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Most leaders I coach are struggling to achieve a balance between their work life and home life. This happens because their work responsibilities seep over to their personal lives and their boundaries are not honored. They feel accountable and responsible to complete a task or meet a deadline despite having an overwhelming “to do” list. They want to be responsive to their boss and their teams, so they take calls, answer texts and emails after dinner and late into the evening.   They sit on the couch or in bed with their phone or laptop ticking off as many action items as possible so tomorrow doesn’t feel so overwhelming.  While people appreciate responsiveness and accountability, over time, this leadership style can have serious consequences. 

4 Harmful Signs That Work is Taking Over Your Life

1. Emotional Reactivity

  • The leader begins to feel resentful of those who reach out after-hours and expect an immediate response.
  • The leader perceives others as not working as hard as they are and feels irritated. They feel like they are being dumped on.

2. Physical Imbalances

  • The leader experiences overwhelm, exhaustion, energy depletion and ultimately complete burnout.
  • The leader’s resiliency is reduced resulting in the need to call in sick more often or take more unexpected days off to recuperate.

3. Relationship Disharmony

  • Family members may feel ignored or unimportant when attention at home is focused on work.
  • Sensuality and sexuality can take a hit because a disproportionate amount of time is spent on mental activity related to work rather than investing time in physical and emotional connection with loved ones.

4. Loss of Enthusiasm

  • When leaders allow their work to consistently bleed over to their personal life, the job can feel like a grind. There is always another problem to solve and another goal to achieve.
  • Passion and purpose get smothered by unrealistic expectations – often self-imposed.
  • The leader may experience a lack of alignment because of a dishonoring of personal values.

4 Ways to Increase Work-Life Harmony

A high-functioning work-life balance doesn’t happen by default.  It is purposefully designed with the intention to optimize one’s life experience in all aspects. To help increase a healthy balance of personal and professional time, try the following techniques. 

◊ Make a list of your top 10 values. Which values deserve more of your time and attention? What kind of activities would enliven that value in you? What could you stop doing, start doing, or delegate to make time for what you value in life?

◊ Identify and communicate your work boundaries. Be able to describe what is acceptable to you and what is not. Notice anything you are tolerating in your life.  It may indicate a need for boundary setting or a change. Communicate your boundaries and expectations of others in a professional manner. Honor your boundaries and support others in honoring theirs.  Invite an open dialogue regarding boundaries and seek consensus; don’t make demands.  Know where you are willing to be flexible and what your bottom line is. Offer creative solutions to meet deadlines.

◊ Turn off the “auto-responder” in your mind that has you working evenings and weekends. Consider the degree to which your lack of work-life harmony is self-imposed. Are your people-pleasing tendencies getting in your way? Bringing work home is a habit that gets reinforced every time you say “yes”. Instead of an automatic “yes”, consider setting up a vetting process by asking yourself a few basic questions when faced with the decision of whether to work outside of business hours.

  • Does this work absolutely need to be done tonight or this weekend?
  • Does it need to be done at all? Is there a better way?
  • Where can I schedule this work in my calendar tomorrow or later this week?
  • Who would benefit from knowing what I can realistically get done and by when?
  • Is there anyone I could delegate to or partner with to get the work done more quickly and efficiently?
  • Has this kind of work been done in the past? Is there anything  we reuse or repurpose rather than start from scratch?
  • With whom can I discuss my workload and priorities to create more personal-professional alignment and work-life harmony?

◊ Calendar your wellbeing activities and block time to focus.  There is nothing more important than your health and your ability to focus.  If your meetings are on your calendar, then your exercise activities should also be on your calendar. Block out time daily on your calendar to execute on your priorities otherwise you will be tempted to do it in the evening after you get home. Even if you are not bringing work home you may be working so hard that you are depleting yourself on a daily basis. Watch out for these red flags: regularly skipping meals, scheduling back-to-back meetings with no breaks in between, sitting at your desk for hours without getting up, stuffing your emotions, or blowing up at people?  These habits reduce your resiliency, energy, and longevity as a leader.  

  • Engage in physical movement multiple times every week. Toxic emotions are flushed from your body though physical movement.  Digestion improves and energy increases with physical activity.   The benefits are immediate.
  • Spend time in nature to renew your mind, body, and spirit. Nature is the great rebalancer. It has a natural ability to calm the nervous system, incite creative thinking and provide an endless supply of quiet stillness. Walk, run, hike, bike, sit still or swim.  Whichever your preference, you will notice the benefits are immediate.
  • Make restful sleep a top priority.  When you are well-rested you are, simply put, a better more balanced human. Every problem seems enormous when you are overtired and very manageable when you are well rested. There’s a reason we say, “Why don’t we sleep on it, and we’ll decide in the morning.” It’s great advice because the benefits of restful sleep are immediate.

 In Summary

Be purposeful and thoughtful as you design your life.  Over time, your personal and professional priorities will evolve. Your definition of work-life harmony will take on new meanings.  Create your own personalized work-life harmony plan. Share it with your personal and professional stakeholders. Revisit it regularly and enjoy the life you choose to create.



Sara Harvey

Founder & President, innertelligence

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