Inspired by the insightful discussion between Itay Forer and Dani Hart on the Growthmentor podcast, I want to share with you what work-life balance truly means, six tips for how you can achieve it, and why there is no one solution for a balanced living.
As a certified life coach and content marketer, I’ve worked with startups all over the world and know the drill. Starting your own company or working in a startup can be intense – you have to handle uncertainty, rapid changes, and immense responsibility.
With burn-out rates on the rise, companies realize how important the (mental) health of their employees is. But when you are your own boss, it’s critical to remember that your most important asset is yourself.
Most of us will only realize how important it is to prioritize our work-life balance when we hit the “tipping point”, as Cleanly founder and serial entrepreneur Itay Forer calls it. For him, that tipping point happened when he found himself working around the clock but not feeling happy at all.
In this situation, he had to take a step back and re-evaluate his own priorities.
This leads us to one of the biggest tips for achieving work-life balance: there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Feeling more harmonious and relaxed looks different for each person and without clarity on what is a must-have for you, you won’t be able to prioritize.
There is no right answer for everybody on how to achieve work-life balance, there is only what is right for each individual. Everybody has their own path and their own challenges.
As great as it is to get inspired by insightful speakers and the people around us, when it comes to how we want to live our lives, we have to find a way that works for us. Your way will look different from your boss’s, your friend’s or even your partner’s.
To give you an example, Dani Hart, who works as a digital strategist and growth advisor, uses her core values as her north star when making decisions. After listening to Rand Fishkin’s book, Lost & Founder, she understood that she needs core values to follow. For her, growth, health, community, respect, equality, and longevity are must-haves. When she assesses where her life is right now, she analyzes it through that lens. If she doesn’t have them satisfied 100%, that’s okay, she knows what she wants to work towards (read Dani’s full story here).
With this kind of clarity, it’s so much easier to make decisions and to say no to opportunities that ultimately don’t align with you. Saying goodbye to a client or quitting a job can be an empowering decision when they weren’t a fit in the first place.
When you work in growth marketing, it’s easy to connect your worth with the numbers you see on the screen. Metrics are going up – I must be a great worker and person. Metrics are going down – Oh no, something must be wrong with me. In truth, your worth does not lie in your service invoices, and you should focus on more than metrics and the numbers on your screen.
When you connect your worth purely to your achievements at work, you’re in a race that you’re never able to win. That’ll cause you to constantly neglect yourself: skipping sleep, deprioritizing exercise, canceling dates or family dinners, etc. Ultimately, you’ll end up sacrificing everything for your career and leaving nothing for yourself. Hurrying after the next promotion, the next award, the next achievement is an exhausting task and leaves you burned out.
Even more so, when you connect your worth to your achievements at work, you’ll be highly sensitive to any criticism because you’ll believe a critique of your work is a critique of you. To truly thrive in your career and life, you need to know who you are and learn to become your own cheerleader and not your biggest critic.
How often do you schedule playtime in your calendar? I’m assuming not at all at the moment. While most of us know what rest means and schedule breaks to nap or go outside, we don’t really consider play. Playing can come in many forms and is often the space where you get your next idea.
Play every day. If it’s painting your nails, by all means, paint your nails. If it’s growing tomatoes, then do that! Find something that lights you up that isn’t necessarily tied to work that you feel good about doing every day.
The best part: exploring what your favorite form of play is can be a playful journey in itself. Try out different hobbies, sign up for a language course, a cooking class, or singing lessons. You might find something unexpected that you truly enjoy.
It’s a story as old as pension insurance: if you work hard now, you’ll have a decent life in the future. But life is unpredictable, sometimes you lose your job, you second-guess your career, or experience a tragedy in your life. When all the dominos fall, you will realize that you can’t live your life only for some distant future.
No matter which industry you’re going into, you hear the same: I’m going to push myself for 10, 20 years to get X amount of money for my pension. Then I’m going to live life to the fullest.
While it’s great to have a long-term dream or goal in mind, it’s equally important to find happiness in the small things every day.
Ask yourself: “How often am I actually happy?”
If the answer is “barely ever”, you might want to reprioritize.
Collecting micro-moments of happiness on a daily basis is what makes life worth living. All these little wins add up to a more fulfilled life.
Similar to the last tip, practicing gratitude and appreciation truly shifts our perspective on life. I use this simple tool myself and always recommend it to my coaching clients. Every evening (or as often as is possible), you write down three things you are grateful for and three things that make you happy.
When we remind ourselves of everything we are grateful for and what we love, we see the world through that lens of positivity. Pro tip: share your gratitude with someone else. If your partner makes you coffee in the morning or your friend checks in on you, tell them how grateful you are.
I’m sure you’ve read this one before but mindfulness is a true game-changer. It comes in many forms including meditation. Meditation has been hyped for at least a decade now and has grown massively through the emergence of meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm.
But many people don’t really understand what meditation is and don’t know where to get started. I’ll never forget how one of my clients told me that she finds it hard to meditate but she has to do it “cause it’s healthy”.
Let me be very clear on this: You don’t have to do meditation a certain way. In fact, if you don’t like it all – don’t do it. But most of you won’t struggle with meditation because meditation overall is wrong for you but because you haven’t found a form that fits you.
Here is a beautiful example from Dani Hart on her first experience with meditation:
I had a really bad headache and didn’t want to take any medicine. I sat underneath a cold shower and just convinced myself that the water from the shower would make my headache go away. I believe that the cold water would heal me. I let my thoughts go and just paid attention to the water as it dropped onto my head. After ten minutes of doing this, my headache was completely gone. I thought “wow my mind is pretty cool. I should use this more!
If you want to include meditation in your life, it’s good to start small with a couple of minutes per day of mindfulness. Truly taste your coffee in the morning, feel the wind on your skin or listen to the sounds around you.
Itay perfectly sums it up when he says “if we can’t be intentional with our mind, it’s hard to do meaningful work.”