Why Work-Life Balance is a Unicorn

Work-life balance has been a perennial hot topic and a big reason why is because no one seems to know how to achieve it. The reason, I believe, is because work-life balance is a myth. It is about as real as a unicorn. But, what is real is the successful management of the two?

Here are four simple strategies to overcome the challenges of aligning career and family, your personal and professional life:

Set boundaries at work and home

Figure out what balance means to you. Is it traveling once a month? Or not thinking about work on the weekends? Once you know what you want, you have to set expectations in the workplace to achieve these goals. Maybe you're home early three afternoons a week, but you're available during certain hours after the kids go to bed.

At home, talk to your family and significant others about what's important to you but also address what types of work situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid children or partner resentment when those events arise.

Make your partner your partner in work and life

Sheryl Sandberg has said a survival tactic of hers was accepting that her husband may not have been doing things around the house like she would, but at least he was helping. If the diaper is crooked, at least it’s on. If it’s pizza for dinner, at least no one will go to bed hungry.

More and more couples are figuring out how to share parenting and domestic responsibilities and a lot of it has to do with compromise. And planning. Just like you have a planning session at work, have one every week at home. Plan who will pick the kids up from school or handle taking out the trash.

Emit positive energy

One of the best ways to avoid excessive stress is to put a smile on your face. You'll create a more easygoing atmosphere in your workplace and at home. A friendly "good morning" or a "please" and "thank you" can often work wonders for colleagues and family members.

And, don’t forget to laugh. Humor makes us strong and resilient. Laughing with colleagues is not just fun, but helps us bond with one another. The next stress situation is thus only half as bad because the team shares the burden.

Be aware of your limits

If you want to fight stress, you need time to recharge. So be sure to plan regular breaks. A brief change of location, fresh air, or a conversation with colleagues can provide new strength. In an acute stress situation, it is helpful to take a break and to take a few deep breaths.

Finding a balance between the demands of your job and the rest of your life is likely to be an ongoing endeavor, but one that's worth it. After all, this is your one and only life.