Work-Life Balance: Taking Time Off Track

How many of us have fallen into the cycle of working ourselves into the ground? You know the drill—late nights at the office, weekends consumed by just catching up, and forgetting what it feels like to truly unwind and recharge.

Before you know it, the job has become all-consuming. Meaningful quality time with loved ones gets deprioritised and rushed. And focusing on your physical and mental well-being? What's that?

Therefore, achieving the right work-life balance is essential for our overall happiness and productivity in the long run. Continue reading for more insights.

What Is Work-Life Balance?

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Work-life balance is a way to live your life to the fullest. Photo by leszekglasner on

Work-life balance refers to an equilibrium between the time and energy spent on our jobs and other aspects of our lives. It’s about managing work demands while making quality time for family, friends, hobbies, and our health and happiness. 

While a perfectly balanced schedule looks different for everyone, the key is recognising when work begins to negatively impact our personal lives and relationships. Setting limits to restore that harmony is crucial.

Why Do You Need Work-Life Balance?

While consistently working extra hours may seem impressive in the short term, it carries heavy consequences. Let's see the connection between work-life balance and mental as well as physical health. 

1. Overwork Harms Health

When work takes over and leaves little time for recovery, social connections, and other aspects of a balanced life, it taxes the body and mind. Anger and stress often emerge as a result, and the risk of illness and disease climbs. 

Employees working over 55 hours weekly have a startling 35% higher risk for stroke compared to those working standard 40-hour weeks, according to WHO. Plus, the impacts of overwork span far beyond stroke, with strong links to heightened risks for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.

2. Balance Enhances Productivity

Firstly, a better work-life balance allows you to focus more effectively. You will return to work refreshed and ready to focus on your tasks only when fully relaxed and recharged.

Second, having time to pursue personal interests, such as joining a weekend golf club or a local cooking competition, will help you feel satisfied and happy. When you return to work, this has a positive effect, helping you be more motivated to strive.

In addition, participating in activities outside of work helps you gain more experience, be heard, and be exposed to new perspectives from colleagues. This exposure stimulates your creativity and brings new insights and approaches to your work.

Pros & Cons Of Work-Life Balance

While work-life balance offers a number of benefits, maintaining this balance also poses some challenges.

1. Significant Benefits To Enjoy

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Finding balance in life helps us avoid burnout. Photo by Viacheslav Yakobchuk -

For individuals, having an equilibrium between the demands of work and personal life leads to reduced stress and a lower likelihood of burnout. This promotes better physical health, mental well-being, and the ability to sustain high performance over the long term. Employees with balance feel more motivated and engaged at work, which means higher productivity.

2. Potential Challenges To Consider

While beneficial in theory, achieving work-life balance in practice can be challenging. Long work hours and near-constant availability are the norm in many jobs today. In competitive fields, people can feel pressured to work too hard to get ahead. For example, medical residents, lawyers or executives work very long hours out of necessity.

Four Signs You’re Work-Life Is Unbalanced

There are several important signals that can indicate that your work-life balance is too skewed toward the job and career side of the scale. 

1. You're Constantly Working Outside 9-5

A clear sign is when you find yourself constantly working outside of 9-5 working hours. The boundary between work and personal life becomes blurred, and you may feel like you're always "on."

This lack of separation can lead to increased stress and feeling overwhelmed, as you never truly get a break from work-related demands. While occasionally bringing work home is understandable, if it becomes a regular habit, it may signify ineffective time management or unrealistic workplace demands that need to be addressed.

2. You Struggle to Unplug

Do you compulsively check emails at all hours, even during holidays? Having trouble disconnecting from work is more often a feeling of guilt - rather than responsibility. We all need time to recharge outside of work - it’s key to avoiding burnout. 

If you feel like you can’t relax when not working, it might mean your workload and deadlines are causing too much stress. Evaluate if your work expectations are reasonable and sustainable. Don’t let work dominate your life to the point you can’t unwind (we’ll talk more about this later).

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When does work become too much? Photo by THANANIT on

3. Your Health is Suffering

Can your body shut down from being overworked? It can. When work takes over your life, health often suffers - whether it’s lack of sleep, missing workouts, unhealthy eating or neglecting medical care. 

Chronic stress, fatigue, and sickness can indicate that your work-life balance needs adjusting. In the long term, an excessive workload can contribute to serious health issues. 

What is burnout brain fog? It’s when you experience a state of mental fogginess and cognitive impairment as a result of burnout. Burnout brain fog can make it difficult to think clearly, concentrate, and remember things. It often feels like your mind is in a haze, and you may struggle to stay focused on tasks or make decisions.

4. You Have No Personal Time

If you struggle to make time for hobbies, relationships, or anything else outside work, it's a major red flag. Not nurturing other areas of your life can leave you unfulfilled in the long run. Continuously postponing or cancelling personal activities for work likely means your schedule doesn't allow a healthy balance.

How To Achieve Work-Life Balance: 12 Best Tips To Follow

Working excessively not only leads to stress but also diminishes work effectiveness. So, how can we break the cycle of work-related stress and return to our personal lives after leaving the office?

1. Set Clear Workplace Boundaries

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Turn off your email notification when you are off the office. Photo by Stephen Phillips - on Unsplash

This seems simple but is actually very important. You should proactively set boundaries between your work and personal life. If you keep skipping over and over again and trying to handle work after hours, you will form a bad habit of worrying about whether you have a task and not wanting to rest or go out for a walk. 

Start by setting a time when you disconnect from email or work calls. For example, you can stop checking email after 7 p.m. on weekdays. Enforcing these cut-off times will help keep work from being pushed into evenings and weekends. While emergencies occur, try to keep them to a minimum.

2. Keep A Healthy Body And Mind

The key to maintaining a healthy body for working has always been eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep. Remember, mental health is as important as your physical condition, too.

  • Set a consistent alarm to ensure you get enough sleep every night.
  • Meal prep on the weekend so you have healthy snacks and lunches on hand to go.
  • Make time to exercise a few times a week - even 30 minutes of walking, doing yoga or going to the gym will help boost energy and focus.

Plus, don't skip regular health checks and necessary vitamin supplements. Preventive health steps now can avoid health problems in the future.

3. Set Your Schedule Right

To control your life and work effectively, you must examine your current schedule and honestly evaluate whether it truly supports a healthy balance.

Are you overcommitting to too many responsibilities that don't belong to you? Are you willing to cut back on meetings and say no to projects that arise at work?

A pro tip is to look for opportunities to automate or outsource tasks beyond your core competencies. For example, you can use tools like Calendly to automatically schedule meetings or Trello to assign tasks to team members.

4. Follow 8 8 8 Rule

The 8 8 8 rule suggests dividing your day into three equal parts: for work, for personal activities and responsibilities, and rest and recovery.

  • The first eight hours are dedicated to work. During this time, you should prioritise your tasks and avoid distractions to maximise your work time.
  • The next eight hours are devoted to activities and personal responsibilities. This includes spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, exercising, etc. You should participate in activities that bring joy and satisfaction to your life outside of work.
  • The last eight hours are spent resting and rejuvenating. There's nothing better than a good night's sleep and relax after a tiring day to recharge your energy.

5. Schedule Your Exercise

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Prioritise your health and well-being by making exercise a non-negotiable part of your routine.

You also need to balance gym and work to spend time improving your physical health.

If you're an early riser, a warm-up workout before work can energise you for your day. Additionally, taking advantage of your lunch break to do a quick workout or a brisk walk can give you energy for the afternoon.

Short, high-intensity workouts can be effective when time is limited. Also, consider finding a gym close to work to minimise commuting time.

Some days may be busier than others, so be ready to adjust your schedule or incorporate alternative forms of exercise, such as working out at home or taking active breaks during the day.

6. Pursue Non-Work Interests

Don’t just default to staying home and watching TV. Plan your time off intentionally around things that energise you outside work, like visiting loved ones, pursuing hobbies or enjoying nature.

These activities will help you focus less on your current “pain,” and they can show you a different side of yourself. Work isn't everything. 

Furthermore, do you find it interesting to listen to someone talk about their weekend mountain climbing trip or a recent ziplining session?

Personal interests create an interesting conversation and give you valuable connections with others. People often want to be around others who are passionate, curious, and have stories to tell.

7. Create Daily Rituals

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Just take a simple breakfast with your family before going to the office to boost your mood. Photo by Cultura Creative on

To start your mornings on a positive note, do a few minutes of meditation or mindfulness. Alternatively, having breakfast with your loved ones can foster connection and create a warm, nurturing environment to start the day.

As the day winds down, it is equally important to establish rituals that help you unwind and transition from work mode to personal time. Additionally, taking time to prepare for the next day, such as organising your belongings or setting goals, can alleviate stress and help you feel more prepared.

8. Take Time Off

Travelling always brings new perspectives and inspiration. Don’t hesitate to utilise your paid time off allowances to schedule holidays in advance for longer trips and even staycations to ensure you disconnect from work.

Shorter day trips and 3-day weekends also help provide mini-resets. The key is to truly unplug from work so you can relax and rejuvenate. Coming back refreshed will significantly increase your productivity and moods.

9. Say No More Often

Learning to say "no" more often can significantly contribute to achieving a better work-life balance. When we constantly say "yes" to every request or demand that comes our way, we spread ourselves too thin and often end up overwhelmed and stressed. 

Saying "no" allows us to prioritise our own well-being and focus on what truly matters to us. Moreover, saying "no" helps establish clear expectations and boundaries with others. It communicates that our time and energy are valuable and limited resources that we need to protect. 

10. Invest In Relationships

Making time for our close relationships can help us find a balance between work and personal life demands. Even if you spend time calling a long-distance friend to catch up or setting aside an hour to have coffee with a family member (or better yet, plan a trip together), those quality moments create a positive sense. 

Furthermore, they are trustworthy in asking for important decisions we face on the job, and they provide caring support to lift us during difficult stretches in our careers. 

11. Manage Expectations

We sometimes try to set our bar too high. However, this also backfires. Anything that is too ambitious may set you back upon not reaching it. Then we feel defeated and demotivated.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to set realistic goals, which are achievable without taking a toll on your body and mind. For example, aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 times a week instead of a full workout every day after work. Start small to get that sweet dopamine of completing, and start building from there.

12. Seek Support

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Balancing life and work is more than just you; it’s also about the people around you.

You don't have to face the challenge alone. Instead, you can confide in your manager, mentor, and trusted colleagues. Colleagues understand your work stress level better than your family, so they can be "psychologists" to help you feel more comfortable.

Maybe they don't have the same living environment or family situation, but at least they all go through the same amount of work for 8 hours a day, so they can share some of their own tips that are effective for them for a balanced schedule.


1. Can Your Body Shut Down From Being Overworked?

We've all been there - burning the midnight oil, running on fumes to meet that big deadline or take on that massive project. You tell yourself you can power through, that you're tougher than the average person. But at what cost? The truth is, our bodies have limits, and if we neglect them for too long, they'll force us to slam on the brakes - hard.

Overwork can completely overload your physical and mental systems until they shut down. Your immune system gets disrupted, making you prone to every disease. Your cardiovascular system worsens, raising risks for high blood pressure.

2. What Are The Values Of Work-Life Balance? 

Work-life balance gives you breathing room to actually show up fully - as your best self at work, but also to savour family time, explore passions, nurture your health, and simply enjoy the ride.

It isn't just about punching the clock and heading out the door. It’s about taking care of your body, mind, schedule, and diet. It isn't a luxury; it's a necessity if you want to enjoy the best life has to offer.

3. What Is The Work-Life Balance Rule? 

Some people aim to spend 8 hours on work, 8 hours on personal/family time, and 8 hours sleeping. That may work well if your job and personal life fit neatly into those blocks. But many people need more flexibility, so you've got to figure out what rhythm works best for you.

4. What To Do When You Have Too Much Work And Not Enough Time? 

A small tip to handle your pile of work is to take a pen and paper and write down all the items. Then, you need to arrange them by priority according to the Eisenhower matrix to distinguish "urgent" tasks from "important" tasks.

Simply put, “urgent” things are things that you feel need to be handled immediately, such as emails, phone calls, text messages or news; "Important" tasks contribute to your long-term goals and tasks.

When prioritising, consider which tasks belong in which box and then handle them accordingly:

  • Urgent and important: do it as soon as possible
  • Important but not urgent: plan for them
  • Urgent but not important: pass it on to someone else
  • Not important and not urgent: cross those out as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Working is important. However, we also need time to recharge by spending quality time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, and exercising. Therefore, achieving work-life balance helps us build a healthier and more enjoyable life. 

We'd be curious to hear from you - what are some small changes you could make this week to feel less hectic? Leaving work just a little earlier one night to cook dinner with your partner instead of eating takeout alone at your desk? Or scheduling a regular weekly commitment like yoga class so you protect personal time on your calendar? Let's continue the discussion below.

Hope you found some of this helpful! And don’t forget to share this article before leaving!

Ha Ngan

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