Work-Life Balance: How to Set Manageable Boundaries

!(http://bdcstatic.business.com/images/content/5d2/cccd09c658ace4a8b457b/280-280-)Here are a few tips to help you find the middle ground and be successful both at work and at home.

  1. Let go of the work-life balance myth.

You've probably heard that the potential of perfect work-life balance is a myth. This idea that you can be 100% present at work and 100% present at home – regardless of what's happening in either place – is nearly impossible to achieve. Studies have found that striving for it can actually be detrimental to mental health and happiness. After all, we only have so much attention and awareness to give, right?

That doesn't mean that finding what the Buddhists call "the middle way," or a place of balance between two opposites, isn't worth working toward. In fact, seeking a balance between your work and your home life is healthy and can significantly improve both your professional success and your private life. You just need to have realistic expectations.

A 2016 study discovered that employees with firm boundaries, both physical and mental, between work and home, experience more stress and depletion in both realms than those who have a more fluid set of rules around home and work. This is a result of what is known as cognitive role transitions. This is essentially when your mind wanders to something outside of the current situation you are in and you think about something unrelated. Say, for example, you're sitting in a late-night meeting at the office, and your mind starts to wander to what your kids are watching on television at home. Or you're getting dressed for work, and you start thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store.

The first step in work-life integration is to know who you are and your strengths. Never try to be someone you are not, because that will just cause strife – both mental and physical. Come to terms with where you may lack, and ask for help from loved ones, trusted mentors and friends.

The next, and probably the hardest, step is to reframe the idea of work-life balance. Cognitive role transitions, or your thoughts switching from work to home life, are totally natural and happen all the time. But when you try to put hard boundaries on them and stop certain thoughts from happening, you can cause a lot more problems than good.

The researchers from that 2016 study concluded that people who allow personal things to come up at work and business things to come up at home – those who have less strict boundaries – are more resilient and able to recover emotional balance faster. Allowing fluidity (at least some) between home and work provides for better work-life integration.

That's not to say that you should let your work life take over your home life or vice versa. We all need boundaries. So how do you know what limits to set? How do you know which ones will help you and which will hinder you? Follow the four tips below to get an early start on setting these work-life boundaries, and you can be sure to reach that elusive balance.

  1. Get to the heart of what matters most.

First, you need to determine what work-life integration looks like for you. Does going to a yoga class once a day or making it to your daughter's swim meet each week make you feel fulfilled? Is a spin class once a week your path to being a saner person? Identify your core needs, make those decisions, and don't look back.

The things that help keep you going every week and make you feel balanced and whole are going to be what sustain you throughout your life and career. Once you know what matters most, you can work on setting boundaries around those activities so that when you are at work or at home, you can be more fully present for those who need you.

Whatever those things are, make a list of them and figure out which items ...