5 signs you're sabotaging your work-life balance

Looking after yourself should be a daily choice.

by Andro Donovan
Last Updated: 04 Mar 2020

We can be our own worst enemies sometimes.

We want fulfilling lives and a work-life balance, but do we ever ask what that means, what really matters to us? Knowing the values that are important to us means we can make the right decisions for our own wellbeing. Not knowing them leaves us at risk of self-sabotage.

This can manifest in various forms, but here are five common ways we spoil our own work-life balance. 

1. Not taking a vacation or using your annual leave

This could be because you love your work or worse because you’re a martyr to the cause. You may be not believe things can work well if you’re not there – or perhaps you’re concerned things will run too well. Whatever the reason, taking a proper break from your day job will give you the space to recharge and see the world through a different lens. This in turn can contribute to you coming up with new innovative ideas.

2. Allowing your work to bleed into your recreational time

This is both at home or indeed on holiday. You may have physically gone on holiday to a far-off land only to remain plugged in to your office through your phone. Technology addiction is real and it’s affecting our mental health. Dr Mary Aiken, author of The Cyber Effect, believes that the average person checks their phone 200 times a day. You have to get unplugged to fully benefit from your recreational time. If you are constantly checking into your messages and e-mails you are not fully engaged with your hobby, your family or your other half.

3. Prioritising the urgent many over the vital few 

Work-life balance seems to imply that we need to have equal amounts in both camps. Rather than asking ‘how do I create work-life balance’, perhaps a more valuable question is ‘what lights me up’. What gets you out of bed, what are you doing and with whom when you feel most happy, satisfied and fulfilled? Once we have understood the fundamental aspects of the life we value we can prioritise these vital activities that nourish us at a deeper level, over the many urgent activities that demand our immediate attention but conspire to leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

4. Not having a plan

If you do not have a plan you are planning to fail. If you want to achieve work-life balance, you need to let go of the old construct of an equal division of time and instead examine all areas of their life (work, family, recreational, health, etc) to decide what it would look like to balance each area so you are living their most effective, present and fulfilling life. 

5. Running on empty for too long

Ignoring the signs of stress can lead to poor mental and physical health. Many of us are so busy leading frenetic, overscheduled lives that we have stopped breathing properly, only using the upper chest area. This is a common stress side-effect which may lead to stiffness in the neck and shoulders, migraine headaches, back aches, stomach issues and anxiety attacks.

Everyone has a choice. If you find yourself neglecting your most important relationships – including with yourself – maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you are leading your life. Looking after yourself is a daily choice. It is important to create regular rituals and routines to keep you on track.

Andro Donovan is a leadership coach and author of Motivate Yourself – Get the life you want, find purpose and achieve fulfilment.

This article was originally published in October 2017.


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