Work/Life Balance - Why You Need It And How To Achieve It

13 min read JUN 24, 2023

Jack Nicholson was right…all work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.

But truly, when you look at the facts, dull is the least of our worries when it comes to tipping the work/life balance scale in favor of work.

Trying to juggle career, family, extracurricular commitments, health, and time for yourself can be a tricky balancing act. But, without this balance, our relationships, health, and general well being can greatly suffer.

Actually, when you devote too much time to work, sacrificing life in the process, your work productivity, focus, and creativity declines as well, negating the extra hours you’ve spent “punching the clock” in the first place.

To add, low productivity, burnout, high turnover rates, an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and mental decline are all associated with a poor balance between one’s work and personal life.

So, what’s the answer? My dad always used to say, “well, you gotta work to live.” But, does this mean you should sacrifice living to work?

The bottom line is, there has to be a healthy balance between working and living in order to avoid burnout, chronic stress, negative health outcomes, and to simply enjoy your job and your life.

Here, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the need for this balance as well as some ways you can achieve this equilibrium in your own life.

Why Do You Need To Balance Work And Life?

Burning the candle at both ends. That’s how we get ahead in this world, right?

Well, paints a different picture as it uses the following sentence in its definition of the above, common, statement: “His doctor said that his illness was brought on by stress and recommended that he stop burning the candle at both ends.”

Hmmm, so maybe getting ahead requires a bit more balance?

We certainly think so, and here’s why…

No one is insinuating or insisting that hard work isn’t a great quality, one necessary for success in many areas of life. But, without a balance between work and life, much can suffer.

So, let’s examine the need for this balance by evaluating the following areas: work, relationships, mental health, and physical health.

First, even your work can suffer when you don’t have balance between your career/job and your personal life.

  • A survey of 83% of Fortune 1000 companies found those employees who felt they had a handle on balancing work and life worked harder and more effectively than those who lacked this balance.
  • Engagement, creativity, and productivity are all proven to decline in employees without a work/life balance.
  • Turnover rates increase in employees who lack a work/life balance.
  • Individuals who lack a balance between work and life are more often disengaged and discontent in their job.
  • Problematic behaviors increase in the workplace when employees are overworked, overstressed, and simply don’t allow for enough family/personal time.
  • When individuals do have a proper balance between work and life, they have higher attendance rates.
  • Work commitment and motivation both improve in those with a healthy work/life balance.
  • Those individuals with a proper work/life balance are said to be happier in their career/job than those who lack this separation between work and personal time.

But, this equilibrium isn’t only needed for your work experience. Your relationships can also suffer when you don’t have a healthy balance between work and life.

  • Withdrawing from family is common in those who prioritize work loyalty to an unhealthy degree, leading to an unhealthy family dynamic.
  • A lack of work/life balance is also associated with a conflict in personal values and morals, which commonly leads to conflict in relationships.
  • Tension increases in personal relationships in the absence of a work/life balance.
  • Work stress alone can not only affect your mood around loved ones, but this robs from time spent in your relationships as well, which has a negative impact.
  • Too much time spent at work, or thinking about work, often leads to a lack of emotional and mental availability in relationships which causes strain.
  • Many individuals report not feeling in sync with their partners when they lack a balance between work and life.

Mental health is also proven to decline without a work/life balance.

  • Irritability and anxiety are 75% more common in those individuals who lack a balance between work and life.
  • Those who suffer increased instances of depression and anxiety, even stemming from work stress, are more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Fatigue, both mental and physical, is a common symptom of an imbalance in work and life, which not only affects productivity at work, but also increases the risk of cognitive decline in the areas of focus, concentration, and memory.
  • Complete mental exhaustion is most common in those who lack a balance between work and life.
  • Contrarily, mental acuity and focus improves with work/life equilibrium.

Your physical health can suffer decline without this needed balance as well.

  • A lack of balance between work and life ultimately leads to increased levels of stress, and this is proven to weaken the immune system, which can result in a greater number of illnesses, even muscle pain, and headaches.
  • The risk of stroke and heart attack greatly increases in those people who are prone to chronic levels of stress due to an imbalance between work and personal life.
  • Those that work in a sedentary position, when lacking the appropriate time to balance out this aspect of work, have an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. (These negative health outcomes can also stem from sleep deprivation and chronic stress, common complaints in those without this balance.)
  • Chronic pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are common ailments for those who are overworked.
  • Weight gain, on the job injury rates, and neck/muscle pain increases in those who consistently put in extra (or overtime) hours at work.
  • A poor work/life balance in your middle stage of life could lead to negative health outcomes later in life, primarily stemming from the effects of sleep deprivation and chronic stress.

5 Ways To Improve Your Work Life Balance

1- Set A Schedule/Routine

Setting a work/life schedule can help you to outline areas where you may be sacrificing life in the name of work.

Implementing such a schedule will look different depending on your career:

- You may need to talk with your employer, discussing the need for a schedule to optimize both your time at work and your time away from work. In doing so, be open about your needs, and seek to come up with a solution together.

- If you are not in a salary-type position, you may not have to discuss this with an employer. Instead, you may simply need to spend some time on your own, honestly evaluating the hours in your day and how you spend them. (Obviously, this same type of planning and evaluation can be beneficial for those in salary positions as well.)

Once you get a clear picture of your day/week, set aside specific time for you to simply take care of yourself (exercise, self-care, etc) away from work. Plan breaks, vacations, and any time off in advance, and if needed, evaluate how much time you’re spending at (or on) work or work related endeavors, then shift your schedule to ensure a healthy balance.

- If you’re like me, working from home, the line between work and life can easily become blurred. So, establishing a routine is just as important for those of us working in this manner.

A few suggestions for setting such a routine include creating a designated work space, setting work hours (and sticking to them), planning breaks throughout the day, and allowing time for vacation or full days away from work.

One more element of planning? Prioritization.

Take a look at your work to-do list, and prioritize these tasks: due-dates, deadlines, and you time!

2- Just Say No

This slogan isn’t just for drugs…except for the fact that some folks can slip into the habit of allowing work to become like a drug.

For some people, work can be addicting, prompting feelings of nervousness, even depression, when confronted with any down time or hours away from their “desk.”

And, as we mentioned earlier, this can have multiple negative consequences.

If you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed with your workload, or if you know you’re the type of person who’s even comfortable with work-overwhelm, for the sake of your health…learn to say no.

Sometimes achieving a balance between work and life is truly that simple.

If you are feeling stressed at work, definitely say no to added tasks. And, be sure to communicate to your employer when you feel stressed or overworked, potentially alleviating the possibility of the need to say no.

Then, equally as important, once you feel you’ve achieved a healthy balance between work and life, say no to added tasks and events to keep that balance.

Sometimes this is a needed response outside of work as well to avoid burnout, stress, and feelings of overwhelm.

For instance, near the end of last year I felt like I’d appropriately balanced my work routine, not getting so busy that I couldn’t enjoy life. But, in the month of December I found my family’s calendar had seemingly exploded.

Out of the 31 days in the month, there were only 4 days (holidays included) we didn’t have something scheduled with our church (practices, men’s events, ladies’ meetings, music programs, youth outings, etc). So, I made the unpopular decision to put on the brakes in a bold way, saying ‘no’ to every last thing on the schedule aside from a set work routine and our home life.

Say ‘no’ to church? Yep! While this decision garnered some judgment, I can emphatically say that was the best Christmas, the best December, the best month, the best time of our entire year!! Even my kids…teenagers…openly commented on how much they loved (and needed) this break.

So, take a bit of inventory in your life, and do what’s best for you and your family. Say no to extra stress, extra work, extra commitments, and take care of YOU!

3- Take Breaks

Since I briefly mentioned this notion within the concept of saying no, let’s expand on this a bit here.

Taking breaks, short and long, can be the difference between balance and burnout.

Why do most companies offer vacation time (paid) as a benefit? Because whether you punch an actual clock or a figurative one for weeks on end, employers know this can lead to a build up of stress. And, they know that productivity suffers without needed breaks.

So, first of all, use your vacation time. Get away, even if it just means staying at home for a week to reset, refresh, and refocus.

Spend time away from work with your family, with your friends, out socializing, in your garden, exercising, or taking walks in nature. No matter how you choose to spend your time, just be sure this fully involves a complete break from work.

And, don’t forgo small breaks throughout your day either!

Did you know that truck drivers, teachers, and nurses are more prone to get urinary tract infections than most other professions? Why? Because these folks rarely get needed breaks, even just to use the restroom.

In other words, not taking needed breaks doesn't just contribute to feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work, it can also have other health-related consequences.

And, when you get those breaks, be sure to step away from your workstation. Even if it means just walking down the hallway and back, you’ll be much more refreshed if you allow your mind and body to, well, take a break.

This is another area that can be difficult for those working at home as well.

Personally, it took me a long time to really convince myself that I could be more productive with small breaks throughout my day, than simply powering through hour after hour.

But, spending 10-15 minutes in the sunshine, tending to my flowers, listening to the birds sing…it makes all the difference in my productivity and creativity, not to mention my attitude!

For your health and wellbeing, for the purpose of productivity and more, please take given, needed, and extra (if you can) breaks throughout your work day.

Oh, and as an added bonus, please…unplug on your breaks. Step away from your phone, your tablet, your computer, from any screen, and truly, really, fully, wholly take a genuine break.

4- Prioritize Self-Care

We briefly mentioned prioritization earlier as it related to work tasks, but when it comes to balancing work and life, seek to treat your health and wellbeing with just as much concern as anything else.

Ever heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”?

Make sure your cup is filled by making self-care non-negotiable.

  • Set reminders for exercise, and prioritize yourself enough to move your body, doing something you enjoy, daily. Exercise will help to reduce overall stress levels and help you to better tackle your day, both at work and at home.
  • Make bed-time a hard and fast rule. Put down the pile of work, step away from your electronics, say no to Netflix, and get some healthy, restful, restorative, needed sleep.
  • Schedule extra minutes in your day or week to meal prep, planning and preparing healthy, nutritious meals for you to enjoy throughout the week. When you fuel your body with the things it needs, it’ll carry you much farther, even helping you handle work (or life) stress more appropriately.
  • Mark down in your calendar, set a phone reminder, or carve in stone some time for you to relax, unwind, reset, and refresh. Maybe this takes place poolside, on the golf course, or curled up in your favorite chair with a book. Do whatever you enjoy, but don’t omit this from your daily/weekly to-dos.

If you’re thinking, I simply don’t have the time to do this, consider what even 5 minutes a day can do for your body, mind, and spirit, when you simply prioritize yourself.

  • Setting aside just 5 minutes a day for relaxation can improve focus, confidence, and reduce stress.

If that’s what 5 minutes can do, can you imagine how you’d feel each day if you spent 20 minutes “on” you?

So, go ahead now, grab that stone, set self-care in it permanently, and watch your work/life stress levels slowly diminish!

5- Grace, Grit, And Gratitude

Sometimes work can become overwhelming simply because we set our goals unrealistically high, seeking unattainable perfection.

Tony Horton always says, do your best, and forget the rest. And, I think this advice is just as fitting for a work/life balance as it is in exercising.

Perfectionism sets unattainable expectations that rob you of peace, time, health, balance, and so much more.

So, tackle your responsibilities with grit. “Do your best” realistically. Then, give yourself some grace, some compassion, and go on with your day.

Life, in and of itself, is not easy, nor is it perfect. So, accept this, and live/work accordingly.

Then, be sure to center yourself with gratitude.

Sometimes we can lose perspective in work and in life, which disrupts this balance altogether.

Practicing gratitude has a way of grounding us, of putting things into perspective and allowing us to see all the beautiful things in both our work and personal life, ultimately altering our view and decreasing stress.

And of course, if you’re struggling with this balance, don’t hesitate to reach out to your employer, family, friends, even a mentor or therapist for a little help and/or guidance along the way.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Medium Roast.

Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


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