How important is work-life balance? What dangers do you encounter if life takes over your job, or the job takes over your life?
Taken to the absolute extreme, karoshi (death by overwork) can result from someone’s job taking over his or her life. This phenomenon happens so much in Japan that they coined the word karoshi to describe it.
On the other hand, if your life takes over your job, you can get fired for non-performance. It certainly is true that sometimes life gets overwhelming, and what you are going through in your personal life can bleed over into your professional life. As a career coach I have counseled people who have found themselves in this trap. People going through a divorce or people who have lost a loved one often find it hard to focus at work. But most employers will only be understanding for a short time. After that, you are expected to produce no matter what you are going through.
Keep in mind that it is easier to maintain an appropriate work-life balance in some careers more than in others. Some careers, like physicians for example, are extremely demanding. In such careers you have to modify your life to accommodate your career, depending on which specialty you go into. In other careers, it is easier to balance both life and work.
Here are some practical tips for achieving that hard-to-find life-work balance:
1) Set appropriate boundaries and intentionally look for a career and a position that will allow you to live within those limits. It is also a good idea to periodically reassess your work-life balance to see if you are where you want to be. A lot of people start out with good intentions, but it is very easy to find yourself off track if you are not taking inventory on a regular basis.
2) Look for companies that have a reputation for helping their employees to achieve work-life balance. There are lists of such companies on Forbes and Glassdoor.
3) Associate with other people who are also trying to live balanced lives. Not only can other like-minded people give you tips on what they do to stay balanced, but they can also hold you accountable and normalize your situation. When you only associate with other people whose lives are not in balance, going at a frenetic pace and burning yourself out seems normal.
4) Put your energy into what is most important. It is easy to get distracted by petty things. Keep your eye on the ball and get the most important things done first.
5) Say no to things that will violate your boundaries. For example, it might be flattering to be invited to be the committee chair of your professional association, but if you really don’t have the time to juggle this new commitment along with your other responsibilities, you need to decline.
6) Guard your private time well. There are many things that will crop up to intrude on your private time that you have set aside for yourself and your family. If you are really serious about work-life balance, you need to honor that private time and not consistently let other things take precedence.