Do you find yourself wondering, “What do I want to do with my life?” Maybe it’s because work has been burning you out. Endless streams of tasks, tight deadlines, and pressure from management can take a toll on your well-being.
Scientists and psychologists worldwide emphasize the importance of maintaining a work-life balance. If you’re tired of fighting with burnout, this article is for you. It explains why you feel stressed with an improper work-life balance and shares advice from scientists on what you can do about it. Read on!
People often find themselves pushing to get work done—that’s called discipline. On the other hand, individuals can be driven by their internal forces, which is motivation that can be intrinsic or extrinsic. One great extrinsic motivation example is when you get a financial reward for doing your job well. On the contrary, intrinsic motivation is about your inner achievements. For example, when you learn new disciplines to become a more experienced specialist.
While discipline is the opposite of motivation, many scientists claim the key is finding a golden middle ground. For example, psychologist Edward Deci asserts that motivation is essential for long-term success. In his view, people are more goal-oriented when they feel a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When it comes to discipline, psychologist Angela Duckworth believes that this quality is much more important than intelligence or talent because it enables people to overcome obstacles.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is a concept devised by psychologists to understand how much time an individual dedicates to work or personal life. To determine your equilibrium, you need to calculate the time spent on work responsibilities and compare it to the time dedicated to family, friends, or enjoyable activities.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution because everyone sets their unique work-life balance norm. Someone might be productive working 40 hours a week, while others may need less time to complete job tasks.
The first sign of an unhealthy work-life balance is constant overworking. You might feel that working more hours could help tackle more tasks. Nonetheless, no matter how much you work, your list of responsibilities remains endless. You might also feel pressure from management, pushing you to take on more and more work.
While you might think that putting in extra hours is harmless, it takes a toll on your nervous system. It simply can’t keep up with the stress that accumulates throughout the day, leading to burnout in the long run. Here are a few more reasons why having a healthy work-life balance is a good thing:
- Improved well-being. Workplace stress negatively affects overall welfare. You may experience morning fatigue, have trouble sleeping at night, and feel completely drained throughout the day. Conversely, an optimal work-life balance contributes to an improvement in overall well-being. According to BMC Public Health, working adults struggling with a poor work-life balance are likelier to say their general health isn’t good.
- Enhanced job satisfaction. When you engage in tasks that are truly important and interesting to you, it frees up more energy for productive problem-solving. This directly influences employee contentment in the workplace. Based on Zipdo statistics, 86% of employees say work-life balance is essential to their job satisfaction.
- Increased productivity. Economics professor John Pencavel discovered that productivity per hour takes a sharp dip when a person works more than 50 hours a week. Beyond 55 hours, productivity decreases. Moreover, individuals working up to 70 hours a week achieve no more output than those working 55 hours.
- Better family life. About 83% of workers state that job burnout negatively impacts their personal relationships. It’s quite logical since the more time you dedicate to your work, the less time remains to spend with your loved ones.
Maintaining work-life balance involves developing emotional awareness to understand true feelings about the situation. People often hide emotions, fearing vulnerability, leading to difficulty in declining tasks and constant anxiety about deadlines. In “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky notes that humans stress over future events, unlike other mammals. Sapolsky advises managing stressors, viewing tasks as challenges, practicing relaxation, ensuring adequate sleep, and fostering strong social connections to achieve a healthier work-life balance.
If you struggle to establish your work-life balance, start with simple steps: separate personal and work chats in your messaging apps and designate specific hours in the evening solely for you.
Additionally, consider these helpful tips:
- Establish achievable goals. If your boss consistently sets deadlines for “yesterday,” it’s a reason to reflect. It’s crucial to learn how to convey the idea that any work requires time. Of course, there are simpler and more complex tasks, but you must learn to identify them and set clear goals.
- Share household duties. In addition to work, adults have a bunch of responsibilities. Nonetheless, when you come home tired after a tough day, extra chores can be frustrating. Have a conversation with your partner and fairly distribute household tasks. For example, if your wife gets home earlier, she can take care of cooking. Meanwhile, the husband can do the dishes and tidy up the kitchen after the meal. You’ll see how much this lightens the load and frees up time to spend together as a family.
- Prioritize tasks. At work, tasks often pile up, making it seem like it would take years to complete them. That’s when learning to prioritize becomes crucial. For example, you can break down larger workloads into smaller ones. Also, don’t forget to set deadlines for each task. This helps you have a clear understanding of your progress.
- Take a break. If you’re overwhelmed, a simple weekend break might not be enough. Your body needs more time to reset. Some professionals facing complete burnout in their industry even take sabbaticals lasting six months or more. It’s a good way to reconsider what truly matters—money or a stable mental state.
- Eliminate distractions. You might find yourself falling behind on work because you’re constantly distracted by messages from friends or social media updates. For your brain, it’s an easy source of dopamine. To focus on work tasks, eliminate all distracting factors, like your phone. You can also use the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer and work continuously for 25 minutes. Then, reward yourself with a 5–10 minute break.
- Take care of yourself. You might think that working more can earn you more money, gain respect among colleagues, or significantly advance your position. But remember: the only person truly concerned about your well-being is yourself. Keep in mind that your body’s internal resources matter, so it’s essential to allow it the chance to recover.
The best way to establish a healthy work-life balance is to realize that some tasks can wait. People find themselves unable to postpone work responsibilities, even as they accumulate. To get better at this, it’s crucial to be able to prioritize. When a new task comes your way, figure out how important it is compared to what you’re already dealing with. Also, get comfortable saying “no” to your boss and colleagues. Not getting involved in things that don’t interest you opens up time and energy for what really matters.
“Work to live or live to work?” is a question that plagues many adults. On one hand, working is a must for survival. On the flip side, life isn’t just about making money. Dealing with non-stop overtime and overwhelming responsibilities can lead to stress and poor well-being. Although establishing a healthy work-life balance is not easy, you should do it to improve your life. Consider the advice provided in this article to facilitate a more harmonious lifestyle.