How to Maintain Work Life Balance When You're Growing Your Career

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: June 04, 2015

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When you have career goals in mind, it’s all about putting in the hard yards. Whether it’s to get ahead, provide for your family or land a lucrative promotion, you find yourself coming in early, staying back late and coming into the office on weekends quicker than your friends can start to print your face on “missing person” milk cartons.

But as you may guess, being all work and no play can have more drawbacks than rewards. Lost sleep, rising stress levels and frazzled friendships are all signs you need to reboot your priorities. Not only is overworking detrimental to your health - think poor concentration, flagging memory, and muscle tension - a lack of quality human interaction (your boss via email doesn't count) can also lead to anxiety, moodiness and increased chances of depression.

Is it really worth it? Your work may suffer as your mental, physical and emotional health takes a backseat and you also lose out on the important things in life, like creating memories with the people who love you.

Thankfully, it’s possible to be both happy and productive. Follow our Open Colleges guide to achieving your career dreams with focus while still leading a life you love.

1. Follow the 80 / 20 rule

Also known as the Pareto Principle, The premise here is that 20% of your actions lead to 80% of your results - and inversely, 80% of your actions only lead to 20% of your results. Which means that most of your flustered activity that’s causing you stress is actually achieving very little. Sit down and identify which 2 - 3 tasks will make the biggest difference to your day. Then only do those tasks - and disregard the rest, at least for now.

2. Eat a frog

Another popular principle (developed by success author Brian Tracey), ‘eat that frog’ means that do the worst, hardest thing on your to do list first thing in the morning. Now I know what you’re thinking - every one of your activities is important. However, there is always one that stands out as it takes up the most mental energy. Do it first and it will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders! Focus on another big priority and once you’ve knocked it off, you have permission to take it easy and focus on another life pursuits (see above).

3. Block out work-free zones

This is exactly as it sounds - a time when you can absolutely not be focused on work. You can be focused on anything else - kids, spouse, an awesome book or a knitting project. Turn off your phone and all email notifications and get lost in the pleasures of your life. After 9pm every night, one night per week and all of Sunday are great suggestions.

4. Get healthy

Learning to manage stress, meditating, eating healthy and exercising are all wonderful habits that will give you stamina, joy and energy. Needless to say, cutting out smoking, excessive drinking and caffeine will also help you sleep better, breathe easier and improve your moods. Good health is the secret weapon you need to make your way in the world - without it, it’s impossible to get ahead.

5. Ask for help

For a life of balance, it’s really important to surround yourself with a good team and communicate expectations. Do you need your spouse or family member to help you with meal preparation this week? Can you ask a friend to look after the kids for two evenings? Learning to delegate (even if it’s by hiring paid help) will free up your life to focus on the priorities that really matter - remember your 20% list. Similarly, if your boss or colleagues are placing excessive demands you’re struggling to meet, arrange a meeting and ask for the workload to be distributed at a more even pace. You will always be able to work something out - and if you don't ask you don't get.

As you can see, life balance is a necessary skill to master if you want to be both happy and successful. With some clever prioritising, boundaries and outsourcing, you can be an example to everyone who wants to live a quality life - and do it with aplomb.

Check out Open Colleges' 8 Steps to a Better Work-Life Balance.


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Yvette McKenzie


Is the content strategist at Open Colleges. She has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.


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