4 Tips to Achieve and Maintain a Good Work-life Balance


It's getting harder and harder to keep work and personal life separate these days. With smartphones and laptops, you can work from pretty much anywhere, anytime. It's easier than ever to let work spill over into personal time, answering emails from the couch, or taking calls during family dinners. On the flip side, it can feel challenging to prioritize personal activities during typical work hours, even if your schedule allows for it.

A lot of us are working from home now. And when your living room is your office, it's tough to switch off from work mode. You might feel like you're always on call, even when you should be relaxing or hanging out with loved ones.

To find a work-life balance, let's first understand what it is.

What is work-life balance?

You allocate time and energy to things that matter.

Work-life balance is about finding harmony between your professional responsibilities and personal life. It's about recognizing that work is a significant part of life but not the only aspect. You need to allocate time and energy to the things that matter most to you, whether that's family, hobbies, or traveling. Achieving this balance requires being intentional with your time.

It's an ongoing process.

Many people think of work-life balance as a final destination or a specific state that can be attained permanently. But, life is dynamic and constantly changing. What seems like a healthy work-life balance for someone at one stage of their career or life may look very different at another stage. What worked well for balancing work and personal life last year might not be effective this year.

That's why work-life balance is an ongoing process that requires constant effort and adjustment. You should be adaptable and not get too rigidly attached to a particular notion of what work-life balance should look like.

Work-life balance can look different for everyone.

Achieving a satisfying work-life balance is a highly individual process. There are no set-in-stone rules for what a work-life balance looks like. People have varying priorities and goals which shape their idea of work-life balance.

Some people are passionate about their work and find fulfillment in dedicating more time to their careers, while others prioritize their personal lives and aim to minimize work outside of designated hours.

Most people, however, fall somewhere along the spectrum between these two extremes. They value their professional development and personal well-being and strive to find a balance that allows them to fulfill their responsibilities and pursue their goals in both areas of life.

We all face the imbalance between work and life, whether we’re employees or self-employed or own our own businesses.

Let's look at some tips that should help no matter what your work situation is.

1 — Set a time to shut off work

Set a specific, consistent time at the end of each workday when you will stop engaging in work-related tasks and activities. This is the time when you log off from your work computer, stop checking work emails, and cease any work-related communication.

When you have a set time to finish work, it helps you focus better and get more done during your work hours. You're more likely to concentrate on important tasks and avoid distractions, so you can make the most of your time. On the other hand, if you work for longer periods without a clear endpoint, it's easier to get sidetracked or work less efficiently.

By getting your key tasks done within your planned work hours, you'll feel good about what you've accomplished. The sense of accomplishment will make it easier to stop working at your scheduled time without feeling guilty, even if you still have some things left on your to-do list. You'll know that you used your time well and can enjoy your personal time without worrying about work.

Sticking to a shut-off time can be challenging, especially when working in an environment that doesn't enforce it or when working from home.

Ideas to help you stick to your shut-off time

  • Plan activities that you can do immediately after work, such as exercising, reading, or pursuing a hobby. This helps signal the end of work and the beginning of personal time.
  • Set reminders or alarms to signal the end of your workday. Use apps or tools that block work-related notifications outside of working hours.
  • If possible, leave your home office or workspace at the end of the day. If you can't leave the space, cover your computer or work materials to create a visual distinction.
  • If you currently work late, gradually reduce your work hours over time until you reach your desired shut-off time to make the transition feel more manageable.

In Sunsama, we have a "Daily Shutdown" ritual to help you step away from work.

Each day, as you plan your day, you'll be able to set an intention for when you'd like to stop working. When that time arrives, Sunsama will give you an in-app nudge to shut down for the day. This opens the daily shutdown ritual, which gives you a chance to review your work for the day, reflect, and then pack up and go home (or just stop working).

2 — Match your tasks to your energy levels

We've been conditioned to believe that working from 9 am to 5 pm is the only way to be productive and successful while still having time for our personal lives.

A rigid schedule like 9-5 doesn't take into account the fact that everyone has different energy patterns, responsibilities, and optimal working styles. These can be categorized into three groups called chronotypes:

  • Morning types (Larks): These people feel most alert and productive early in the day.
  • Evening types (Owls): These individuals find their energy levels peak in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Intermediate types: Most people fall somewhere in between, with varying periods of alertness and fatigue throughout the day.

Instead of fighting against these natural ebbs and flows, you should work with them.

Pay attention to when you typically feel most alert and motivated. Then, you plan your day so that you tackle your most challenging or important tasks during those high-energy times. When you usually feel less energetic, you can switch to easier tasks that don't require as much brain power, like organizing files or responding to routine emails.

Working during your high-energy times can help you get more done in less time as you're more focused. This means you might finish your tasks faster, freeing up extra time in your day. Instead of slogging away for hours when you're tired, you can wrap up work and have more time for yourself, your family, and your hobbies.

3 — Set and maintain boundaries

Our minds are not wired to be constantly "on" for work without any dedicated downtime. Relentlessly pushing through work demands without breaks leads to mental fatigue, chronic stress, and ultimately, burnout. We need periods of disengagement from work to allow our minds to recharge and replenish their cognitive resources.

Maintaining boundaries that separate work and personal life provide this mental respite.

Two types of boundaries

Boundaries are self-imposed limits that define what behaviors, demands, and activities you find acceptable or unacceptable in your life. These boundaries can be related to time, emotional energy, physical space, or any other aspect of your personal and professional life.

For example, you might inform your boss that you do not respond to work emails after 6 pm. Or it can be self-imposed when you log off your computer and not check emails after a certain hour, regardless of whether you've told anyone or not.

Setting boundaries using your calendar

One of the simplest things you can do to set a boundary is to use your calendar to block out time for focused work, breaks, and personal activities. Share your calendar with your team to make them aware of your availability.

A great tool to help you set boundaries is Sunsama. Sunsama integrates with your existing calendar and task management apps or calendar apps (Gmail, and Outlook) to help you plan your day more effectively.

By planning your day and blocking time for tasks and deep work, you can see if and when you are available for meetings. If your calendar is full, you can decline additional meetings, ensuring that your time boundaries are respected.

If you're not confident in setting boundaries right away, start with "soft boundaries" — flexible limits that you aim to adhere to but can adjust if necessary. For example, aim to leave work by 5 pm on most days but be open to occasional exceptions. Then slowly transition into setting it as a "hard boundary" —non-negotiable limits that you strictly enforce.

4 — Accept the reality of our finitude

No matter how much we wish we could stretch time, the fact remains that there are only 24 hours in a day. Trying to cram too much into those hours is a recipe for burnout, not balance.

The key to finding balance lies in simply accepting reality. Acknowledging that we can't do everything, be everything, to everyone, all the time. Setting realistic goals based on our true priorities, and letting go of the rest without beating ourselves up about it.

It might mean making some tough choices. Saying no to that extra project at work, even if it means ruffling some feathers. Delegating some tasks at home, even if we're convinced no one can do it as well as we can. Accepting that the laundry will pile up sometimes, or that takeout is okay when we're too exhausted to cook.

In the end, work-life balance isn't a perfect, 50/50 split between the office and home. It's making peace with the inherent messiness and imperfection of life. When you accept this reality, it frees you from unnecessary guilt. You begin to enjoy your moments without the burden of feeling like you should be doing something "productive."

Get the right tools to help you create a work-life balance

Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be challenging, especially because there's no one-size-fits-all solution. But the right tools can make all the difference.

Sunsama is a daily planner for busy professionals that can help you prioritize tasks, stay organized, and make the most of your time. By simplifying your daily planning and providing a centralized hub for your work, Sunsama can help you focus on what's important and reduce the stress and overwhelm often associated with a busy schedule.

If you're looking for ways to optimize your time and enhance your overall well-being, get a 14-day free trial of Sunsama here.

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