How To Tell If Your Work Life Balance Is Messed Up
You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
If you want to get ahead these days, you need to hustle. Often that means long days and nights and little time to relax or enjoy yourself with friends. This isn't a good way to live, and it often results in you having no time for anything extra, let alone self-care.
But it doesn't have to be this way. It is possible to crush it in business without sacrificing every other aspect of your life. If you're concerned about the quality of your life, and want to make time for yourself and the people you care about, look for these signs your work life balance is a wreck.
Your shifts keep getting longer and longer.
You used to stay at the office until five o’clock every day. And then five became six. Six turned into seven. And now, when the days get really hectic, you might not get home until eight or later.
Your shifts used to last eight hours or less. Now you’re stuck at work for ten hours or more. You’ve added new responsibilities to your schedule, but it’s a salaried position, so you don’t get compensated for the extra effort.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an employee, freelancer, or entrepreneur. There will always be long days. Sometimes you just need more time to finish your to-do list. But overextending yourself shouldn’t become a habit. Studies show that working long hours makes you less productive on the job and actually hurts your overall work performance. That's just one reason why you're much better off keeping a normal work life balance and going home at a reasonable time.
You can barely keep your eyes open after work
You lay down to read a book after an exhausting workday. Before you can finish one chapter, you’re unconscious. One hour later, you awake from your unplanned nap, feeling groggy.
You sit down to watch a movie when you get home from work. Before the opening credits finish rolling, your eyes are shut. Two hours later, you wake up feeling irritated and confused. You also struggle to fall asleep at a decent hour, which only compounds the problem in the future.
When you’re too tired to function outside of your professional world, it’s safe to assume your work life balance needs attention. Work shouldn't intrude on your ability to enjoy free time. What’s the point of earning a large income when you’re too exhausted to appreciate the fruits of your labor?
Your family complains about a lack of attention.
You’re under so much pressure at work that you forget important dates like anniversaries. You’ve missed most of your kid’s plays and soccer games because you had to work overtime.
Your partner or spouse thinks they’re not a priority, because you don’t go on dates anymore. And your child is having a hard time in one of their classes, but you’re too busy to help them with their homework.
Work shouldn’t be so time-consuming that you don’t have any energy left for your family. Money won’t comfort you on your deathbed, only your loved ones can do that. Don’t neglect their needs, because family is more important than anything else.
You haven’t taken a vacation in a year or longer.
You used to dream of world travel. Your bucket list includes visiting a long list of countries including France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, and Japan to name a few. There is so much to explore!
Today, travel feels like a distant memory. Your schedule has been so crazy that it’s impossible to take more than two days off at a time. Exciting vacations turned into boring staycations. You’re thrilled when you can just stay home long enough to catch-up on your DVR backlog.
What in the world happened? Your work life balance became misaligned, and this is true for many Americans. 54% of employees don’t take all their paid-time off because they’re afraid of being replaced. I’m sorry, but this is incredibly damaging to your health and your happiness. If it's you, you need to find a better boss (or start your own business).
Your stress levels are causing problems at home.
You’re like a ticking time bomb after work. The stress is so overwhelming that it doesn’t take much to trigger you. Something as silly as forgetting to take the trash out causes a huge fight.
Your partner or spouse begins to fear your reactions to things. They’re terrified of saying the “wrong” thing, because it might make you lose your temper. So they start to keep their mouth shut, which only creates more problems because you can’t resolve a conflict without talking about it.
Sound familiar? If so, your work life balance could be out of whack. Work shouldn’t be so stressful that it makes you lash out at the people you care about. How is it their fault? Instead, listen to soothing music and meditate during your drive home. Do your best to get all of the negative energy out of your system before you open the front door. This can make a huge difference!
You feel as if you can never get away from work.
You’re at the beach with your family. Instead of joining everyone else for a volleyball game, you excuse yourself to catch-up on work related emails. Your absence is noted and you're missed, but no one's really surprised.
You’re on a honeymoon with your new spouse. Instead of being present with them, you get distracted by calls from colleagues or clients. The love of your life feels sad and unwanted.
Business shouldn’t rule your life. If you can’t go one day without checking your email inbox, that means your policies and procedures need to be reworked as soon as possible. Can someone else answer those emails? Or could you set up an automatic reply system that specifies when you’ll return and who to contact for urgent concerns in the meantime?
Your health and fitness are suffering in a big way.
You used to be an incredible athlete. As a teenager, you were the most valuable player on your team. Your strength and body confidence were booming. It’s great to be young!
Fast forward a few years. You can’t remember the last time you went to a gym. None of your old wardrobe fits anymore. You’re too embarrassed to admit how much weight you’ve gained.
Fitness isn’t just about vanity. Working out benefits your physical and mental health. And stop saying you’re too busy. In fact, science proves that exercise makes you more (not less) productive. Never let your work life balance get so out of sync that you don’t have time left for this most essential form of self-care.
You commit to everything without pausing to think
A friend asks you to help them move. Your schedule is booked solid, but you do it anyway. Otherwise, you’d feel guilty. Your boss asks you to work an extra shift. You agree to do so without checking your schedule (and find out that the shift conflicts with previously made plans).
Get comfortable with saying “no.” There’s nothing to gain from spreading yourself so thin. Say no to any invite or opportunity that doesn’t add value to your life. As a result, you’ll have more time for the people and activities that really make you happy.
And don’t be afraid of hurting people’s feelings. To take the sting off the rejection, emphasize that you’d love to help, but have already committed to something else. It’s impossible to be in two places at the same time, so most people won’t be offended by this. They’ll get over it!
The number one thing you can take away from this
For some people, work is an out of control beast that devours every part of their life. If this is you, it can and will damage your health, your relationships, and your overall happiness. If you saw yourself in some or all of these warning signs, take steps now to establish a better work life balance. It's better to do so now before the overwork gets to you and forces you to make changes.