Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations at Work Nurturing Your Work-Life Balance and Well-Being

When did overworking yourself and putting work first, disregarding self-care and promoting hustle culture become the norm? Many working people have developed unrealistic expectations at their jobs and let their work-life balance, well-being and self-care fall to the wayside.

If you feel overwhelmed by corporate hustle culture and the prevalence of unrealistic performance expectations, you are not alone. In a 2020 study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 79% of surveyed working adults reported work-related stress, with 3 out of 5 disclosing negative consequences of work-related stress. These statistics point to one unfortunate truth: unrealistic expectations of work/life balance can negatively impact our overall wellbeing.

Developing a work-life balance that works for you

A lack of work-life balance erodes our ability to be present and mindful with the task at hand. If one area of life is monopolizing our time, we have much less energy to spend on the other, and the inverse is also true. While you may not find a perfect 50-50 balance on a daily or even weekly basis, and certain seasons of life may require a different valuation, long term neglect of one area of life is bound to cause problems.

Deciding where to put your focus begins by asking yourself a few questions. What’s going on for you at the moment? Are you welcoming a new family member? Launching that business you’ve dreamed of? Caring for a family member? Maybe it’s something less monumental but still worthy of consideration as you sort through your priorities. Taking this conscious step to decide what needs your focus now can help you shed the guilt of a less-than-equal split of your energy and focus.

Directly following that decision is another one of even greater importance: whatever you’re doing, decide to be all there. This is a loose paraphrase of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of modern-day mindfulness practices. It’s this practice that will allow you to move through the different seasons of life without burning yourself out.

Mindfulness is a key component of the evidence-based treatment Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Mindfulness is a component of improving mindset that helps us be present and focus on the moment, and not let thoughts or worries about the past or future lead us off track. While a mindfulness practice may include setting a time to listen to a guided meditation during your lunch hour, it’s even more powerful application involves directing your attention towards a single thing. In this case, not letting that email about tomorrow’s presentation get in the way of your bedtime routine with the kids. Or conversely, carving out time to focus on your marriage in a couple’s therapy session, rather than on the clock.

How to shift your mindset at work

Another practical solution to tackle on-the-job stress is to shift your mindset to manage your expectations of yourself and what you can accomplish with the 168 hours you’re given each week and the 40 you spend at work. Perfection is a man-made construct that puts unnecessary pressure on us, and forces us to overwork ourselves for an outcome that may still be unattainable. Realistic expectations help us better understand what’s feasible to ask of ourselves and plan accordingly.

Below are some tips to help you change your mindset to improve your well-being, accomplish your goals and function optimally, and leave work at work.

  1. Set Realistic Goals

Goals, in general, help us prioritize and manage our time so we can stay positive and on track. Setting and achieving realistic goals helps increase our self-confidence and trust in ourselves. For this reason, being intentional about setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) can help increase our chances of follow-through.

  1. Practice Self-Compassion

Humans are not programmed for perfection. It is ok to acknowledge if something does not go according to plan, but it is important to give ourselves grace when this happens. Putting unnecessary pressure on things out of our control can force us into a negative mindset. Practice embracing flexibility when possible, and self-compassion at all times to help prevent burnout and stress.  

  1. Establish Boundaries

Establishing boundaries AND being firm with them is crucial for nurturing work-life balance. Some examples of this include: do not check your work email on the weekend, do not receive work notifications to your personal phone/laptop, and do not think about work when you are utilizing a sick or personal day. If you answer an email when you have notified your team or supervisor you are out sick for the day, you are inadvertently inviting colleagues to break these boundaries in the future and that you actually are accessible when you originally said you are not.

Does this list pique your interest in learning more about your boundaries and work-life balance? If you’re curious but need help and guidance figuring out where to start, you may benefit from working with a career coach.

Work, Life and Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance allows us to prioritize, relax and reset. Time is the only limited resource in the world, so it is important to spend it wisely and intentionally. Practicing being present in the moment can help us stay focused on what we are doing in the moment, and not let work seep into personal life and vice versa.

Work hard when you are on the clock, but make sure you relax/rest hard when you are not. Challenge unreasonable expectations and set realistic goals to develop a healthy mindset on prioritizing, being mindful and executing a solid work-life balance. Click here to see how we can help you develop your unique routine for work-life balance today.

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