10 Problems with Your Work-Life Balance and How to Solve Them

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Stressed woman sitting at her desk with hands on her face over laptop
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FEELING STRETCHED?

With the intrusion of technology and an uncertain job market, it's getting harder and harder to separate work and everyday life these days. Finding the right work-life balance isn't easy. You can't up and quit your job or even quickly find a new one if your current position is already taking over your personal life, but there are ways to gain control for a better work-life harmony. Here are some of the most common work-life problems with simple strategies for tackling each of them.

Man experiencing back pain sitting at his office desk
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PROBLEM: YOU'RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH EXERCISE

Many of us sit too long at a desk all day, which can be extremely detrimental to our health, and standing desks might not live up to the hype. Even hitting the gym for an hour in the evening isn't enough to prevent chronic pain and disease down the road. Our health can fall to the wayside if we're tied to our desks and not moving enough.
Two business women walking down the stairs in an office building
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SOLUTION: SNEAK IN ACTIVE TIME

Taking charge of your health and exercise routine. Work in short breaks throughout the day; visit a colleague on a different floor; or take a stroll around the block during your lunch hour. If possible, utilize the gym in your company's building, or join a gym located on your route home from work to ensure you'll end up on the treadmill and not on the couch. Aim for 10,000 steps per day (a fitness tracker can help), and the activity will result in a more active, healthy lifestyle. It's also possible to sneak in a few other calorie-burners at the office, too.
Tired woman working late at her office
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PROBLEM: YOU'RE LOSING SLEEP

When we're up late on our devices and sending emails long into the night, we're not leaving time to recharge our own batteries. It's hard to unwind when we're basically at the office while in bed. Unfortunately, we can't recoup that lost sleep over the weekend; our bodies (and job performance) depend on a consistent sleep schedule to function properly.
Man peacefully sleeping
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SOLUTION: IMPLEMENT A NEW BEDTIME ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT

To log those hours of much-needed rest, set a hard sleep time, and stick to it. Power down devices at least an hour before your scheduled bedtime. Before hopping into bed, implement a relaxing sleep routine (like drinking a cup of caffeine-free tea and reading a good book under a weighted blanket). If necessary, listen to meditation apps like Calm or white-noise machines, which can be timed to shut off on their own after you're already snoozing. To clear your mind, take 15 minutes at the end of each workday to make a to-do list for the next day.
Woman sitting at a conference table during a meeting looking bored and burnt out
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PROBLEM: YOU'RE BURNING OUT

Chronic stress can quickly lead to burnout. Burnout can affect job performance and home life. If you're seeing signs of burnout like exhaustion, lack of motivation, and even cognitive and physical problems, it's time to take action. Ideally, you'll make small changes in your life before reaching this point, but there are ways to recover from work burnout if you've already hit a wall.
Organization calendar on a computer
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SOLUTION: WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER

It's possible to arrange your life for greater happiness. Identify your priorities, and learn how to say "no" to anything that doesn't align with your work or personal goals. You'll find more time to focus on job tasks and activities outside of work that truly spark joy. Protect your time by respectfully declining the offer to serve on an extra work committee or run the school bake sale. Pare down your workday to the most essential and rewarding job tasks, and schedule personal obligations and social time in your calendar, too. Otherwise, you'll become too burned out to fully appreciate any part of your life, even work.
Bored woman at work balancing a pencil on her upper lip
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PROBLEM: YOU CAN'T FOCUS

While attempting to juggle a multitude of tasks between our work and personal lives, it's easy to lose focus and motivation. It could also be the job responsibilities or the physical space that prevent us from doing our best work. If we can't focus on the task at hand, it can be difficult to move forward successfully.
Focused woman working in her office
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SOLUTION: FIND YOUR QUIET PLACE AND FOCUS ON THE ESSENTIALS

First, find a designated quiet space that works for you. If you can't pick your work spot, consider noise-canceling headphones to block out office chatter. Then, focus on crucial tasks based on deadlines and break down long-term goals into more manageable tasks, so you can work toward them each day and still feel a sense of accomplishment. Give yourself time for short breaks and daydreaming, even if you have to block out a chunk of time on your calendar or set a timer. This will help you stay motivated and on task.
Overwhelmed woman with to-do post-it notes all over her head
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PROBLEM: THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE DAY FOR PERSONAL OBLIGATIONS

If you're working so hard at the office that your personal to-do list is growing longer by the billable hour, it's inevitably going to overwhelm you until there's no time to check things off your list. If your personal responsibilities are piling up, it could negatively impact your mental health and ultimately your job performance.
Happy man leaving the office for the day
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SOLUTION: FIGHT THE GUILT

Stop doing things out of guilt. We can't devote 100 percent to everything all the time, so don't feel guilty for not staying late at the office because everyone else is burning the midnight oil or bailing on a colleague's going-away party because you need to get your taxes done. Step away from the email, then tend to your personal responsibilities and start fresh at work the next day. If you can afford to outsource help, pay someone else to clean your house, do your laundry, or deliver your groceries, so you can use the free time wisely. Additionally, enlisting the help of time- and energy-saving employee assistance programs can help alleviate the burden of various life challenges that may adversely affect job performance, health, and personal well-being.
Woman looking out of her office window daydreaming
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PROBLEM: YOU HAVEN'T TAKEN A VACATION IN AT LEAST A YEAR

While companies and managers should be good models for balance and encourage employees to take their allotted vacation time, and even allow unpaid time off for certain unexpected life events, some work cultures don't promote this as much as they should. But it's important to schedule time away from work for yourself—it's scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve productivity.
Happy man and his wife on a boat during vacation
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SOLUTION: FIND A COMFORTABLE TIME TO GET AWAY

Take time for a getaway (or even a staycation to recharge at home) for your mental health. Work with your boss and team to find a more comfortable time to be away for a bit. There might be a time of year that works better for you to take advantage of those valuable PTO days. You might continue convincing yourself there's too much to do to leave, but remind yourself that it's as much of a benefit to your employer as it is to you. You'll be a more productive employee and PTO is part of your overall compensation anyway, so use it or lose it.
Child in his soccer uniform looking out of the goal net
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PROBLEM: YOU KEEP MISSING OUT ON FAMILY ACTIVITIES

Missing the occasional soccer game has suddenly turned into blowing off the entire season of watching your child's winning goals while you've been stuck in the office or tethered to your smartphone. If work is affecting your relationships and family life, it's possible you're losing perspective of what really matters. Time to keep your values in check.

Happy mother working from home with her daughter next to her
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SOLUTION: LOOK INTO FLEXTIME AND USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Look into your employer's policies on flextime and telecommuting a few times a week, which could help free up invaluable hours with your family. If your company has on-site childcare, this might also cut down on commute time that'd be better spent on family plans or at least one-on-one conversations with your children in the car, after work. Additionally, use technology to your advantage while you're away, but don't let it control you; ban it at certain times so that you can focus on family instead.
Bored man at work in his office
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PROBLEM: YOU'RE NOT LEARNING ANYTHING NEW

Learning new things on the job or outside of work helps us grow both personally and professionally and it makes us happier individuals. You don't have to learn a new skill or two just to increase your salary. In fact, you should look for opportunities to challenge yourself for your own mental well-being and to stay motivated in your career.
Woman learning a new program from boss or coworker in an office
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SOLUTION: LOOK INTO FREE OR LOW COST LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

Opportunities to learn in the office are all around us if we look for them. Look into employee training or outside workshops and classes—even if it's free educational resources that'll keep you motivated and inspired to work toward a goal. Ask someone "in the know" if you can shadow him or her. Experiment with new software or technology, and jump at the chance to work on new projects that interest you and fit into your goals. Work with your manager to find ways you can pursue new educational opportunities within budget.
Man at home alone watching television at night and looking depressed
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PROBLEM: YOU DON'T HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE ANYMORE

While company outings and team-building exercises are a great way to engage with your colleagues, you likely still need an outside social life to be fully satisfied. Even if it means a slightly less perfect quarterly report, you should still be able to enjoy some fun social time.

Group of friends having beers after work at a bar
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SOLUTION: SCHEDULE SOCIAL TIME LIKE A MEETING

For the sake of your mental health while climbing the corporate ladder, put some of your energy into making friends and family a priority. Be extra diligent about scheduling activities that make you feel balanced into your calendar, and leave work at work (no emails or texts!) when you're catching up with your best friend over dinner or taking an evening guitar class with a new group of pals. As for those personal to-do's? Remember that an unclean house isn't a sign of failure, especially if it means spending more time enjoying the outdoors with your family or friends while you've got the time.
Overwhelmed woman at work with people demanding her attention
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PROBLEM: YOU'RE OVERLOADED WITH UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Poor management, unbalanced workloads, and rigid work hours and expectations can make or break your work-life balance. Without any flexible options or the ability to change your job description, it's hard to see room for improvement. But there are some habits you can instill and practice regularly to alter the way you work and play.
Employee speaking to her boss in a conference room
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SOLUTION: COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS TO FIND SUPPORT

People who have achieved a good work-life balance regularly communicate about what's working and what isn't, and they focus on developing a strong support network. Communicate with your boss and teammates often to establish boundaries and come up with reasonable work solutions, so you can get their full support. If you won't be available for certain hours during the day or weekend because you're dealing with family issues, let your manager and colleagues know. A simple conversation can alleviate the burden, particularly during more challenging moments in your personal life.

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