How many hours do you work a day? The requisite eight? Ten? Twelve? Or – gasp – sixteen?
We all have different work schedules and capacities. So, work-life balance might look different for each of us.
But one thing’s for sure – you’ll know when it’s way out of sync.
How? By recognizing the signs of imbalance.
In this article, I’ll talk about 10 signs your work-life balance is way out of sync. If any of them resonate with you, it might be time for a little adjustment.
Let’s dive in!
1) You’re constantly tired
Back when I was working 14-hour days as a new teacher, I was the picture of busyness. But also, the picture of exhaustion.
I was very young (and out to prove my worth), so I pushed myself to make sure I’d everything and beyond done.
Obviously, that wasn’t sustainable, and after a while, it all took a toll on me. I was constantly tired.
On the bus ride home, I’d fall asleep. And no matter how much sleep I got during the night, I’d still wake up feeling tired.
2) You’re always stressed
Speaking of mental fatigue leads me to this next point, which is that stress – chronic stress – is one of the top signs your work-life is way out of balance.
Look, a healthy amount of stress can be good for us. Personally, I like a little bit of it to keep me on my toes and challenge myself.
But too much and too often? Not so good.
Let me correct that – it’s downright awful. Health experts say that working long hours for extended periods of time leads to stress, which then leads to health issues down the line.
3) Your health is suffering
Constant exhaustion and stress…how do you think that will work out in the end?
Likely with you in the hospital or the doctor’s office.
That’s exactly what happened to me. I ended up with several health issues, with stress as the main cause.
And you know what else the doctor told me after giving me a prescription? “Don’t work so much.”
I mean, this really didn’t need to be said, because it’s common knowledge that health is the real wealth. And yet, I still chose to ignore it because of the demands of work.
You might be doing the same thing. Learn from what happened to me. Rest and remind yourself that work will still be there when you get back to it.
4) You’ve become a stranger to your friends and family
What else falls by the wayside when your work-life balance is out of sync? Your relationships.
When your friends invite you out for drinks, you can’t – you’ve got a deadline coming up.
When your sister’s celebrating her birthday, you’re late because you were doing overtime…and that’s granting you even make it at all.
When your child has a soccer game, you say you’ll be there. But then your boss needs you to do something urgent, and your child is left with no mom or dad to cheer them on.
Do any of those scenarios sound familiar? If yes, it might be time to reassess and make the necessary changes. Or else, your loved ones might truly forget what you look like!
5) You’re always thinking about work
In fact, even while you’re spending time with your family, you might not even really be there. Your mind is still stuck in the office, poring through documents and making notes on what to change.
If work thoughts are invading your personal time, it’s a big sign your balance is off.
Here are some simple ways to get into the habit of disconnecting from work once you’re out of the office:
- Set clear boundaries. Resist the urge to check work emails or answer work calls outside of office hours.
- Have a transition ritual to help your mind switch gears and mark the move from office to personal time. For me, it’s taking a shower once I get home, kind of like washing away the stresses of the day and easing into the warmth of home.
- Do activities that require your full attention, such as cooking, painting, a good book, or a riveting Netflix show.
- Do something physical. Exercise, yoga, a walk around the neighborhood are all great examples.
- Socialize and really engage in conversation with the people around you.
6) Your work performance is dropping
The funny thing is, the longer you work, the less productive you are.
According to Business News Daily, “working overtime doesn’t correlate to higher productivity.”
That’s tough to hear, I know. But it’s understandable, though. Remember those signs I mentioned earlier? Tiredness, stress, health issues? All of those combined would definitely make us work less effectively.
This is probably why many companies are now looking into adjustments, such as flexible work schedules, 4-day work week, ROWE (Results-Only Work Environments).
These are all solutions that can provide their employees with better work-life balance.
7) You’re the first one in, last one out
Ah, this one’s something I know so well. I once prided myself on being the “best” employee, if best meant being the first to arrive and the last to leave.
My bosses called me “dedicated.” My coworkers said, “You don’t have a life.”
That last one made me realize how much I was missing out. I was letting everything else in my life pass me by. While my coworkers were out having fun, I was knee-deep in work, making sure everything was ready for the next day.
Looking back at those days, I’m not even sure what exactly I was doing. What needed my attention so bad it couldn’t wait till the next day?
My point is, dedication to work is definitely a good point. But there must be some balance – we need a life outside of work, or else the only memories we’ll have on our deathbeds are those moments we spent hunched over our desks.
8) You don’t know what weekends are
Weekends? What even are those?
That’s something overworked people say. They no longer know what it’s like to have free weekends!
For them, work has encroached on their lives so much that there’s no longer a distinction between work and rest, between work and personal time.
If you’ve been bringing home files or logging into your company website on the weekends, I don’t need to tell you you’re working too much.
9) You don’t have time or energy for hobbies
So, given how practically every minute of your day and every cell in your brain is occupied with work, it’s safe to assume you have no time nor energy for hobbies.
(Hobbies? What are those? – another question you might ask.)
Don’t ignore the importance of hobbies. They’re not just frivolous activities designed to fritter your time away.
They have real value and a huge impact on your mental health. Whether your hobby is bird-watching, gardening, or just plain reading a book, your brain will thank you for the break!
10) You’re no longer happy
Finally, we get to the last indicator you can use to assess your work-life balance: your happiness. Or rather, the lack of it.
Of course, there may be other factors why you might be feeling low. Maybe you’re going through some difficult personal stuff, maybe you feel underpaid, maybe you’ve got coworkers you don’t get along with…
All of that aside, if your sense of unhappiness is pervasive, it might be a sign that you’re dissatisfied with your life in general. And with work being such a huge chunk of it, it makes sense to look at your work-life balance.
So, take a step back and look at it objectively. Are you working too hard to the point where you don’t have time to enjoy anything else?
Do you have this feeling of emptiness that makes you wonder, “Is this all there is to life?”
Listen to your intuition; it will almost always alert you when something needs to change.
There’s no doubt that work is essential – it’s a source of income and a source of pride, especially if we’re doing something we’re passionate about. But it’s just one aspect of our lives, not the be-all and end-all of it.
As I mentioned earlier, work-life balance will look different for each of us. For some, it might be 50/50, for others 70/30, and so on.
The important thing is that we have room for other things that make us joyful. Our lives should feel whole, like it’s a full package that sits just right on the happiness scale.