How to achieve a work life balance; The 3 things you really need know, have and do

Tea cups balancing symbolising work life balance

Work life balance. Something we all strive for and something none of us really know how to achieve.

After all, what is the ‘right balance’?

I posted about work life balance on linked in recently and I was challenged that work life balance is a misleading term since we don’t stop living when we go to work. And that perhaps we should consider a life-work balance instead. Great challenge I thought. 

It’s only semantics but does it challenge your thinking? Are we aiming to fit life in around our work, or should our work fit with our life? And however we think about it, does it really make a difference? Do we have a choice when it comes to balance in our lives? 

Here I share some of the reasons why achieving a work life balance feels so complicated, and how to achieve a balance that’s right for you. 

So why is work life balance so tricky to achieve? 

Well, there are so many factors at play. Here’s just a few…

1. The rise in technology.

Technology means we are connected 24/7. This connection sets an expectation of near instantaneous replies to our demands and requires us to hold really firm boundaries. Our personal ‘social’ time is often spent online, on the same devices and the same places where work is accessible. And let’s face it, no one wants to ignore an urgent or important request. So if you see them pop in, how do you say no?

2. Increased flexible working.

More and more we are being granted greater flexibility in the way that we work, and whilst this helps us to make choices about how we work, it throws out the traditional 9-5 and means that people are on call around the clock at hours to suit. Again, this raises expectations that you will go online to speak to America at 9pm in the UK because we ‘work flexibly’. So once more, it’s hard to no. 

3. Corporate Culture.

The culture of your organisation shapes how easy or hard it is for you to achieve balance. From examples set by other leaders to what people are rewarded for and how balance is talked about internally….these all create norms that we can choose to conform to, or challenge. And for those that challenge the cultural norms of an organisation, there are often consequences. 

And yet, amongst this changing and challenging world of work, the biggest influence I see over our ability to achieve work life balance is ourselves and managing our mindset.  Particularly, getting really good at saying no, learning strong boundaries and developing your resilience. 

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s some key things you need to know, have and do to achieve a better work life balance.

Our approach to the right work-life balance is driven largely by our unconscious needs. 

We have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. 

Your conscious mind is your goal setter, it’s the one which decides what time to get up or whether to stop for coffee on the way to work. 

Our unconscious mind is our goal getter, it’s the one which applies our values, beliefs and strategies to our behaviour. And it’s this set up which explains how we may still stay at work till 7pm each night when we’ve set our self the goal to reclaim a better work life balance. 

Most of our decisions are unconscious, driven by our learned or innate needs.

So, if you’re looking to achieve a better work life balance, you can’t address it by simply setting yourself the goal. You need to make sure your goal is aligned to your values, beliefs and identity. 

Let me break that down. 

Values and Work Life Balance

Values are essentially things that are important to you in life. So, from a work context this might be things like, power, authority, freedom, achievement, belonging or challenge. Your values are what truly drives you. If work life balance isn’t up there with your other values, then you’re going to find it really hard to make decisions which honour your goal of achieving better balance. 

That’s not to say it’s impossible, just that other forces will be at play drawing you away from this goal. Understanding what your values are can really help you in this area. If this is something you’re interested in then take a look at this blog Values: Your Secret Weapon to Finding Fulfilment.

Beliefs and Work Life Balance

Beliefs are rules we live our life by, they help us to make sense of the world and ultimately, we act as if our beliefs are true. 

So, if you believe that you’ll be frowned upon for leaving work on time 3 days a week then, if you care about being frowned upon, you’re unlikely to leave on time. 

However, if you believe that by leaving work on time 3 days a week you are being a role model and setting a good example to your peers, colleagues and team, then this is a belief that will support you in achieving your goal. 

To achieve your goals of work life balance it’s worth taking a look at your beliefs. What do you believe about work-life balance? Which of those beliefs support your goal for a better balance and which limit you or hold you back? 

Once you have a clear understanding of your beliefs you can work to change your limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs. 

Our habits and behaviours

Our habits and behaviours will also influence our ability to achieve work life balance. 

There are plenty of unhelpful “surface level’ issues that get in the way of balance, such as always responding immediately to e-mails and ‘chat’ requests, poor prioritisation, procrastination or taking too much of a collaborative approach. 

Most of these are driven by a ‘deeper structure’ problem such as 

  • A desire to please others
  • The need for perfectionism
  • Difficulty asking for help or support
  • A fear of failure
  • Feeling like an imposter
  • The belief that you are not good enough

Most people will focus on their surface level habits and beliefs in the pursuit of change. They’ll try to develop better time management strategies, or they’ll aim to improve their focus. And whilst many of these strategies are effective, bouncing back to old habits is highly likely. 

Sustained change comes from tackling the deeper structure issues, and you can achieve that by working with a good coach. 

So what do we do?

You may feel overwhelmed knowing that work life balance isn’t just a simple case of deciding to hold some firmer boundaries around your time but the good news is that building your self awareness of your unconscious needs opens up so much more choice and options about how we can achieve a better balance. 

If you’re just starting out, take a look around some of my blogs. Here’s a couple that may be useful to you. How to Thrive at Work with Boundaries. Blog Series PART 3 and Saying NO: The secret to having it all

You can also tune into my free workshop “3 Success Secrets you need to become Unstuck, Clear and Confident about your next career move” because chances are if you’re struggling with your work life balance you’ve thought about changing roles or doing something different. In this workshop I talk about what you need to do to make sure the problem of work life imbalance doesn’t follow you. You can get instant access to the workshop below. See you there 🙂


 "3 Success Secrets You Need to Become UNSTUCK, CLEAR and CONFIDENT About Your Career Next Steps"
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