3 Ways To Live A More Balanced Life Away From Work

Some work cultures require a commitment level that forces you to give up your supposed off hours for the benefit of your employer. If you don’t play the game to compete with others who overdo it, you may feel as though you won’t get ahead. But before you engage in the rat race toward burnout, consider whether or not winning would be worth it.

The most fulfilled and effective workers usually maintain some sort of balance. Without time to recharge and enjoy non-work aspects of life, days start to bleed into one another and you can end up in a cycle of despair.

One Money Design recommends these ways to keep work from impeding on your home life:

* Find a boss who is cool with you having a life. If your employer demands that your 40-hour workweek is actually 60 hours with a wink, you’ll either need to hash things out or find somewhere more reasonable to work.

* Set personal limits and stick to them. When you’re relaxing, there’s always the urge to do this or that to get a little jump on your workload the next day. Don’t indulge the whim. Instead, find some way to laugh, rest or play.

* Say no without guilt. When you’re asked to take on projects that will stretch you past your breaking point, give a firm negative answer along with a short explanation. Don’t apologize or ask permission, lest you allow yourself to be talked into doing something you know you don’t have time for.

5 Ways to Get More Work-Life Balance [One Money Design]

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  1. watcher says:

    Easier said than done in the age of Blackberry and smart phones. A lot of employers expect you to be on call all of the time….

    • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

      Fortunately, they all come with a snazzy little thing called an off button. Leave it in the car.

    • fsnuffer says:

      In front of a couple of co-workers my boss asked in a snotty tone why I did not answer is 8:30pm call the prior night. With a straight face and a calm voice I told him I was balls deep in my wife. He never asked me again.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Best response ever. EVER!!!

        I suppose this would not work as well for me as I would have to say: “I was getting plowed by my husband.” See, it just doesn’t have the same swagger.

        • sphenodont says:

          I suppose you could be “strap deep in your husband”, but that might not go over quite the same way.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Whether a boss or not, there are plenty of folks that cannot manage time or resources. Anyone that is poor in this area will becom a poor boss if given the position. The title “Boss” does not suddently give someone superpowers to understand, manage, and use resources effectively but they sure think that is the case. I’ve worked for some real dumbasses in my time.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        I had a temp job where my supervisor(s) would call me as late as 2 am to give me instructions for the next work day. They were often drunk or high during these calls. I saved some of these gems and forwarded them to HQ. They gave me a raise.

  2. Shinchan - Please assume that all of my posts are sarcastic unless indicated otherwise says:

    All those who are employed under “exempt” status and are paid a weekly salary instead of being paid per hour, please raise your hands…

    This is how I always explain the downside of being a salaried emplyee to people:
    Week 1, a 75-hour week – “Thanks for working all of those extra hours to get the project done, good job.”
    Week 2, a 35-hour week – “Where do you think you’re going? You still owe me 5 hours of work!”

    Work/life balance is a quaint, antiquated notion from back in the days when employees actually meant something to the “job creators” and the relationship has somewhat of a balance. Nowadays if you don’t play the game, they’ll just bench you and put in another player…

    • Cicadymn says:

      I had the same problem. After two years of 50 hour work weeks and no overtime (salary) I finally asked them about it. Told them I was getting sick of it.

      So now I’m getting paid hourly and overtime, and they gave me a raise.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Would that I as an exempt person ever, EVER got the chance to work under 40 hours in a week. When I stayed home a day sick, I still had over 40 hours.

  3. dwtomek says:

    This list served as a pleasant reminder of why I do not miss being a drone for the corporate machine in the least.

  4. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    The electronic leash (business phone or crackberry) gets dumped in the trunk when driving and turned off when I am home.

    If my employer wishes me to be on-call they can pay for on-call service and through the nose if I actually do any on-call work.

    This can be brutally hard to enforce when you take pride in your work, but better enforce it then work for free.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    I got rid of my smart phone and got a regular cell phone.

    People thought I was crazy to get rid of the smart phone but they was paying a subsidized monthly phone bill so I can do more work outside of work… hellllo no.

    only the a few people at work has access to my cell phone..so if it is an emergency, I’ll get a call.

  6. Stella says:

    Let’s not forget employers who may or may not require unpaid overtime, but instead “encourage” employees to participate in “team building activities” which occur either during work hours (forcing you to work on your off hours to keep up) or after hours/weekends (forcing you to give up/reshuffle all the stuff you usually do on “your time” like laundry, errands, socializing with friends/family, etc.).

    • tungstencoil says:

      I’ve always hated this. For my teams, we do team-building activities almost exclusively Friday after lunch. They tend to look like: “Go to [local theater that also has a full menu, beer, and table service with it’s movies] to watch [new movie] while having a late lunch and a couple of beers, then go home.”

      1. It’s lunch & beer – who doesn’t like?
      2. Movie means no talking about work and no awkward “what else do I talk to my co-workers about, considering I talk to them all day every day?”
      3. Everyone still feels like they “did something” as a team, and can discuss their like/dislike of the movie afterword.
      4. Low cost: seriously, everyone leaves at like 1:30 (so not even a half day off), movie tickets are like $12/each, and lunch works out to maybe $20/person.
      5. ++morale

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I don’t want to do ANY “team-building activities” with coworkers. If work itself isn’t a team builder, what the hell is? Very few people I’ve worked with are people I have enough in common with to go see a movie with them.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      In the military, we called it mandatory fun. It’s not really fun if you’re required to participate, not even if there’s beer.

  7. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    Definitely find a boss who is cool with it.
    My last job I was on call 24-7 overseeing a Helpdesk of 2 that was responsible for 400 users nationwide. IT SUCKED. I was always working.
    I was always told “it’s the nature of IT” but I always felt that I was giving far more of myself than my salary warranted.
    Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me. After countless interviews, I found a place that understands home life first.
    My boss believes that as long as no one is going to jail, it doesn’t stop product getting out the door, and no one died, then it can wait.
    It’s difficult for me to get used to after having completely the opposite, but I have to say it’s refreshing to never be questioned, and also be yelled at when I respond to e-mails after hours.
    Better benefits, better salary, better hours, better boss.
    I was super picky though and always laid it out on the line during my interviews, and I essentially interviewed them as well.
    I know I’m lucky in that way, but employers do exist who aren’t complete douchebags.

    • Cicadymn says:

      IT employees are notoriously underpaid. It goes with the mental picture CEOs and managers have of IT employees goofing on in a basement or just pushing a button and fixing any problem in five minutes.

      • watcher says:

        This is what a lot of people think. Kind of reminds me of the UK sitcom “The IT Crowd”

    • Velvet Jones says:

      That’s the problem though. IT managers and most users have no concept of “priority”. You not being able to print from the printer next to your desk while the one working two desks over is fine does not constitute an emergency on a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately too many managers are willing to give in, as they’re simply covering their ass and don’t want to get chewed out by the next level boss. This is often way worse at companies where the primary users are not technical.

  8. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    I hated my on-call phone on my previous work. When I left I disgustedly handed it back at the very tips of my fingers.

    I realized how much it controlled my sleep patterns when it was gone. When I had my personal phone, I jumped at every beep. Even in my sleep. I had to get used to the fact that I’m not on-call anymore and beeps aren’t low-priority issues disguised as high-priority ones.

  9. milty45654 says:

    3 ways to avoid reading any more “how tos” or “3 ways” articles from Phil

  10. sweaterhogans says:

    I work in a place that’s supposed to be flexible and “cool” but totally isn’t. Everyone I work with is on call 24/7, even when they are on vacation. I’m probably the only person that tries to have a firm stance on not working after hours or on vacation. My boss gets really upset about that, but when I explained to him that 98% of the employees “work” by answering emails all day–something easily done from a phone. My job actually requires a computer and I cannot possibly be expected to bring a laptop wherever I go. I asked him once if I was supposed to bring it to a wedding I was attending, I think he finally got the picture. But every now and then I have to remind him (and everyone else) that no means no.

  11. Sarek says:

    “Work/life balance” was the late ’90s/early ’00s HR catch-phrase for, “here’s our lip-service to show how much we care about our employees, though the reality is that we don’t give a [feces]. We own your ass.”

    Fortunately my employers were too cheap to supply me with a pager or Crackberry.
    It was rare to get called at home. Except for the one upper level boss who didn’t care if it was a religious holiday.

    Actually, my last employer did provide some comp time for overtime, though it was at your manager’s discretion and certainly wasn’t anywhere near 1-for-1.

  12. pixiegirl says:

    I tried to work my way up in my company and after a while realized it’s just not worth it. As a supervisor I’d make a $1 a hour and put up with 10 times more BS than i currently do. I’d have to work different hours every week which doesn’t sound bad but when you work till 11pm and are expected to come in 7am the next day that really jacks up your sleep schedule. While the salary of being a full on manager is appealing, it’s a lot less appealing when you realize the 12 hour work day is the minimum and quite often you’ll be putting in more and if your department needs it you may work 20 days in a row before you can take a day off. God forbid you ever get sick to bad so sad come in to work. I’ve literally had managers who had violent diarrhea/food poisoning and would be running to the bathroom like every 5-10 minutes because they can’t call in sick. Ya no thanks I’ll keep myself as a hourly I clock in my 8 hours and go home. I leave my work at work and I don’t carry that stress over into my personal life. When I’m on my lunch and breaks don’t bother bugging me because I won’t do anything until I come back I take my full breaks & lunches and I don’t apologize for that I’m taking what I’m rightfully entitled to.

  13. Sarek says:

    Then there was a friend of mine based in the U.S. who was told to hold daily conference calls with Europe (around 6am EST) and also with Australia (around midnight EST). She told her boss one or the other. So she got whacked on the next layoff.

  14. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    Remember to get any concessions from your employer in writing. This also means future concessions.

    Don’t fall victim to – promises and stories of how you’ll be rewarded after the project or wait until your review or whatever. IF your employer hasn’t screwed you over yet, you haven’t been there long enough.

  15. Wench86 says:

    There is no such thing as a work/life balance… it’s a politically correct term to keep you thinking that there are really jobs out there that do this… but let me be the voice of reality… TRY and leave early one too many times… there are 50 people looking for a job that will take less money than you get AND are more experienced… You’ll be on the unemployment roles in no time!

    • Kuri says:

      I was gonna say, ask certain people and they’ll say if you have a social life at all then you don’t have a real job.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I fully agree. The biggest issue is that there is no such thing as a 40 hour work week anymore for most positions. First it’s the unpaid lunch (even if most don’t get a chance to take it all) which adds up to 5 hours. Then it’s staying late etc. And as you say, employers don’t need to be as accommodating as they were even 5 years ago, particularly at the lower levels, because if you quit there’s 250 applicants, many of them overqualified, begging for the job.

  16. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    If you’re single, tell everyone you’re not. Or tell them you have kids and you have custody of them. Or tell them you have temporary custody of your sister’s kids or something. Because if you don’t, you’ll be taken advantage of because the belief is that you have nothing else to do but work. Your coworkers will get to leave early for their kids’ school plays and soccer games and you’ll be expected to make up the difference. Oh, also be sure to make up a few of those school plays and soccer games you must attend and leave early to do so.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I just tell people stuff like “I can’t work Saturdays. I have obligations.” I don’t tell them that the obligations are skating lessons, library visits, watching TV over the internet with my long-distance bf and playing with my cat.

  17. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    What about when you are the boss who put in 65 hours (last week – from Monday through Sunday night) and you get employees griping about being asked for 5 hours overtime (one night) every 3 weeks?

  18. jeni1122 says:

    My company is cheap as heck, but I very rarely have to work over 40 hours in a week. I get in at 8am and I leave at 5pm Monday through Friday. I might have some overtime once or twice a year. No work cell phones, no work emails after work. BTW: I am a salaried employee.

    Because of the very small amount of overtime and the fact that I like both of my bosses keeps me at my job, even though I know I will probably never get a raise (I know people that have worked at my company for 15 plus years that have received maybe one raise). I am glad that I negotiated a decent salary up front.

    I still consider myself very lucky, bad economy or not.

  19. kataisa says:

    I have no interest in trying to compete with the Joneses because I learned a long while ago that the Joneses have been trying to keep up with everybody else, and they are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of it. Like most other Americans, they live beyond their means, save nothing, likely have many family arguments because they’re constantly living under financial duress, and are one paycheck away from being homeless.

    Living high on the hog isn’t worth it if you’ve got that kind of debt and worry hanging around your neck. I may not have the most exciting party-hardy lifestyle but my life is a lot less stressful than theirs so I’ll probably end up living longer as a result of my balanced lifestyle.

    Thankfully I don’t have the kind of job where my boss expects me to be on call all the time. I don’t even have a cell phone.

    Quoting Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.”

    • scoopjones says:

      As a Jones, I object to this bigoted characterization of all Jones as indebted leaches. I can assure you that most Jones are financially responsible people who pay their bills on time. I don’t know why you feel the need to keep up with us, though.

  20. yurei avalon says:

    That’s hilarious. My boyfriend who’s a software engineer at a large company was just told by his boss today, “I hope you didn’t plan on taking any vacations this year.” [He did] They made him tech lead of every project for his team apparently. Lovely. He’s neither management nor a senior developer yet nor gotten a raise. Asshats.

    • Velvet Jones says:

      Companies expect 100%, 24/7 loyalty and commitment to them, yet they will turn around and throw you to the street the second you no longer fit their plans(see IBM this week). They’ll keep pushing and pushing it. I hope they’re not surprised when they’re lined up against the wall and shot. I am no fan of Marxism, but I’m beginning to understand how violent revolutions happened in places like Russia. The serfs will take only so much until they revolt.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        My favorite part is if you do happen to find another job, you have to give a 2 week or more notice, or they withhold any outstanding vacation or sick pay, and generally make your life miserable.

        Oh, but when the shoe is on the other foot, and they want to downsize, they just appear at your desk with a box and it’s see ya, bye, don’t let the door hit you in the ass here’s your coffee cup we’ll mail your last check. Slam.

  21. Starfury says:

    I do helpdesk and I’m an hourly employee. This means that for 40 hrs a week I’m available when the boss needs to contact me…during my work hours.

    When my boss sends an urgent e-mail to me on a Saturday afternoon it will be un answered until I am in the office Monday morning. Just because she is willing to work all the time I am not. In addition, the iPhone that you gave me to use: It’s in my laptop bag with my work computer tossed in the corner of my hobby room where it sits from Friday after I get home until Monday morning when I take it to the office.

    I have a life outside of work. Even if it’s just me playing Skyrim on a Saturday afternoon.

  22. HogwartsProfessor says:

    My last job didn’t make me work overtime, but it was so stressful that I had to learn to disengage when I left for the day. I actually had to go see someone about the stress. Finally after a while I was able to walk out the door and not even think about it until the next morning.

    A couple of things I did that helped were:

    –Using the drive home to think about home things, or whatever I was going to do after work.
    –Using the drive to work to begin turning on the work frame of mind, instead of doing it when I got up or the night before.
    –Not doing stuff like going to the Christmas party if I didn’t want to. It wasn’t mandatory.

    It took some time, but I was finally able to let go of a lot of the stress. Which was good, because it was affecting my health. The people who ended up working over 40 hours all the time had to quit.

  23. BurtReynolds says:

    Step 1: Get into the “making stupid lists” business.

    In a perfect world where everybody is a rational person, maybe these “tips” work.

    In the real world, you can’t always find a cool boss or work at a company who values your free time as much as you do. You can’t always quit a job just because they make you work weekends, there may be nowhere else to go.