your specific skills to complete and can be delegated to someone else.

A note: sometimes you feel obligated to do these tasks because you committed yourself to them and feel no one else can do the job within the timeframe required. It is okay to do them once, so long as you say no to them moving forward.

In my experience, this is where most high-achievers have the most trouble. We do not like to delegate, think we need to do it all and worry about letting go of control. And we also don’t like saying “no” for fear of being judged.

Yet this is where you can save yourself the most time, hassle and worry. Delegating and saying no to Quadrant 3 tasks will quickly change your life for the better.

To help you with this, I recommend listening to the following Life & Law Podcast episodes:

Quadrant 4: Delete

Once you’ve gone through the three prior categories, you might have a few things left over that you spend time on yet (if you’re being honest) have realized are time-wasters and distractions.

These are Quadrant 4 activities that can be dropped and deleted (without any real consequence). So… drop them!

 

Woman working with intention at her desk

 

Step 3 For Achieving Work-Life Balance: Take Intentional Action

You know your priorities. Now it’s time to take intentional action so that you can prioritize what’s truly important to you.

Taking intentional action requires that you do three main things:

  1. Set standards for yourself.
  2. Have clear boundaries.
  3. Manage expectations (for yourself and with others).

The Interconnection Between Standards, Boundaries & Managing Expectations

Standards are the principles and behaviors that you hold yourself to. Boundaries are the standards of behavior that you set with other people. The point of each is to protect your wellbeing and enable you to prioritize the things that are important to you.

The difference is that standards are your own internal rules, boundaries are external rules with consequences.

To give you a clear idea of the difference between personal standards and boundaries, let’s say you have trouble staying on task at work due to a near-constant barrage of emails, phone calls, instant messages and walk-into-your-office interruptions from other people.

You’ll want to strengthen your own standards around when you check email, answer calls and have your instant messaging on. Perhaps you need to block off a specific amount of time each day for deep work where your email plus message applications are closed and phone is forwarded to voicemail.

But then you’ll also want to set a boundary around not being interrupted during that time. The boundary would be set with other people.

A couple of important notes around boundaries…

You must communicate them clearly. And also: they must have consequences. Not everyone will follow your rules all of the time (heck, some may never follow them). Which is why there must be a consequence for each boundary that you set.

Standards and boundaries (and the communication of your boundaries to others) will require you to manage expectations – of yourself and others. Be honest with yourself about your abilities, strengths and needs. And remember that you cannot be all things to all people.

In order to show up as your best and do your best for others, you must be well. Manage your own expectations and be realistic about what that means. And then communicate that to others clearly.

 

Two women working together who understand the meaning of work-life balance

 

5 Truths To Remember When It Comes To the Meaning Of Work-Life Balance (& How To Achieve It)

Truth #1: Perfect Does Not Exist

Remember that decision-making involves tradeoffs. There are pros and cons to just about everything.

Which means there is no such thing as the perfect choice. Thinking that way 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 while taking into consideration your values, needs and current circumstances (and also what you know at the time).

Remind yourself that you’ve chosen with intention, which is the best you can do. This will enable you to be content with your decisions no matter what (even if – through hindsight – you later realize you would make a different one).

And please note that doing nothing is a choice. So is choosing to follow the crowd. It’s just that these choices mean ceding your control to others.

Truth #2: You Can’t Do Your Best For Others If You Aren’t Doing Your Best For You

I want to make something clear: your wellbeing is primary and should come before almost everything else (even those things you have on your to-do list for the day).

That might sound selfish, but it’s not.

Prioritizing your wellbeing will enable you to be and do your best (at work, home and for the benefit of everyone you serve).

Still feel self-care guilt whenever you prioritize yourself? Read my article on the How To Stop Feeling Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself here. This will help you make the mindset shift necessary to prioritize your wellbeing above all else.

Truth #3: Your Strengths Make Taking Action More Enjoyable (Even The Hard Stuff)

Remember our discussion about strengths? They make goal achievement (and even your day-to-day work) more enjoyable.

Leverage them within your work, goal-achievement strategies, and anything else you possibly can. Use them in service to others – be useful. And pay attention to the impact you make when leveraging them in this way.

But beware: your strengths can be used against you.

If you’ve ever been roped into something just because you’d be good at it, then you know what I mean.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, any time you’re asked to do something because of your special strengths and skills, take a few moments to analyze whether what you’re being asked to do is a priority and how much time you have to help.

And think through how you’d most enjoy using your strength(s) to assist. Don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer!

Not sure what your strengths are? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What natural abilities do you have that help make things happen?
  • How do you influence others (in a way that feels easy)?
  • What comes naturally to you that’s not easy for others?
  • What do people come to you for help with?

Also ask your family, friends, and coworkers. They’ll know.

Truth #4: Going Solo Isn’t The Way (Instead, Support Yourself)

As noted above, human beings are not built to do everything on our own (despite our desire to prove we can).

Although going solo might feel good when you achieve what you want, consider how much better you’d feel (and how much more quickly you could achieve what you want) if you opened yourself up to:

  • Support from peers on a similar path.
  • Accountability from people you trust.
  • Knowledge from experts who have been there and prevailed.

Behind every success story is a support network of peers, mentors, sponsors, friends, family and others (sometimes including a coach!) that are there to share knowledge, keep you accountable, improve your creativity and support you through what feels hard.

Real-time support and accountability is your bullet train to getting you where you want to be. But don’t just rely on anyone. Be intentional about who you include within your support network.

For example, assigned mentors at work can be great. But often they’re not the right fit. It’s up to you to ensure you’ve got the support you need to succeed in BOTH career and life (meaning: happily).

A support network is meant to be used – so go to them often to ask questions, run through big decisions and seek out advice. This is part of that connection piece we talked about above. Connecting with people involves active effort. Especially in an ever-increasing remote-working world.

Yes, it’s work (but work that will reap big benefits for you and your career).

To learn more about how to put together the right support network, listen to Episode 79 of the Life & Law Podcast (entitled My #1 Success Strategy) here.

[Thinking of including a coach within your support network? Here’s how partnering with me through coaching can help.]

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In Summary: The True Meaning Of Work-Life Balance (& How To Achieve It)

Looking for a better work-life balance?

  • Forget the old-fashioned idea that work-life balance is the same for everyone (it’s not).
  • Understand the 5 common causes of poor work-life balance (and which ones affect you).
  • Define your own personalized meaning of work-life balance by focusing on what gives you purpose, peace of mind, and prosperity of time, energy, and wellbeing.
  • Adopt a growth mindset to take the necessary steps towards achieving the balanced life you desire.
  • Learn how to prioritize effectively using the Eisenhower Matrix.
  • Take deliberate action to realign your life around your priorities (and support yourself with high standards, clear boundaries and by managing expectations).

You deserve a balanced life, and the good news is that you have the power to create it, starting right now.


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Hey there, I’m Heather

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FORMER BIGLAW LAWYER (FOR 18+ YEARS)

LAWYER LEADERSHIP & BUSINESS COACH

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CANCER SURVIVOR

I’m here to help purpose-driven lawyers and other professionals (like you) build the career you want so that you can enjoy your successes (and ditch stress, perfectionism and overthinking for good).

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