Everybody talks about having a great work-life balance, but the truth is, not everybody actually wants a great work-life balance.
Some people want all work, and some people want all life.
The people who want the latter often suffer because--let's be honest; you need money to survive outside your parents' basement. (And smart parents will kick you out eventually, anyway.) And some people love work. Work, work, work, money, money, money.
If that's what floats their boats, fine, but don't pretend that's the same thing as having a life.
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But, you? You're normal and would like a life. If your goal is to be the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or to be a hedge fund manager or whatever, you will be far more focused on the work side of thing. Understand that going into those careers. For the rest of us, here's how to gain a great work life balance.
Work Really Hard
This may seem like a contradiction to the work-life balance thing, but the reality is work hard, play hard actually makes sense. If you're constantly doing "life" things when you're at the office (playing on your phone, chatting with friends, surfing the internet), it's not surprising that your boss isn't dying to give you flexibility when you ask for it.
Be the Best at What You Do
Just like working hard leads towards more freedom, so does being the expert in your area. If your boss, coworkers, and clients all trust you, you can get the flexibility that others can't have. You can still be incredibly reliable while leaving early for some sort of "life" activity. (And while lots of people equate the "life" part of "work-life" with children, it's not. Maybe your life is yoga, or rock climbing, or dog training. It doesn't matter. It's your life.)
Don't Give Into Unnecessary Pressure
We often impose restrictions on ourselves that our bosses would never ask for. Your boss may love getting up at 4:00 a.m. and sending out a bunch of emails. She probably doesn't expect you to answer them by 4:30. Sometimes we feel pressure to do things when no such pressure exists.
Go ahead and ask your boss what she expects you to do. I used to have a boss who always felt she had to work late and would put tremendous pressure on us to do the same. When she'd ask me to do something that required staying late (especially on a Friday), I would call the client directly and ask what their deadline was.
Turns out, my boss was making up shorter deadlines. The pressure and stress she felt were entirely self-made. I learned to ignore her deadlines and keep my clients happy.
Make a Schedule--and Then Stick to It
If you don't block out time for your life, your work might take it over. We do this to ourselves a lot of the time. Turn off your email notification on your phone, so you don't "quickly check" your email and get sucked into a project.
Just because your coworkers have no life, doesn't mean that you don't have to. If you can't stand not to be up on everything, schedule 15 minutes before you go to bed to check your email. Your coworkers will quickly learn that you're not reachable from 6:00 pm until 9:45 pm. They'll survive, and you'll have a life.
Take Your Vacation
So many Americans don't use all their vacation. Vacation is actually part of your compensation package. You'd never voluntarily give up a chunk of your salary, so not only are unused vacation days destroying your work-life balance, it's a dumb financial decision.
Vacation is critical downtime that allows you to do a better job at work. Your body and your mind need breaks from time to time. Schedule that vacation--even if your vacation consists of binge watching Netflix or doing yard work. It's your life and your vacation.
Make a Life for Yourself
When you get caught up in work, sometimes you forget to build a life. You abandon hobbies. You let relationships die. And then you blame your job. Well, the thing is, you let your job take over your life. You chose to not make time for your hobbies. You stopped paying attention to your spouse, or you stopped dating in 2007. Don't do this.
Schedule time for a romantic date or a date with friends. Go join a club or a sports team. Take up travel. Just do something. Your don't want to look back on your life and have the most interesting parts be team building exercises. Make building a life a priority.
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Spend and Save Wisely
This is not what you are used to seeing in a work-life balance article, but it's critical for your happiness. Debt destroys wok life balance. Even when you're supposed to be having fun, you're a wreck because you're worried about money.
I've met people who earned six figure salaries who were stretched to the limit financially and people who earned $30,000 a year and were living quite comfortably. If you're currently in debt, your focus should be to get out so that you can enjoy your life. If you're not in debt, good. Stay that way.