You hear a lot of talk about the importance of balance. You should work to live, not live to work. You need adequate time away from the office in order to avoid burning out. But, at the same time, you should devote yourself fully to your career in order to keep climbing the ladder.
Are you feeling confused yet? There’s no doubt about it—striving to reach this perfectly halved equation between work and the rest of your life can be exhausting. It’s all too easy to feel like you’re trying to juggle two completely separate identities.
After my numerous attempts (admittedly, failed ones) to follow the endless advice about balance, step away from the computer, and make more time for “real life,” I had a thought. What if I stopped getting so worked up about balancing my work and life, and instead shifted my focus toward better integrating them? After all, my career is a huge part of my life—so why should I treat it like it’s a completely separate, autonomous piece?
Since that enlightening experience, I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid trying to fit these parts of my life into neatly packaged compartments, and instead be more intentional about doing what feels right in that moment. Rather than constantly tiptoeing that fine line and doing my best to avoid leaning too far in one direction, my work and my life are now two cohesive, codependent parts—rather than competing identities.
“That all sounds great,” you’re likely thinking. “But, how do you even achieve such a thing?” Here are four tips I used to better integrate work and life.
1. Find work you enjoy.
Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life—you’ve heard it time and time again. And, while I don’t necessarily think that’s completely true, the sentiment does hold at least some water.
Think back to a time when you had to work a job that you absolutely loathed. It likely impacted other areas of your life and your attitude outside of work, right? Work and life were integrated—but not necessarily in the way you wanted.
Now, compare that experience to working a job that made you feel inspired and fulfilled. That likely affected your “outside life” in a much more positive way. There’s no way around it: Finding work that you enjoy is a crucial first step in better integrating your work with the rest of your life.
Of course, nobody’s saying you’ll leap with excitement every time Monday morning rolls around. But, if you don’t absolutely detest what you do, you won’t need to be concerned with balance—because you won’t feel the need to constantly compensate for your misery.
2. Adjust your schedule.
Workplaces are becoming increasingly flexible. They allow employees to work remotely from home or a favorite coffee shop, or even adjust work hours to mesh with productivity, allowing us to miss nightmarish rush hours.
However, far too many of us neglect to adjust our daily schedules. Instead, we stick with the status quo, simply because we feel that’s what’s expected of us. We build our lives around work, rather than sliding work into our lives.
Too many of us build our lives around work, rather than sliding work into our lives.
Unfortunately, not every workplace allows a degree of flexibility (fingers crossed that day is coming). But, if you do have the ability to tailor your schedule a little bit, you should be taking advantage of it.
Push your arrival time at the office back by an hour (and plan to work an hour later) in order to leave time for your morning workout. Work a little extra each day so you can take a longer, leisurely lunch with a friend every Friday. These changes are small, but they can have a huge impact on how you fee about your schedule, career, and life in general.
3. Get social.
You hear tons of advice about finding opportunities to network outside of the office—and, for good reason. But, you hear much less about finding ways to be social within the office.
Think about it: You spend a great deal of time each week around your coworkers. And, having strong bonds and friendly relationships with them can go a long way in blurring the line between work and life. Unsurprisingly, if you genuinely enjoy the people you’re working with, those eight-hour days won’t seem like such a chore.
Find some ways to form friendships with your colleagues, whether that’s getting everyone together for a happy hour or trivia night, or even organizing a group for a volunteer opportunity. The more you can start to bond with your coworkers, the less your job will feel like a hindrance to your social life.
4. Share your career.
Nobody wants to be that person that rants and raves about her job every moment of the day. But, if you avoid extremes, there’s really nothing wrong with chatting about work at cocktails with your friends. In fact, it can be a great way to further merge your career with the rest of your life.
Many of us know our friends’ job titles. But, beyond that, we’re pretty out of the loop on what they do day in and day out. Chatting about your career with your friends not only helps to integrate those different parts of your life, but can also open you up to potential new opportunities.
Chatting about your career with your friends not only helps to integrate the different parts of your life, but can also open up potential new opportunities.
Want to take things a step further? Bring one of your friends along to a networking event, an office party, a volunteer function, or even a seminar you’re eager to attend. You’ll have some backup (which is especially helpful if you’re nervous!) and can view the event as more of a fun social opportunity—rather than an intimidating professional stepping-stone. By bringing your circle of friends into the fold on your professional goals and ambitions, you’ll also strengthen both your friendship and your career.
5. Stop chasing perfection.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you implement each of these tips, you’ll suddenly feel like you have everything under control 100% of the time. You won’t. And, you know what? That’s totally OK.
There will be days when you feel like you’re the master of time management, and then there will be days when you feel like you’re failing miserably. There will still be late nights spent in front of your computer, and there will be days when the mere thought of sitting down at your desk sounds like a rare form of torture.
These tips aren’t a recipe for perfection—and, in reality, there isn’t even a “perfect” approach to your work life and your personal life. Instead, it’s all about finding what works best for you, and not necessarily everybody else. So, don’t get bent out of shape chasing perfection. You’ll just wear yourself out.
Everybody talks about how to successfully balance work and life. But, is attempting to perfectly balance them really the right approach? Perhaps we’re all better off recognizing that work is a part of our lives—not a totally separate entity.
Give these four tips a try to stop obsessing over balance and instead further integrate your work with the rest of your life. You’ll likely be surprised at how much your attitude changes!