10 Work-Life Balance Tips: Your Complete Guide for 2023

10 Work-Life Balance Tips: Your Complete Guide for 2023

If balancing your professional and personal life feels like a daily battle, welcome to the club. You’re definitely not alone!

For many of us, work can become our number one priority. Unfortunately, that may happen at the cost of everything else. We want to succeed professionally, but when that becomes a primary focus, we may begin to lose sight of other priorities such as our health and our personal relationships.

All work and no play, makes Jack (or Jill) burn out. So, work-life balance isn’t just a buzzword; it’s essential for our careers and our well-being.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance can be hard to define. In an ideal world, it’s a state of equilibrium between a person’s professional and personal priorities. It’s also prioritizing your work time equally as much as time for your family, well-being, interests, health, and relationships.

What this balance looks like in reality is different from person to person. For some, work-life balance may mean the ability to stop working at four every day and spend the rest of the evening pursuing personal interests. For others, it may mean being able to work a flexible schedule in order to prioritize caregiving duties.

A good work-life balance simply means you have harmony in different areas of your life.

Why managing work-life balance is important

In an increasingly connected world of flexible work, where work and home boundaries easily blend, managing our work-life balance to the best of our abilities is especially important…and often difficult.

A balanced life allows you to enjoy and make the most of all aspects of your life—not just work. Your family, friends, hobbies, health, me-time, and any other priorities become equally important.

A truly balanced life will give you the flexibility to have a successful professional life, while still having the time and energy to focus on and enjoy your personal life.

5 positive effects of balancing work and personal life

Why does managing your work-life balance even matter? Here are five positive effects a balanced lifestyle can have:

1. Less stress

When you’re more intentional about your work and your personal time and find yourself achieving better harmony, you may feel less stressed overall. Creating more balance allows you to deal with your day-to-day stresses in a healthy way.

2. Lower risk of burnout

Feeling overworked can lead you to being emotionally exhausted and becoming detached from your work. Better balance between work and personal priorities lowers the risk of burnout caused by work-related stresses and pressures.

3. Increased productivity and creativity

Stress and burnout can start to have an impact on the quality of your work. A balanced approach to work, where you regularly switch off, can leave you feeling more refreshed and, ultimately, being more productive. Removing constant stress also creates space for new ideas and may lead to clear, more creative thinking.

4. Greater sense of well-being

Ultimately, a balanced life is often a healthier life. A better balance between work and life priorities can lead to greater life satisfaction and overall well-being. If and when you feel like you’re making time for all the things that matter to you, you may feel like you’re truly being more successful.

5. Higher retention rate

Finally, for any managers and employers reading this, note that balanced workers are happier workers. Research by Oxford University also found that happy workers are more productive.

Further, “workers that have difficulty spending time with their families or finding time for their social relationships are more likely to be emotionally tired. This fatigue, in turn, has an impact on their dissatisfaction with their job and an influence on their intention to leave the organization”, according to this report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  

Ultimately, if your organization actively encourages workers to strive for work-life balance, you will likely hold on to your workers for longer. After all, people rarely leave a job they’re happy at.

10 tips for improving your work-life balance

So now that you know why creating work-life balance is essential, let’s take a look at how you can work to achieve this. Below are some work-life balance techniques and tips to incorporate into your own life.

Doing everything on this list is a Herculean task. Don’t let any overachiever tendencies put even more pressure on you to seek perfection in work-life balance. Instead, work on incremental improvements. Every step you make toward better balance is a step in the right direction.  

Pro tip: Don’t expect to be able to do all this at once!

1. Accept that it won’t be perfect

First things first—and this one is important, so pay attention—accept that your work-life balance won’t always be perfect.

We have some excellent advice for you below. But remember, creating the perfect balance for your personal needs may not happen overnight. In fact, pursuing this complex goal is a work in progress for most people. Give yourself grace as you figure out what balance looks like for you and how you can get closer to achieving it in your personal and work life.

And, of course, even when you think you have everything figured out, there will always be days that are a little out of balance. Remind yourself that it’s OK. There is no one perfect schedule. Tomorrow is a brand new day, with another opportunity to attempt work-life balance again.

With that said, let’s jump right in to discuss how you can start managing your work-life balance.

2. Set your priorities

“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
–    Stephen Covey

Start by making a list of your daily priorities—apart from work, of course. This also doesn’t mean making a list of chores you have to do at home. Often we prioritize our work and household chores, and then find ourselves with precious little time to do any of the things we actually enjoy doing.

Stop and think about what is important for you or what you would like to include in each day. This could include family time, exercise, hobbies, good sleep, and anything else that matters to you. It’s time to start making time for these things.

This way, you can make sure your work (and chores) gets done, but you also won’t lose sight of other aspects that make you feel balanced. In this article about a day in the life of a freelancer, we discuss setting priorities and how to use them to build your “Ideal Day” routine.

Being mindful of your priorities each day helps you set reasonable boundaries for yourself. You may have to change the way you do things and learn to let go (or reset) your own standards of perfection. Consider hiring help if it’s in your budget. You could try to spread chores across family members instead of trying to do it all yourself.

Sometimes it’s a matter of becoming more organized and learning to manage your time better. Set up systems and processes at home (and work) that empower you to accomplish all your to-dos while still leaving time for other activities in your day.

Incorporating a good balance of work and personal activities each day will definitely make you happier, and also help keep burnout at bay.

3. Play to your strengths and delegate other work

You don’t have to do it all. Really! Whether you’re a solopreneur or a manager, learn to do what you’re good at and delegate where you can.

Focus your attention on your strengths. For example, as an independent professional, your strength may lie in designing websites for clients. But you also need to take care of your business books. Hire a bookkeeper and delegate that work to an expert.

This also applies to your personal life. If you’re a parent working from home with your kids around, you don’t have to try to be the perfect worker and parent at the same time. Ask for help. Delegate the tasks you can.

4. Learn to say “no”

If you’re a people pleaser—like many of us are—you may find  setting boundaries and saying no to something challenging, even uncomfortable. Declining a request for help can be especially hard if you feel like you may be letting your boss, colleague, or even a family member down.

However, if you genuinely want to create a more balanced lifestyle, you have to start making the most of the power of “no.” Every time you say yes to extra work, you’re likely saying no to family time. Conversely, every time you’re saying yes to a family member dropping in during work hours, you’re saying no to the most productive workday.

Set your boundaries and empower yourself to stick to them. Learn to say no with confidence. Don’t spend any time regretting your decision.

5. Focus on achieving results

People are action-oriented creatures. We complete one task and move on to the next one, easily getting caught up in always trying to do more.

You may get a false productivity high just because you’ve done a billion different things today. But how much of that work actually matters?

Instead of focusing your energy on doing as much as you can every day, shift to focusing on valuable results. It’s not about working harder; it’s about doing work that creates maximum impact. This ties back to setting priorities. Work on the most important things on your task list.

This may mean doing only two things in one day, but if you successfully finish those two things, you’ll end your day with a feeling of achievement and confidence. This will also help you feel “at peace,” making switching off at the end of the workday easier so you can enjoy your personal time guilt-free.

6. Set your working hours and stick to them

Setting boundaries also means setting and communicating fixed work hours. This is especially important when you’re working remotely from home or if you’re a freelancer. It’s so easy just to work every waking hour when your computer is literally an arm’s length away.

Set your specific work hours. Having set hours will help you switch off at the end of the day. You don’t have to feel tethered to your work 24/7.

When you stick to those hours, any time outside of that is your personal time. If you have the flexibility to choose your work hours, let managers or clients know about your availability. Many calendars and communication tools let you set office hours, so others receive notifications that messages will be held until you’re back at work.

Similarly, if you work from home, also let family members or anyone else you share your space with know when your work hours are. By holding their non-emergency concerns until the workday is done, they’re likely to get more focused attention from you.

Of course, there will be times when your workday will bleed into your personal day because of an important project. That’s OK! As long as you strive for balance on most days, occasionally working outside of your set hours won’t destroy your work-life balance attempts.

7. Schedule personal time in your calendar

Most of us have good intentions when it comes to our personal lives. We want to take more breaks, spend more time with our families, and maybe even pursue a hobby. But the reality is, we get caught up in work, and all those good intentions go out the window.

One way to prevent this is by firmly planning and scheduling personal time into your calendar. Take a look at the priorities we discussed at the start of this article. What are your daily “must-dos”? Think about how you’re going to fit these into your day.

For example, if you want to play a sport once a week, add it to your calendar. It now becomes a concrete plan versus just a vague wish. You can also do this for time with family and friends. Making a calendar entry not only helps you stick to your good intention, but it keeps others from scheduling something into an apparently open slot.

You may have a hectic schedule, but ultimately managing your time is within your control. Making use of your calendar for personal time will help you intentionally create the balance you’re craving in your life.

8. Prioritize your physical and mental health

Too often, people burn out. They hit a wall, with physical and mental health breakdowns, only then realizing that it’s time to deal with the lack of balance in their lives.

Make your health a priority. Start with something as simple as a daily walk or making the time to meditate. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up from your desk for a few minutes every hour.

Do whatever you need to do to suit your individual health needs, but actually do it. Don’t just think about it for the future. Eat healthy meals. Get enough sleep. Take a mental health day every once in a while. Don’t be afraid to call in sick on days you’re feeling rough. (The pandemic has taught us that going to a shared workspace while toughing through a cough, cold, or fever is exactly the wrong thing to do to support your co-workers.)

When you’re busy, it’s easy to deprioritize your own self-care and health. But if you find yourself going too many days without taking care of your health, stop and make self-care a priority again. Being healthy will help you show up better at work and in your personal life.

9. Take vacations

The pandemic put many of our holiday plans on hold for a few years. This led to many of us constantly working. For lots of folks, the idea of a vacation didn’t even cross our minds!

But the truth is vacations are important. They help us to refresh our minds, recharge our batteries, and come back with renewed energy and focus. A vacation doesn’t have to mean an expensive trip away. You can take a short staycation at home—as long as you promise to switch off!

If you’re an employee, use all your vacation days. Go on that holiday and decompress.  If you’re self-employed, plan ahead so you can take a vacation with minimal impact to your business.

Taking a vacation will help you decompress and come back to work feeling mentally and physically recharged.

10. Don’t be afraid to unplug

With email and Slack on our phones and a round-the-clock work culture, unplugging from technology can be very hard. But finding yourself becoming increasingly obsessed with staying connected may be a sign to unplug, for a little while at least.

Unplugging yourself every once in a while can help you reset. This important break allows your mind to stop being in a constant “doing” mode. Switch off from the daily stress and the constant barrage of notifications to allow space for creativity and ideas.

So when work pressure all seems like too much, making you feel like you have to work more—don’t. Next time, take a break. Don’t be afraid to unplug. You may come back feeling more refreshed and empowered to tackle your challenges.

Bonus tip: Take it slow

As we said before, you don’t have to try to achieve everything in one day. Don’t let your work-life balance improvement attempts become a failed-by-February New Year’s resolution.

Start with one of the techniques from above. Try to change one aspect of your life. If you don’t exercise at all, start by exercising once a week. Once that starts to feel normal, work your way up and increase it to two or three days. Then, incorporate something new.

Take things slow, and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

Only you can find the lifestyle balance that suits you

There’s no magic formula to finding balance; yours may look very different from that of your co-workers or friends. It’s up to you to set your priorities and create a lifestyle balance that works best for your needs. Remember that your work-life balance is a result of your own choices.

If the work you do is making it impossible to find balance, perhaps it’s time to make a change. Sometimes, achieving work-life balance can involve making a tough decision, like quitting your job for one that allows for better balance.

In fact, this is often why so many professionals worldwide choose to become freelancers and become their own bosses. Upwork’s Freelance Forward report found that freelancing is growing, with flexibility and freedom being the key motivators for both new and existing freelancers.  

The pandemic put many aspects of life into perspective, including career satisfaction. The increase in freelancing, specifically among highly skilled and educated workers, tells us that many professionals elected to reprioritize some aspects of their professional lives. Freelancing allows you to create flexibility in your life and prioritize the people and things that matter most to you.

Sign up for a freelancer account on Upwork to start building your freelancing business today.

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Author Spotlight

10 Work-Life Balance Tips: Your Complete Guide for 2023
Radhika Basuthakur
Content Writer

Radhika is a self-confessed word nerd and content expert with over 15 years of experience writing content for businesses around the world. She is a cheerleader for flexible work, a passionate world traveler, and spends her free time alternating between a good book and a good hike.

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