Conscious Work–Life Balance

Balanced stack of rocks

Even for the very productive, work–life balance is the holy grail of time management that most of us fail to properly achieve. Often, balance is just too hard to find; it’s an arcane principle that belongs to people like zen monks and gymnasts.

And yet, finding work–life balance isn’t as difficult a process as it’s sometimes made out to be. Underneath all the tips and tricks you could find to help you achieve it, the balance is really just about your choices. Sometimes we blame our circumstances for our lack of balance—I can’t balance everything because I have to [insert obligation]. But most of our obligations are self-selected, and our level of commitment to each obligation is also chosen (though not necessarily consciously).

If you’ve been feeling out of balance lately, set aside some time to evaluate the choices you’re making. One thing to remember when you’re trying to achieve balance is that you shouldn’t fill every second of your life, even if the things you’re doing are properly prioritized and well chosen. You always need to build down time and room for spontaneity into your life. Not just your schedule, but your life. You shouldn’t plan on spending your life running at a breakneck pace, even though it can be exciting to get a lot done in a short amount of time. If you never take the time to slow down, you’ll never have a moment to look back and see how far you’ve come.

That’s why it’s called balance. Sometimes those moments of breakneck sprinting are necessary, insane, exhilarating all at once. That’s what makes the slow moments after them so necessary, peaceful, and refreshing. You need to balance intense and easy-going moments just as much as you need to balance work and home.

So if your life at work is whirring at a breakneck speed, find some things in your home life you can choose not to do, or you can choose to minimize. Do you really need to be on that service committee? Does it give you enough enjoyment and fulfillment to warrant the spread-too-thin feeling? If the answer is no, find others who can take your place and take yourself off the committee. Likewise, if you know your life at home is going to become a lot more hectic—maybe you’ve started taking care of your elderly parents, or you’re a new parent to twins—see if you can win a little leeway from work. Ask your boss if you can negotiate some more flexible hours. (Always put it in terms of value: You’ll provide better work if you’re not stressed because you didn’t make sure your children were okay before you left home.)

These are a just few tips on how to better achieve balance, but the most important one is being aware of your choices. Sometimes just being conscious of the choices you made can make you feel at peace with them. You’ll see that what you thought was a skewed life is actually the optimal sort of balance for you, given what you value most. You’ll likely need to make a few adjustments, but sometimes even your unconscious knows the choice you’d make if you took the time to think about it.

Image by Michelle Meiklejohn via

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