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  • Writer's pictureAmy Timmerman

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

"There is no such thing as work-life balance- it is all life. The balance has to be within you." Sadhguru

A coworker of mine recently praised me for having such a good work-life balance and even asked my advice on ways she could improve. I found this truly ironic because, up until roughly two months ago, I really struggled with letting my work-life dominate my personal life.

I was always checking my emails and would get anxious at every text and phone call. Working in Student Affairs, I am constantly on the clock and felt like I always had to be ready for anything. Most of the conversations I had with friends and family revolved around work and I could not turn it off. I was almost solely focused on work 24 hours a day.

We all make the same excuses for why we let work have so much influence over our lives: It's just a quick email, It is easier to just do it now than to wait until tomorrow, I have to meet the deadline I was given, I have to pay my bills. The truth is that we all search for and crave a work-life balance to help us. However, it is just that thought process that leads us down a path full of late nights and unnecessary stress.

Work-Life balance. Is. A. Myth.

I'll say it again, work-life balance is a myth. Up until two months ago, I thought it was something I just had to work harder to achieve. I thought that by getting through my inbox I would be able to spend more time focusing on my relationship over the weekend. But then getting through my inbox meant responding to emails, setting up meetings, and taking on the emotional toll of my work outside of the office. The more I tried to keep my work and my life separate the worse the problem became.

The fact-of-the-matter is that the myth of achieving work-life balance actually creates an overwhelming feeling of failure. You see balance implies that in order to give more to the one you must take away from the other. Meaning that, in order to feel successful at either, you must be unhappy with the other. This concept just isn't sustainable. It does not work long term and can create the feeling of burnout at work. The day I stopped trying to achieve work-life balance and I tried to reach work-life harmony my entire outlook began to change.

The difference between balance and harmony is that harmony does not demand that we separate work and life, but instead acknowledge their points of intersection. Once I stopped trying to create a "Work-Amy" persona and a "Real-Amy" persona and I just focused on my self and my development, I became infinitely happier in my life. Our work is a part of our lives. Our days outside of work are not on pause until we return. That is time that we never get back and once we realize and acknowledge that we can start improving our situations.

Here are just a few tips I utilized in order to find harmony within my work and my personal life:

1. Make a list of values

During my first year of my graduate assistantship, my supervisor asked me to make a list of my professional values. I spent the weekend going over what just five of my top values are as a professional which were:


Continuous Learning





As I continued on through my first year of graduate school, I began to notice that my professional values did not only apply to my job. I held these values in a high standard in all aspects of my life, so instead of keeping a "My Professional Values" list I created a "Core Values" list.







The main purpose of this list is to identify my non-negotiable values. After creating a comprehensive list of my core values, I decided that I would not allow work to put me in a situation where I violated any of these core values.

2. Incorporating self-care into a daily routine

Too often employees are encouraged to practice self-care but are expected to maintain a full work schedule on top of their already busy lives. Making an active effort to make self-care a part of you daily routine is imperative.

Additionally, there is nothing wrong with using your weekend to take a mental health day. Turn off you notifications, don't read your emails, and spend time with yourself and with the people that you care about.

3. Plan out your schedule

Don't be busy - be productive! Sit down at the beginning of each week and plan out what you would like to get done, deadlines you have to meet, goals you want to accomplish, and activities that you want to try. Plan out time for each thing during the week and stick to your plan! You will be more efficient and effective in completing your tasks if you allocate time to do everything rather than simply "try to get to it at some point."

You will feel much better at the end of the day, the week, the month, and the year if you don't just try to cram as much work in as possible each day without a plan. This is not as productive long-term and can lead to feelings of disappointment or discouragement when a goal gets pushed to the side to make room for busy-work.

4. Know when to say "No."

This was my biggest problem, and something I still work on daily, in order to bring harmony to my life. I have a tendency to agree to everything in order to make people happy, even when it has a negative impact on my own life. I put personal projects to the side to pick up extra tasks for others, both in work and in my personal life. I had to learn to say no to what did not make me happy. I stopped spreading myself so thin and began to focus on the things that really mattered to me. I cut out anything that didn't add value to my life or value to my bank account.

5. Find your self-worth

It is so important to remind yourself that you are worthy. Regardless of mistakes or set backs, you are a work-in-progress. Remember to invest in yourself. Take classes, travel, write; do whatever it is that you need to do in order to feel like you are able to invest your time into yourself before investing it into the expectations of others.

Finding work-life harmony is possible. It isn't easy and involves a lot of self-reflection, but I have noticed such a difference in my life over the past two months. I am not nearly as stressed and I am way more productive than I have ever been. I have been able to invest in myself and find new ways to prioritize what is important to me.

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