Perfecting the work-life balance is a challenge for everyone. Work schedules, families, and relationships are just a few of the factors contributing to the push and pull of this balancing act. When the balance is off, things just don't feel right at home or at work.
While anyone can get the work-life balance wrong, those who run their own businesses or have demanding jobs are even more susceptible to letting work creep too far into their personal lives. Without the time and focus to restore order, that imbalance can easily lead to stress, dysfunction, relationship friction, or total burnout.
If you're feeling overworked, but aren't sure whether your work-life balance is to blame, keep an eye out for these 10 signs of an out-of-whack equilibrium.
Getting out of Shape
Putting in extra hours at work can take away from your exercise time or tempt you to eat fast food more often. If that's the case, you may be finding yourself packing on a few extra pounds, or getting out of breath from something as simple as a couple of flights of stairs. Letting yourself get out of shape can negatively impact your quality of life and hurt your self-esteem.
To overcome this, try to make extra time for exercise. If you can wake up just 20 minutes earlier to get in some basic exercises, you will notice an improvement in your health and mood. Exercise doesn't have to be a solitary activity, either. Take the kids swimming at the beach or make a date out of a hike through the park, and you'll simultaneously improve your relationships and your health. To combat a poor diet, try making meals ahead of time. If you can take 20 minutes out of your weekend to prepare a few sandwiches or salads for the week ahead, you'll be less tempted to hit the drive-thru on your lunch break.
Missing Events Due to an Overbooked Schedule
When a friend calls to chat, do you tell them you just don't have time? Maybe you missed a child's dance recital because your schedule was too tight, or you had to sell tickets to a concert you had been looking forward to. If you are finding yourself with an unmanageable schedule that's forcing you to miss out on what's important to you, then that's a sure-fire sign your work-life balance is out of whack.
To overcome this, learn how to say "no" to the right people. It might be easier to turn down a friend than a boss, but if you feel like you're overworked, it might be more important to schedule some time with friends. You may also consider ways of streamlining routine tasks like meal preparation or use a service that takes care of grocery shopping for you.
Difficulty Letting Go of Imperfections
A bit of a perfectionist streak is a good thing, but it can get in the way of a proper work-life balance, as well. You should always strive to do well at your job, but if you obsess over small details to a point that interferes with your personal life, that's a problem. Someone with a healthy work-life balance knows when something is worth perfecting, and when a task can be set aside—at least for the time being. If you spend a lot of time and energy on getting all the little things "just so," you may want to rethink your approach to work.
To overcome this, learn when to sacrifice a few good things for a few better things. Small details don't always need to be perfect. Let them go and spend the time on better things instead, like your family, your health, or a bigger project. If you find yourself struggling with this, you may want to consider the possibility of a disorder like anxiety or OCD. These issues are common, and they can be treated. Therapy, mindfulness techniques, or, in some cases, medicine can help people living with these disorders achieve a better quality of life.
A little bit of clutter could be chalked up to your personality, but a lot of clutter could be a sign that something is wrong. A messy workspace, especially in combination with long hours and stressful workloads, can cause stress and burnout. If your heart starts racing at the sight of the piles on your desk, your workspace may be contributing to your work-life balance issues.
To overcome this, use the old method of taking any given report, file, or piece of paper and "TRAFing" it (trash, refer, act, or file). Systematic processes like this are a productive way of tackling your mess that will leave you feeling satisfied. Even if you can't knock out the mess in one session, you'll see progress and feel calmer about the situation. Once you've spruced up your workspace, keep it clean by setting boundaries for where you store things and routines for cleaning out little messes on a more regular basis.
Constantly Working Overtime
In today's competitive work environment, sometimes we fall into the trap of staying late or coming in early to impress others with our commitment and dedication. But for every positive impression you are creating with this strategy at work, you are creating a negative one at home. Like any other item on this list, constant overtime also increases the risk of burnout and unnecessary stress. You don't have to constantly work 60-hour weeks to be a good employee.
To overcome this, focus on the quality of your work, rather than the hours on your timesheet. You can be a more productive employee without overtime. At the end of the day, a boss is going to be more impressed with someone who produced excellent quality work within work hours, as opposed to someone who produced similar quality work at the end of an extra-long workweek. You may also want to look into time management tips and strategies so you can maximize your productivity during (non-overtime) work hours.
Filling Free Time With Work
You don't have to be clocking overtime to be working too much. When you find yourself with that rare hour or two of free time, do you find yourself taking care of work tasks at home? Maybe you aren't completing tasks, but you're doing research or strategizing in your free time. If you do, it is a sign that you are off-balance. While it can be difficult to get your mind off work, it's worth the effort to force yourself to focus on other aspects of your life.
To overcome this, surround yourself with people who have nothing to do with your work. Your family won't want to talk about work or watch you knock out tasks on your laptop, so spend time engaging with them. You could set up a family night tradition that forces you to put the work aside for a few hours. It's also important to develop hobbies that give you a fun, meaningful, and rewarding way to spend your alone time.
Social Life on Life Support
When the work-life balance falls out of place, time with friends and family are usually the first things to fall on the chopping block. When was the last time you hung out with friends? When was your last "date" with your significant other? Making social life a priority is an important aspect of a balanced life. A person who doesn't place importance on their social life is probably working too much.
To overcome this, schedule time for socializing. This may seem counterintuitive since socializing is usually associated with free time. But if you don't have enough free time or socializing isn't happening for some other reason, you need to make a concerted effort to make it happen. Set aside time every week for socialization, then plan with friends and family about how you'll fill that scheduled socializing time. If you want to expand your social circle, you can join a club based around activities, arts, and cultures you enjoy.
Being out-of-balance often leads to stress and anxiety, and for many people, stress and anxiety manifest outwardly as anger. Overworked people may be prone to sudden outbursts. If your children, partner, or friends are getting on your nerves more than usual, you may have to look inside and ask yourself whether your temper is to blame.
To overcome this, learn how to express anger appropriately. You can't help feeling angry at the moment, but you can control the way that anger affects your actions. That may include an occasional venting session with a loved one or therapist. You can also work to handle stress at home better so that the stress doesn't build into anger. If small changes don't help you control your anger, you may want to consider anger management classes.
Lack of sleep is another clear indicator that something in your life is wrong. If you can't fall asleep, or can't even find the time to try, your work-life balance is probably contributing to the problem. It's a problem you need to address. If you don't, it could easily lead to poor moods, lack of productivity, and serious issues with your physical and mental health.
To overcome this, develop and stick to a sleep routine. Your body has an easier time falling asleep if it has a set schedule. Establish a time that you'll stop for the day and go to bed. You might not be tired at first, but eventually, your body will learn to start winding down around the same time every night. If you need help calming your mind, your routine could include yoga, meditation, or even just a mug of tea before you climb into bed.
Losing Time With Your Family
If you are feeling like a stranger in your own home and with your children, it is time to set aside more time for family and regain your balance. You can't make up for lost time with your children, and unlike your friends who have jobs of their own, your children won't understand why you spend so much time at work. They may come to understand it later in life, but in the meantime, it'll strain your relationship.
To overcome this, keep work at work. If you can avoid working from home, that'll help you be present and in-the-moment while you are with your children. Even if you have to spend most of your day at work, you can make up for it by devoting all your time at home to them. This also means turning off the TV so you can have full conversations with your family, instead of just exchanging comments during the commercial breaks. If your work requires you to travel often, make an effort to touch base with your children every day, whether it's through text, call, or video chat.