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Sometimes, the pressures of family life and daily work responsibilities can be overwhelming. For instance, personal life challenges, such as relationship difficulties or dependent care concerns, can reduce the ability to cope with work demands. Conversely, when work demands increase, less time and energy are left for family, friends, and activities, which may impact the quality of personal life.

Regardless of the problems or situation, an imbalance of work and personal life may lead to increased stress (the harmful kind), resentment, or dissatisfaction (with professional life, personal life, or both). Finding solutions to minimize conflicts between work and family is an ongoing process that is critical to creating a balanced and harmonious life. This can start with discovering what really matters.

To begin, we may need to:

  • Clarify what we really want out of our life
  • Discover what motivates our choices
  • Set and achieve goals that will enrich the harmony in our life and improve our relationships
Make a list of what's important

Ask yourself: what's important?

To determine our priorities, we can start with a list of what is most important to us. Everyone’s list—or at least the order of importance—looks different. Below is one example of priorities:

  1. Children
  2. Spouse
  3. Satisfying career
  4. Community service
  5. Religion/spirituality
  6. Health
  7. Money/ financial security
  8. Sports
  9. Art
  10. Hobbies, such as gardening
  11. Adventure/travel

After listing priorities, some find they are spending more time and energy on activities that are less important to them. Committing time and energy to higher priorities, and reducing or eliminating less important activities, can decrease stress and increase fulfillment. A basic change of schedule, and increased attention to higher priorities, can make a significant impact.

Since everyone is unique, people define, practice, and experience “balance” differently. However, achieving work and family balance may have some universal commonalities:

  • There is enough time for family and work
  • Life “flows” and does not feel overly burdensome
  • When something doesn’t go well, the balanced person has the skills and resources to cope and find solutions
  • The balanced person feels she or he is on the right path, both personally and professionally

Below are additional ideas to help improve balance and harmony in life:

Slow Down. Take the time to enjoy the people and things around you. Schedule more time between meetings and find ways to distance yourself from the things that are causing you stress.

Set Priorities. Develop a list of things that must get done and prioritize the list.

Don’t Procrastinate. You may be experiencing stress because of procrastination. Acknowledge the time it takes to do a good job and allow yourself enough time to accomplish your tasks. Set realistic goals and deadlines.

Delegate. You can’t do everything yourself, so why even try? Get others to help out. Don’t over-extend yourself.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Let things go. Recognize things that don’t really have much impact in your life and allow yourself to let them go. Move on.

Get Enough Sleep. Sleep deprivation adds to your stress and affects your productivity.

Build a Super Support System. During stressful times, ensure that you have trusted friends and co-workers to talk to.

Nurture Yourself. Find an activity you love to maintain a healthy sense of balance. If you enjoy walking, reading, or taking a hot bath, find time each day for these.

Simplify. Don’t do too much. Learn to say no to requests for help. Get rid of the clutter and the baggage in your life. Ease out of relationships or obligations which are not mutually supportive and add more stress to your life.

Get Help. If it’s all getting to be too much for you, get help. If affordable, pay someone to take on unwanted chores like housecleaning, gardening, or accounting. If you’re worried and anxious, talk to a professional, such as your doctor, or seek counseling.

The feeling of being balanced is not constant, as life always produces new challenges and responsibilities. However, the effort to find balance can be a stimulating and rewarding journey of self-discovery that leads to greater satisfaction and pleasure in both the professional and personal arenas.