How Can I Avoid a Work-Life Imbalance?
You can avoid a work-life imbalance by prioritizing your various needs and obligations, managing your stress in positive ways, and sometimes by adjusting your work schedule so that you are able to be more productive in a shorter amount of time. A work-life imbalance can often decrease work performance over time because longer hours spent at work tend to be wasted more frequently rather than used constructively. Balancing work and free time is one of the main ways to minimize various problems, such as family dysfunction and stress-related illnesses. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is usually considered essential to improving your quality of life as a whole.
One of the first effective steps to avoiding a work-life imbalance is to keep a list of both job-related and life-related factors that are the most important to you. If you work for a company, getting a promotion or pay raise may be one of your goals. People commonly believe that long hours at the office are prerequisites to this goal, but productivity experts often report that performance actually diminishes when jobs place high demands on an employee's time. Spending time with your family and cultivating your outside hobbies are also likely to be entries on your lists, so making regular time for these areas is another component of a work-life balance. If your employer imposes unrealistic expectations, such as very long workdays or the belief that employees should have no outside interests other than the company, you are usually better off finding a different job that allows for a better balance between life and work.
Mental stress is a common problem that stems from a work-life imbalance, and high levels of it can eventually lead to physical ailments as well. Employee stress also frequently costs companies money in terms of lost productivity. Reducing your work-related stress can usually be done by planning ahead for important events in your job or personal life, making contingency plans in case things do not go as expected, and sometimes declining additional projects when you already have a full schedule of work to be completed. Adding physical exercise to your regular routine can also be helpful in decreasing stress and increasing your productivity.
Getting more organized on the job is an additional way to avoid a work-life imbalance. Keep in mind that you may not always be able to complete everything during the same workday, and this situation can often be managed by assigning priority levels to different tasks. Delegating and asking for help are other ways to improve productivity and to work more intelligently.
@Phaedrus, I have one of those kinds of jobs, and I can't tell you how many important family things I've missed because I wanted to make a few more sales before I went home. Now my oldest son is graduating from high school and I barely remember seeing him grow up. I have a young daughter, too, and I don't want her growing up not really knowing who her dad is. I'm moving to a different division of the company in a few months, which means a bit of a pay cut for me but the hours are going to be much better.
I think when people have definite work schedules, like a 9 to 5 office position or a first shift factory job, then it's much easier to work out a good work-life balance. Work takes priority during a certain part of the day, then life takes over when it's quitting time. But there are certain kinds of jobs where working later equals more income or more prestige. I think those are the kind of open-ended work situations that can seriously mess up the work-life balance.
I'd say if you have the kind of job that requires or encourages extra work hours, then you have an obligation to set some boundaries with your employers. You can tell them you understand the job may require some overtime commitments from time to time, but you also need to be home with your family, too. Be firm on this point. No job is worth the total sacrifice of a happy personal life.
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