How to successfully balance work and life

Everyone is trying to achieve the perfect work life balance, but what exactly does that mean? Oxford dictionary describes work life balance as: "the division of one's time and focus between working and family or leisure activities" - but how do you find this balance, and why is it so important?

Throughout this article, we will discuss the importance of work-life balance (exploring how perpetual imbalance can negatively impact our health and well-being) before diving into 16 actionable tips to help you achieve a healthy work life balance.

Why balance is so important?  

a woman with her head in her hands in need of help to increase motivationPerhaps the simplest way to understand the importance of a healthy work life balance is to examine the adverse effects imbalance has upon our lives.

Many people understand the pressures of work-related stress - however, for accountants, the beginning of a new year can be particularly challenging. With tax season just around the corner, some accountants will soon find themselves working 60 hour weeks - meaning over half of their waking hours are spent at work!

Handling this level of work-related pressure whilst navigating day-to-day life during a global pandemic is a lot to place on any one person's shoulders. That is why prioritising balance and scheduling time for yourself is so essential.

Some of the adverse effects of work life imbalance are:

  • Burnout: mental and physical fatigue from chronic work-related stress
  • Health issues: some of which include chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression and persistent headaches
  • Strained relationships: excessive stress and absence due to work can drive a wedge between you and your relationships
  • Poor work performance: if you are not at your best, you can't perform to the best of your abilities

Thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom - there are plenty of ways to avoid imbalance. But before we jump into our 16 tips for work-life balance, here are some of the positive effects of maintaining a healthy work-life balance:

  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Reduced stress
  • More time for hobbies and socialising
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved work performance
  • Happiness both personally and professionally

Read: How to manage rapid business growth: 9 coping strategies


16 tips for work life balance

Understanding the importance of work life balance is one thing - implementing it is another. So, to help you achieve the balance you so desperately desire, here are 16 tips for work-life balance:

a woman wearing a scarf1. Work out what work life balance means to you

Work-life balance is a very personal thing - one person’s idea of balance could be another person’s idea of hell. Therefore, to achieve the perfect work life balance, you must first understand what balance means to you. For example, does it mean not working at weekends? Or does it mean leaving work on time to go to the gym?

2. Assess how ‘balanced’ you are

Achieving a better work-life balance means making positive and sustainable changes to your lifestyle. But, to facilitate this change, you must first become aware of how your life has become imbalanced. If you can't identify where you lack balance, you can't hope to make impactful changes.

3. Identify what is stopping you from achieving a healthy work-life balance

Prioritising self-care is all well and good, but if you can't identify what has stopped you from striking a work life balance before now, it's unlikely your new goals and plans will remedy the issue. You must find the problem to create a solution.

For example, if your problem is checking your work phone outside of the office, switch it off at the end of the working day. By removing the temptation, you're able to switch off and enjoy your evening undisturbed.

a woman working remotely for better work life balance4. Change your job or working environment

Typically the first 90 days in a new role sets the standard for how (and when) you will work. Whilst it may sound dramatic, often, the only way to improve your work life balance beyond that point is to change your job or working environment.

For example, if you have a long commute to the office, consider working remotely once or twice a week (where possible). Not only does it save time, but working from home can also improve your productivity as there are (typically) fewer distractions. Alternatively, you could consider compressing your hours to minimise your overall commuting time.

5. Work with a coach

Enlisting the help of a coach can help you address any unhealthy working habits you may have formed. It is their role to objectively prioritise your wellbeing, thus making it easier for them to identify your unsustainable practices.

Together you can work to improve your self-awareness and, ultimately, unlock what has prevented you from achieving the work-life balance you so deeply crave. Then, once you've understood where you have been going wrong, you can create and implement an action plan.

6. Make goals and tell people about them

Holding yourself accountable is one thing - being held accountable by your friends, family, and colleagues is another. The reality is, the more well known your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them. So start setting actionable goals and sharing them! For example, tell your partner and colleagues that your goal is to leave the office by 18:00, at least three times a week.

a female runner with a baton7. Prioritise & delegate

Prioritisation and delegation are the keys to a healthy work-life balance. By prioritising your tasks, you're able to delegate your lower value jobs, saving you both time and effort! To help you achieve this, here is a step-by-step guide to prioritisation and delegation - otherwise known as the 5 Ps:

  1. Plan - set yourself daily, weekly and monthly goals to help you improve your work-life balance.
  2. Prioritise - make your new plans a priority, add them to your must-do list (right next to eating and sleeping).
  3. Prospects - what are the prospects of implementing these new habits? What could you achieve? For example, are you striving for better mental and physical health?
  4. Pace yourself - finding a healthy work-life balance will take time, so don't expect it to happen overnight. Instead, slowly but surely, work your way through your daily and weekly goals.
  5. Push down - To achieve a healthy balance, you need to free up some time - so start delegating some of your tasks.

Read: How to stop upwards delegation (particularly when working remotely)

8. Get better at saying ‘no’

Do you find it difficult to say no to people? Despite your best intentions, accepting additional work in a bid to help others only sets you back. It isn't to say you shouldn't offer a helping hand - if you have the time, fantastic! But, if you're already overwhelmed by your workload, you should probably reconsider taking on additional tasks.

If you are a culprit of perpetually helping others, you may just find that learning to say no significantly reduces both your stress and overall workload.


9. Plan in and diarise stress-busting activities

Finding the perfect work life balance is not just about reducing your hours - it’s also about how your spend your time outside of work. To make the most of your time outside of the office, focus on planning activities that help you recharge your batteries, de-stress and relax. Activities like meditation, exercise, and even socialising with your friends can greatly improve your work-life balance.

a child picking up strawberries10. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable chunks (and set realistic timescales)

When setting yourself a goal, it can be tempting to try and achieve it all at once. Not only is this unrealistic, but it's also a sure-fire way to burn yourself out. Try and resist this temptation and, instead, break your goal down into smaller, more manageable milestones. In setting yourself a realistic timescale, you're still able to progress towards your goals, just without compromising your wellbeing.

As a small business owner, you are responsible for driving the pace of your firm. Therefore, if you find yourself struggling to keep up with the acceleration of the business, maybe it's time to take your foot off the gas. As they say - Rome was not built in a day, so why should your business be?

11. Ask your clients for deadlines

Many of us assume that every client wants their task completed immediately – when, in actuality, there may be a reasonable amount of lead time available for the project. So, always ask your clients for a completion date. Having clear deadlines allows you to prioritise easily, and prioritisation is one of our most effective tips for work life balance.

12. Create an end of day routine

Creating a routine for the end of your working day can help you switch off and relax. One of our favourite tips for work-life balance is to write out a to-do list for the next working day. That way, you're not stuck thinking about what you need to do tomorrow after you've left the office.

turning off a phone for work life balance13. Turn off your phone and emails outside of office hours

Emails, texts and work-related phone calls can all interrupt your non-work time. Left unchecked, this can lead to working on your weekends and (even worse) holidays. Set the expectation with your co-workers that you will no longer be checking your emails or answering calls during evenings or weekends. After all, a healthy work life balance is nothing without clear boundaries.

Read: How to properly switch off from your small accountancy practice when you go away on holiday

14. Block out the times when you are unavailable

If you leave your diary open and available, you're more likely to take on work that will bleed into your personal time. Instead, make sure to block out the times when you are unavailable for work. Visually seeing your evenings and weekends blocked out in your diary will make it more difficult for you to accept any work-related task during these times.

15. Plan evening activities that encourage you to leave work on time

For some, having plans after work is the only thing that will encourage them to leave on time. So, we thought, why not turn this into a legitimate tip for work-life balance.

Schedule your evenings like you would your workday - but instead of work-related tasks, fill them with self-care rituals. Whether you spend your evenings at family dinners or working out, use this time to prioritise self-care.

a laundry basket full of clothes16. Divvy up all of the household chores

Having a healthy work life balance means having the time to re-charge your batteries. If you are coming home from work only to don your apron and marigolds, then you may not be getting the time you need to decompress. Essentially, the more you share your household responsibilities, the more time you have to enjoy your time after work. And if all else fails, consider investing in a cleaning service or a housekeeper.



You can’t pour from an empty cup

For some, recognising the importance of a healthy work-life balance comes too little too late. To avoid falling victim to your own perpetual bad habits, here are some of the steps you need to follow to achieve a successful work-life balance:

  • Identify your weaknesses: what is causing such an imbalance?
  • Ask for support: from a coach, colleague, friend or family member. A problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Prioritise and delegate: if someone else can do it, let them.
  • Say no: boundaries are essential in all aspects of your life.
  • Set goals to improve your work-life balance: make them specific, measurable and achievable.
  • Enjoy your time outside of work: switch off your phone and prioritise doing the things you love with the people you love.

Finding balance can be hugely beneficial to both your health and career. With the help of these tips, we can all take actionable steps towards becoming happier, healthier and more successful individuals.



Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?

paul wareham

This year has been revolutionary for me and my team.

We were pretty maxed out with work and I was always too busy firefighting so I knew I needed some help. 

While working in the business, I had become too focused on day to day operations and was not taking time to plan the direction of the firm.  Working with my coach, he was able to help me to see what I truly wanted and what I needed to do to get there.

When we get back to full firepower in 2020 we are all looking forward to welcoming the new clients. This growth will definitely allow me to take more time off to be with my family and get back into cycling more often.

Paul Wareham

PS Accountants