Work-Life Balance: How To Achieve Your Ultimate Balance Between Work and Life

This is a guest post by Cornelius Mota of Poise Catalyst.

Work-Life Balance

Is it really feasible to achieve work-life balance nowadays? Or is it just a myth?

There were times I used to regularly work 14-hour days. I remember a discussion with a colleague on this topic. At one point I said “Yeah, but what can you do?” and she answered simply “There is always something you can do”. It was such a simple statement, but it hit me. I started to think about it and to recognize that it’s true. We always have a choice.

When you are entrenched into patterns of thinking and behavior, you tend not to look outside your box. Unless something shakes you up, you fail to see even the most common-sense options that are available to you.

Each of us understands something different by work-life balance. However, in principle we all share the idea that what this means is to have a satisfying amount of time available for outside work activities. This may mean time spent with your family, time dedicated to grow spiritually or get into a better physical shape, to pursue a hobby and so on.

We’ll approach work-life balance in two parts in this article:

  • Firstly, we’ll assess the big picture. You need to frame life in a way that enables you to reach balance.
  • Secondly, we’ll go through five specific work-life balance tips that enable you to make noticeable improvements to your life right now.

Part 1: Assess the Big Picture

A. Clarify Your Priorities

It all starts by clarifying your priorities in life. There is no set model that works for all people.

It may be the case that if you dedicate the larger part of your time to building your career, you are happier. Then, even if your time and energy distribution is unbalanced, this i by choice and it may be OK in your case, at this particular moment in your life.

There is an issue though when what happens in your life is not congruent with your values and priorities.

For example, spending quality time with your family may be very important to you. If in reality you are spending very limited time with your loved ones, because of work, then this is a problem.

Generally speaking, if you feel that you don’t have enough time for yourself and/or for your loved ones, then there is an opportunity to improve work-life balance.

A watch-out here is that you need to be honest with yourself in assessing your values and priorities. For example, don’t lie to yourself that you are happy to work all day long and spend very little time with your family, if this is not true.

B. Picture Your Ideal Life, Assess Your Current Situation and Determine the Gap

Picture your ideal life, in terms of work-life balance. However, it should be a realistic image, based on what is feasible with regard to your priorities.

For example, it is definitely not possible to set as your objectives to develop a successful management consultant career, spend a lot of time with your family, become a great tango dancer and read ten books a week.  

Jobs in a particular field are particularly demanding on your time and energy. Then, it doesn’t matter if you change your job or not, because staying in that industry simply implies working very long hours. For example, this is the case with management consulting. If your career choice is to be successful with companies such as McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting Group and the likes, you need to be prepared to work very long hours and travel extensively.

Your current job may require that you regularly work 12 hours a day, no matter how productive you are. In this case you may simply need to look for another job.

Assess what is your current situation and the gap versus your ideal life.

C. Take Consistent Action to Close the Gap

Whatever the case, medium-term you do have a number of choices. You may change the industry you work in, the company, the type of job. This may require that you need to do some more work to meet education requirements, but if you are determined, almost anything is possible.

So never feel that you are a prisoner of circumstances. You always have a choice!

Determine what is the gap between your ideal and your current life in terms of work-life balance and then start to close the gap via addressing the most important improvement opportunities.

Part 2: Apply 5 Tips to Improve Your Current Work-life Balance

Tip #1: Become More Productive at Work

Get better at time management. Maximize your efficacy and after that, also your efficiency. You need to continue to ruthlessly apply the 80/20 principle along the way. If you step up your productivity, but take on more and more work, you will not make progress in terms of work-life balance.

Celes has written quite a number of great productivity articles which you can check out here:

Tip #2: Set Limits

In order to enjoy work-life balance, you need to become a master at setting limits. In the beginning of my career I used to put in long hours, thinking that “ok, I just need to finish this urgent project and then I will go for a more balanced schedule”. It didn’t happen, as there is always something more to do, always something urgent and/or important to address.

If you don’t set limits, you will find yourself at the mercy of circumstances and external pressures. Decide on a set hour when you leave office. You will need to be flexible in certain circumstances, but unless anything really outstanding happens, try to stick to your rule. If you don’t set an hour to go home, it is for sure that you’ll stay at the office more than if you do set one. And try not to take any work home. Separate your professional from your personal life.

Tip #3: Learn to Say No

This one is very much related to the previous rule. We all face many demands on our time and attention, in both our personal and professional lives. In order to be able to focus on what is really important to us, we need to quit spending time on low importance activities. There will always be pressure from others to do this and that, so you do need to learn to say no to low priority commitments.

Read: How To Say No To Others: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

Tip #4: Simplify Your Life

We all get used to do things in a certain way. Normally, we don’t assess regularly how we do them and if there’s a better way of doing them. So take some time now to think about the activities you do regularly. Is there a way to cut some steps, to do them in a more time-efficient manner or to just eliminate them?

Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself

This tip is about making sure that you observe the fundamentals. Have enough rest. Exercise regularly and try to eat as healthy as possible. These fundamental rules set a sound foundation for your sense of balance. These three elements are all extremely important and they impact your life tremendously long term.

Final Note

It is important to recognize that you can’t change everything all of a sudden. Don’t make a plan to turn your entire life upside down. Pick one action and start taking small steps in that direction. If you are consistent in taking action, it is totally feasible to improve your work-life balance dramatically.

If you are currently feeling stressed at work, here’s an array of tips which will help you: 55 Tips to Manage Work Stress

Image: sarah_jordan

About the Author: Cornelius is a life balance author and blogger. He worked in Fortune 100 companies such as P&G and Unilever and has over 10 years of business experience. Visit his blog Poise Catalyst and get his free course How To Become More Productive .
  • Aaron Corder

    This applies to my life pretty well right now. I’m in such a transitional period between figuring out where my life is headed and still trying to maintain healthy relationships and and a steady work flow. It’s a lot of thinking and planning to do while trying to balance every other aspect of life. Luckily I do a job that isn’t too thought intensive which gives me some time to think for the most part, but it can still become a stressful thing most of the time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and methods on this. I know I can apply a lot of it to my life and I’m sure others can as well.

    • Cornelius

      Hey Aaron,

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! :)

      If you are currently doing some thinking on what is your life purpose, check out this 7-part series by Celes on How To Find Out If You Are Living Your Real Purpose Now”.

      And good luck in achieving a good work-life balance in the meantime!

      Talk soon :)

  • Bryan

    My brother and i have a joke between us: whenever we feel like a coincidence that benefits us in some way happens, we usually laugh and say “the universe says hello”. For a while I’ve been trying to figure out how i can balance my work/school life with my own time. and a lot of what is said make sense. I definitely want to incorporate this into my life ;)

    • Cornelius

      Hey Bryan,

      Thanks for your comment! I also like to think about the universe being in-touch with us and sending us signs from time to time.

      Have you found any approach that works particularly well in your case? :)

      Talk soon!

      • Bryan

        No problem dude. and yeah the signs,or omens really do give us a lot of clarity in life.

        As for the approaches I find giving myself time to pause and collect myself incredibly helpful. Its easy to get lost in the flow of motion and time but when you stop you become more aware of what moves around you. That clarity really helps understanding what I want to do with my time. Being honest with yourself and asking yourself what you expect out of yourself, your time and your effort is also helpful but I would say it can be easily abused because sometimes we expect too much of ourselves. However I have found it a good reflection. Finally REFLECTION! I think 95% of my thought process is based on the act of reflecting and contemplating. Its helped me consider different options and helps me ask myself what I’m trying to do versus going on auto pilot. I consider it one of my best assets and most relied upon skill ;)

        • Cornelius

          I agree. Living consciously makes a huge difference in making progress against any goal, not only against achieving work-life balance.

          Thanks for sharing perspective, Bryan! ;)

  • Bob

    I enjoyed reading your article Cornelius,

    I especially liked the Tip #4: Simplify Your Life “We all get used to do things in a certain way.” I find it refreshing to see how people do the same task in different ways and arrive at the same results with very similar ingredients. One person chunk steps together and others may do them in a sequence.

    When we assess regularly how we do tasks and ask ourselves if there’s a better way of doing them we are able to correct our sequences of errors much faster. This is especially true after completing a task by getting as much feedback from all that are involved in order to have as many viewpoints as possible.

    There is an app for the iPhone Vyclone where you can film a certain scene from different angles all at the same time and put them all together afterwards. (Article on app

    I use Celes 50 Effective Ways To Boost Your Productivity manifesto as a bookmark. It is a great reminder, to reflect on – I keep thinking about combining low level tasks!

    • Cornelius

      Hey Bob,

      Thanks for your comment and for your great contribution, as always. :)

      Lately, I’m on a quest to simplify my life as much as possible, as the compound beneficial effect is huge. We get used so much to a certain approach, that we normally don’t challenge ourselves to do things in a more productive way.

      Separately, I agree the Celes productivity manifesto is great! :)

  • Ana Lydia

    Perhaps one of the biggest struggles I have as related to your post is to get the clear picture of my priorities in life. I usually tend to act in response to circumstances, which lately did I realized it as wrong. The best thing, perhaps, is to stick with the goals no matter what and take life day by day.

  • Cornelius

    Hi , Ana! Thanks for sharing your experience with trying to achieve work-life balance. This is a continuously moving target, isn’t it? :)

  • HT Lee

    Thanks for this helpful post with tons of useful tips. I like how the approach is proactive toward choosing how you want to deal with things instead of letting them overwhelm you. I’ve learnt that Tip #3 (learn to say no) alone freed up many hours of my life, and also freed me from the guilt that attached with saying ‘no’. And thanks for linking to other useful posts too.

    • Cornelius

      Hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I also believe that learning to say “no” is key in order to achieve a decent life balance. Good luck with your journey! :)

  • Elle

    Hi Cornelius,

    I have definitely had my shares of being late to family gatherings and dinners after work because I was stuck at work.

    I’m so glad I came across your article, because tip # three really applies to me.

    I always try my best to help other people out, but I’ve learned there’s a time and place to say no, which is something I need to work on.

    Thanks for posting the link to the “how to say no” article. I found it very helpful as well!

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