Long working hours, shifting between numerous different projects, taking work home instead of leaving it at the office, and checking your mail on the weekends–for many of us, life is more and more work and less and less life.
That’s why it’s important to find balance in our lives and draw a clear line between our professions and our personal identities. So, let’s shift the perspective. Let’s stop making plans for finding time for life and achieving a work-life balance, and instead, let’s focus on achieving life-work balance, where work isn’t the highest priority of our day-to-day life.
The Role of Work in Our Lives
Work is by far one of the biggest influences on our quality of life. Not only does it consume at least ⅓ of our days, but we also depend on it for survival. According to research, unemployment is one of the rare life events from which people can’t fully recover within five years.
When things are going well at work, it has a positive effect on our lives. We gain a sense of purpose in our lives, nurture strong relationships at work with our colleagues, and build a solid self-confidence based on a feeling that we’re valued, important, and capable of anything.
This positive attitude opens new opportunities for self-development, betterment and professional growth. This lets us have new experiences, broadens our perspectives, and inspires us to do great, bold things and take the risks. We feel like we have enough energy to complete everything our heart and an extensive to-do list wants. Once we leave the office, we are able to disconnect and engage in activities that bring us joy, relaxation, fun, and excitement.
This is how a harmonious and healthy workplace changes the quality of our life for the better.
On the other hand, if things are not working out well at work, if we’re being overworked, burned out, underpaid, not valued enough, this, too, affects others aspect of our lives.
For example, it might happen that we lose the inner motivation to do our job and start focusing solely on money. We can lose the sense of meaning in the work we do for those long eight hours within a day. And, if the communication between employees and employers is not based on mutual trust and respect, it can make us feel disconnected and unimportant, which can do serious harm to our self-esteem and self-image.
If our workplace doesn’t encourage or offer ways to improve our skills and talents, we can get trapped in a cycle of stagnation and end up feeling like we’re just trying to get by each day. This has such a profound influence on our mood and psychological state that it often doesn’t end when we sign off for the day–it can keep bothering us even when we leave the office, undermining our efforts to relax, vent, and have fun.
But is there a solution?
How to Shift from Work-Life to Life-Work Balance
Unlike the examples above, your job is most likely neither perfect nor out-of-this-world horrible. It’s probably somewhere in the middle, with good and fun times keeping you motivated to continue, and challenging and stressed times throwing you for a loop every once in a while. These challenges probably stress you out, but they also give you strength and wisdom.
Shifting the balance, just like any other major change, begins with changing how we think about it, because the world as we know it is a narrative constructed in our minds. If we are to change it, we have to start from the source–ourselves.
Changing the Mindset and Communicating Change
In order to start prioritizing life over work, you need to change the way you think about work.
Is that a place where you go to pass eight hours of your valuable time without doing something meaningful, or is it a place where you can get to do the work that makes difference, pushes you forward, and gives you a sense of fulfilment?
If you find yourself stuck in a job or a career that you dislike, complaining and staying in a devastating environment is not the solution. Change the way you think about the whole situation, and commit to change: do some inner work, go deep to discover what is the root of the problem, start talking to your friends, communicate your needs to the management, and consider changing the job, switching careers, or being self-employed.
This means becoming proactive with your problems and responsible for their resolution. If there’s an obstacle, you need a growth mindset to overcome it, extract life lessons from it, and become stronger.
Re-Think Your Values
The next step is to re-think what’s really important to you. If you commit too much time to your job, you lose time for some quality solitude, self-care, and your family. Furthermore, you might also endanger your mental and physical health due to prolonged exposure to stress and lack of relaxation.
It’s important that you accept that your personal time matters just as much as your professional life, if not more. Your family, children, leisure, the time you spend alone with your thoughts, your health, hobbies, etc.––they all truly matter, because, without them, your life wouldn’t be complete.
Rethinking your values, in this case, means achieving deep acceptance of everything that brings you joy, enlightenment, meaning, and peace within.
Ask yourself: If you keep living your life the same way you’re living it now, will you get closer or further from your life vision and dreams?
Plan and Prioritize Life
And while the first step towards change is to make an inner decision to change, that’s not enough. Specific actions are what it takes for a mindful lifestyle change to actually happen.
You need a clear and personalized strategy to help yourself prioritize particular activities and actions that will balance and enrich your life.
Intentional living is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves, the people we love and the world around us, because it leads to actions that make a difference and impact our life for the better.
Setting intentions gives you a real idea of what you want and where you are headed. With time, it becomes your inner guidance that can affect how you spend your days and what you cultivate in your life.
Apart from that, a clearly formulated intention makes working on goals much easier. Once you set the direction for your actions, you can move to a more specific level of planning––setting achievable goals.
In this case, you can set up goals around activities such as spending more time in nature, having meaningful and engaging conversations with friends and family, bike riding, weekend trips, or whatever feels like living your best life to you.
Take your Productivity Planner and, instead of listing your work tasks, add life-related activities as your Most Important Task of the Day. The change won’t be linear. But, as long as you’re led by your intentions and the determination to make a positive change in your life, you will get the results.
As you progress towards achieving the life-work balance, you may even notice that you’re becoming even more productive and satisfied at work. Research shows that people who are satisfied with the lives they live outside of work have higher performance and engagement levels than those who don’t.
The sooner you learn what makes you happy and how to be happy, the faster you’ll stop chasing the wrong things, and the easier it’ll be to focus on those that truly matter. And your friends, family, partner, and colleagues will feel it, too.
Life Is Right Now
Many of us need constant reminders that we only live once. For all of you who sometimes feel lost, we’ve created the Life Is Right Now illustration book by artist Real Fun Wow. This book of word arts is here to remind you that you’re doing the best you can at this moment. As long as you keep trying, you’ll succeed.
How Can Company Leadership Facilitate a Life-Work Balance
Company management and leadership are by far the most important factors that determine whether the workplace enhances anxiety or creativity. Depending on how open, warm, understanding, fair, and respectful they are, employees feel more or less motivated to engage in the work process and contribute with their creativity and ideas.
The level of stress at work is also mediated by the way management and leadership react in stressful situations.
If you carry such a role, you are much more likely to fall into the trap of not prioritizing your life over work, but also you’re in the position to help other people working in the company avoid that trap or get out from it.
This can be done through changing official company policies so that they benefit the employees through training, education, appreciation, extra time off, and communication, but also activities that enhance the fun at work. The way you communicate internally in the company––the level of openness, friendliness, and the hierarchy––significantly contribute to the way employees feel about work, their boundaries towards work, and their overall satisfaction.
By shifting the way you think about work, setting clear expectations and rols, and promoting a greater appreciation for your personal life is how you can set an amazing example for all of your colleagues and encourage them to do the same.
Sometimes all it takes to rediscover the joy of living and the meaning of our life is half an hour in which we allow ourselves the luxury of prioritizing ourselves and our needs. Don’t be afraid to take that time for yourself––it’s absolutely crucial that you do so. Become more proactive when it comes to making yourself a priority, taking the initiative to regain balance, and do your best to make your dream life a reality.