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July 24, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Balancing on the work-life teeter-totter

There’s work, and there’s life. How do you make the two get along?

This is a puzzle you’ll be solving your entire career. Employers talk about how much they value work-life balance, and they may even mean it. But the truth is, it’s going to be your task to create harmony between what you do and what you are.

Here are some tips to make the challenge less stressful:

Identify your needs. You can’t meet your needs if you don’t know specifically what they are.

Articulate your needs. It’s amazing how often people, both at work and at home, will strive to accommodate you.

Clean up your focus. When you’re at work, focus on work; when you’re home, focus on home.

Learn to delegate. Put the bulk of your energy into doing what you’re good at and what you like doing.

Accept imperfection. When it’s reasonable to do so, let good enough be good enough.

Cultivate flexibility. Your priorities, and the priorities of those you work/live with, will shift over time. Be ready to re-evaluate and adapt.

Don’t dither. Procrastination is not your friend. Train yourself to make decisions quickly.

Be fabulous. If you are great at what you do, your boss and your co-workers (and your friends and family) will want to support you.

Focus on the essential. First, you’ll need to identify what’s essential, of course. Then set smart priorities. The key here is that not everything is equally important.

Get organized. Looking for stuff is one of the most stressful time wasters there is. An orderly life/desk/workspace really does free you up to do great things.

Exercise. You will have more energy and better focus, and you’ll sleep better — there is just nothing bad about exercise. Make time for it. Remember to eat right, too.

Learn to say no. This ties in with focusing on the essential. You can’t take advantage of every opportunity, participate in every activity or respond to every request, so don’t kill yourself trying.

The secret to work-life balance is remembering that it’s a continuing quest; that is, you never really get there. Think of a teeter-totter. The object isn’t to achieve complete and permanent balance — it’s to enjoy the ride.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: conflict, goals, morale, work/life balance

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Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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