How to make sure work doesn’t take over your life

Work Life Balance – Via Shutterstock

For many of us, 2016 seemed to just rush past in a whirl. If only we had more time to do all the things that really matter!

What happened to spending more time with friends and family, finally learning that language or going to the gym? Yet often work leaves us with little time and energy to do much else.

You decided that it’s time to look at your work-life balance, but what does this actually mean to you? How much space do you want to give to your job and how much to other areas in your life? Is your job just a means to pay the bills and you live for the few hours after work, when you are then too tired to do anything else but collapse in front of the TV? I hope not.

How about looking at both: improving your satisfaction with your job and then learning to balance it with other parts of your life?

Make sure your job inspires you

Since you spend most of your life at work, it’s best to have a career or business that inspires you. Life’s too short to waste it in a job you don’t enjoy! Whilst every job involves a certain degree of stress, conflicts, challenges and boring routines, you do have a choice – so select one which is meaningful to you.

If you don’t enjoy your job, I suggest exploring what you care most about in your life. Is it an activity, such as reading, writing, researching; a subject, such as history, politics or economics; or a context like family, social impact, spirituality or environmental issues? Look for things that mean so much you would do them even if you weren’t paid.

Once you know what they are, consider how your current job can allow you to pursue the things you value most. This may require some creative thinking and maybe an adjustment to your role and work responsibilities. If you don’t think that’s possible in your current job, how about finding a new one? Imagine the impact on your life if your work felt meaningful and enjoyable to you!

Define your perfect life balance

Even if you have a job you love, you probably still want to maintain a balance with other areas in your life. Write down all those that are important to you, such as your family, friends, community, work, hobbies, health, fitness, relationship, etc. Rank them by priority.

What would a perfect balance between them look like in practice? Be specific, for example: I would never work weekends; I want to go out with friends at least twice a week; or I want to have two holidays each year.

Once you’ve defined your ideal life balance, what can you do to create it?

Look after your wellbeing

The more you are inspired by your job, the less you may feel the urge to make time for other activities. That’s fine, but there is one area you cannot afford to neglect and that’s your wellbeing. If you don’t listen to your body’s needs, you’ll gradually burn yourself out. This will make you less productive, less resilient and less able to deal with challenges at work. It may also affect your mood or even your health.

Your body will tell you what it needs; you just need to listen. When it’s tired, give it rest rather than push your energy levels up with coffee and sugar. When you feel stressed or suffer mood swings, don’t numb yourself with alcohol, food or TV. Instead exercise, connect to people you love, or meditate. The demands of your job, business or family may seem pressing, but if you neglect your wellbeing and burn out, you will get to a point where you have little to give them.

Say “no” more often

For everything you say “no” to, you can say “yes” to something else that matters to you more. This requires a clear understanding of your priorities and boundaries. If you don’t set them, your life will quickly be dominated by the priorities of others; and the more you serve other people’s priorities, the higher the risk that you burn out and resent the people around you. Again, this does not serve anybody.

Plan for the fun stuff

If you’re one of those people who seem to always be drowned in work and keep postponing the fun stuff, then stop now. Have a think about what needs to happen in 2017 so that on next New Year’s Eve you look back at a beautifully balanced year. Get out a calendar now and block all those days when you want to go on holiday, visit friends, go to the theatre or host dinners at your place. If you don’t plan them now, they may never happen.

Manage your expectations

For many of us, the greatest cause of stress is our own expectations on life and our performance. Often these expectations are based on fantasies that we have seen in films or magazines. A classic one is the power woman who is CEO of a corporation, still finds time to cook a healthy meal for her family every night, sews her own costumes for her kids’ school performances, looks like a cover model, goes to the gym each day and lives a glamorous lifestyle, while always being nice to other people and chairing several charities.

I don’t know anybody who’s really like this. When we measure our own life against those unrealistic fantasies, we are setting ourselves up for a never-ending, exhausting game that we cannot win.

Instead, accept your very human imperfections. Focus on the few things that are at the top of your own values list. Strive to excel in those and accept that you will not put the same energy into other areas of your life. It’s OK not to be perfect.

If you don’t create a healthy and enjoyable life balance, nobody else will do it for you.

So what does 2017 look like for you?

About the author

Hans Schumann, The Masterful Living® Coach, is a career & life coach and author of the book Falling in Love with your Job – How to create more fulfilment and excitement in your career which is available on Amazon. For more information go to or

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