I was recently at a training class and every single person there shared that “work-life balance” was the number one thing they wanted to work. It was an incredibly diverse group. Ages ranged from 30 to 70 with careers including teaching, social work, marketing, human resources, and even two poets.

So, what’s going on that makes all of us feel so unbalanced? And more importantly, what can we do about it?This idea of balance is like a scale: life on one side, work on the other with an even 50/50 split. This seems too simple, so let’s try a pie with three healthy slices. Me (Self Care & Wellness) Others (Family, Friends & Pets) and Work (Career & Responsibilities.) 

So how do you know if your pie is unbalanced? Well, you have to feel good about each of the slices in your life. 

Here are some work-life balance questions to ask yourself:

Am I happy with my physical and emotional wellness?

Do I spend enough quality time with family, friends, and pets?

Is my time at work truly productive and driving success for me and my company?

Are you thinking, “Oh crap, I said no to all of these?” Don’t worry. You are in control and can totally work on all the slices of your life at once. And there’s no perfect pie; only the one that works for you. Growth begins with awareness, commitment to change and then action. 

There’s no better time to start than now. Are you ready to take more control of how you spend your precious time? Here are three steps you can take. 

1. Take Care of You First

Healthy habits. You know exactly what to do. Eat healthy food, drink lots of water, sleep and of course the dreaded “exercise.” Moving your body every day doesn’t mean you have to go to an expensive gym. It could be as simple as walking your dog or even doing laps at the mall. Anything to get those steps in. I’m a huge fan of yoga, but any “exercise” you like works and will benefit both your body and mind.

Important reminder:  if you haven’t had a physical in a while, don’t be crazy. Piece-of-mind and early detection are everything.

Joyful Activities. In addition, to focus on health, wellness comes from allowing ourselves the pleasure of activities we love like reading, watching movies, gardening, art, etc. Charity and helping others too. Why would you not do the things that bring you joy?

Releasing Guilt.  If you’re not giving yourself a big enough slice of pie, ask why? Is it guilt that you’d be taking time away from family or work responsibilities? Remember that you cannot serve anyone or anything if you are not serving yourself first. Prioritizing self-care is not selfish. It’s essential to all the other important things in life.

2. Spend Quality Time with Family and Friends

Being Present. If you have a demanding job, it can be hard to compartmentalize and not think about your to-do list when your loved ones are talking to you. Try harder. You can’t love or be loved sitting at your desk alone or making others feel alone even when you are there.

Schedule Everything. If your work schedule is intense, then formally schedule a time for you and your loved ones. That’s right. Put it on your calendar and make it part of your daily plan like any other commitment. When was the last time you hosted a get together with friends just because? Took a family vacation? What are you waiting for? 

Reboot & Reset. Don’t feel guilty about taking a work break and being with your people. It’s called “strategic disengagement” and it’s proven to lead to more creativity and productivity. Just like when you unplug and plug back in your WIFI router, give yourself a reboot. 

3. Work Wiser and Win

Setting Boundaries. I know. There’s more work to do that hours in the day. How can you prioritize the real game-changers? What can you delegate? Are there unproductive tasks you can eliminate?  Be sure you aren’t hiding in your work as it can be easier than taking care of ourselves and prioritizing relationships. You and people are worth the focus. I promise.

Try Integrating I’m a big fan of “work-life integration.” It can be fun to let others in on what you do for a living. Their opinions and ideas are valuable too. Let loved ones know what you do and why you do it.

Take Micro Steps. If you’re working until 8 pm every night, what would happen if you stopped at 7:30? Take a baby micro-step. And if that works well, take another. Establish new boundaries and let everyone know to help hold you accountable. I bet everyone in your life cheers you on. 

You can love your work but remember it can’t love you back. That’s why we need people and pets. Nobody looks back and says they wished they would have spent more hours working. It’s not the hours you grind that gets you ahead anyway—it’s your ideas, your creativity, and your relationships that matter most. Focus wisely.

The Bottom Line

There is no right work-life balance or perfect pie, only what’s right for you. All that really matters is that you focus on all the important things in life and that you feel good about how you are spending your valuable time.

We are all works in progress. Striving to be better and do better ensures we keep progressing so we can reach our full potential. You are in full control of what happens next. 

Wishing you an explosion of empowerment as you go about creating a work-life balance that works for you. 

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey