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How Can I Have Better Work-Life Balance?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

Sometimes it truly feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Between work, spending time with friends, caring for children and loved ones, staying healthy, pursuing personal interests, it can feel like it’s impossible to balance everything. And in fact, research suggests that this struggle has grown increasingly difficult in recent years, with full time employees in the U.S. putting in nearly one full extra day of work each week and forfeiting vacation days for fear of falling behind or even losing their jobs (Breines, 2015). So what do we do? Breines (2015) outlines 8 ways to bring better balance into your life, even if you can’t change how many hours you work.

  • Stop feeling guilty about taking breaks. If you constantly feel guilty when taking a break, you’re then less likely to enjoy the time off or feel recharged when you return to work. Breaks are not a waste of time! They can help you be more productive and stay focused. One recent study found that employees with the highest levels of productivity didn’t work longer hours than anyone else, they just took more breaks (Breines, 2015).
  • Make break time more worthwhile. Speaking of breaks, take stock of how you’re spending those breaks. Are you doing things that actually make you happy? Or are you just acting out of habit? Being more deliberate about how you spend your breaks can make them more valuable.
  • Make work time more efficient. On the other side of things, it’s also useful to take note of how you spend your work time. How much time is spent on important tasks that only you can do versus tasks that can be delegated? Are there ways to streamline routine tasks? Another thing to consider is when you need to focus, temporarily turning off your phone and email alerts can help. 
  • Beware of “work inertia.” When you’re in a good work flow, it can be hard to stop. Although this can help you get things done, it can also impact sleep negatively, disrupt meals, among other health problems. It’s sometimes necessary to pause and return to a task later, when you’re more refreshed.
  • Cut down your commute time. This has definitely changed a lot within the past year due to the pandemic and more companies allowing work from home. However, the average total daily commute time in the U.S. is around one hour (Breines, 2015). It’s hard to find good work-life balance when you spend three-plus hours stuck in traffic each day. Research suggests that long commutes can deliver a big blow to happiness. If you’re contemplating a move, make sure to take into account the commute time. 
  • Make your commute more enjoyable. But what if you can’t change your commute length? This is when it’s important to make the most of the time. An idea could be for you and your partner or a co-worker to listen to the same podcast and then discuss it when you see each other next. You can also use your time on the train to catch up on emails or phone calls with friends. 
  • Establish non-negotiables. What are things that you absolutely cannot sacrifice in life? For some, non-negotiables might be attending important family events, regular exercise, or caring for a sick loved one. Being clear and upfront with your non-negotiables can help structure your life to make room for the things that matter most. If an employer is not comfortable with these things, it might not be the right place for you.
  • Set communication boundaries. A study found that around half of all employed adults who were surveyed checked work emails on evenings, weekends, while on vacation, and when home sick. Blurring the boundaries between work and life can contribute to work-life conflict and burnout. Unless your job requires you to be on call 24/7, it’s important to set clear boundaries regarding your reachability outside of work hours. This can even be something that you include in your email signature so people are aware when you will get back to them.

If you find yourself struggling with managing work-life balance, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Breines, J. (2015, October 25). 10 ways to increase work-life balance. Psychology Today. 

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