Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Have You Decided to Prioritize Life Over Work?

21 steps for better work–life balance.

Key points

  • Many professionals are reexamining work–life priorities post-COVID.
  • Studies show work-life balance trumps salary for two-thirds of workers; executives are burned out, too.
  • Steps to greater balance include intention, organization, boundary-setting, exercise, and focus.
Source: Mimagephotography/Dreamstime

Have you decided it’s time to think more about life than work? If work-life balance seems elusive, and burnout has taken center stage, you’re not alone. But how do you transition from our deeply ingrained hustle culture to a healthier existence?

Why the Shift?

Greater awareness of life priorities during COVID, general disillusionment with unreasonable work hours, and protracted labor shortages are all leading employees to quit or seek remote work—or at least look at options that facilitate this reprioritization.

Two-thirds of employees would opt for better work–life balance over better pay, says a FlexJobs survey. Another recent study says executives are experiencing 20 percent worse work–life balance and 40 percent more work-related stress and anxiety over the prior year.

Choosing life balance over work for better mental and physical health, happiness, and perhaps even self-preservation, doesn’t mean underperforming. It is a healthy refocus—particularly for self-proclaimed overachievers and perfectionists. For many, it may necessitate working smarter. But with enough drive and conviction, better balance is achievable for anyone.

21 Steps for a Healthier Work-Life Balance

Consider some of these steps for a healthier lifestyle and mindset:

  1. Start your day with intention. This is a helpful practice in general, but particularly when you’re making life changes. Start your day with your goals being top of mind, and decide to commit to smaller, actionable steps.
  2. Get motivated through visualization. Envision yourself in your new life; picture yourself doing the fun activities you’ve been missing. Let the positive emotions in, and catch yourself when fear goes into overdrive. It’s a time-held belief that your actions will intrinsically follow your subconscious goals.
  3. It is evolution, not revolution. Remember that it took you a long time to get where you are in your normal routine. Your new work–life habits won’t happen overnight, so give yourself some slack and time.
  4. Practice gratitude. Appreciating one’s blessings is hardly the norm in our driven society. It takes discipline and a “reset,” but is a highly effective tool to optimize self-fulfillment.
  5. Meditate. When your mind is absent of clutter, you’ll stay better focused on the big picture and mitigate the day’s inevitable distractions. Even 10 minutes of meditation time daily has been proven to reduce stress…helpful when you’re making life changes.
  6. Stick to your new priorities, not those of others. Whenever making significant and sustainable modifications to your life, well-meaning friends or family can sometimes challenge you. For example, they may project their own personal fears, such as, “You’re in the peak of your career; be careful slowing down.” But stay with your gut instincts. Ultimately, only you know the best course.
  7. Practice self-care and mindfulness. You’ll be more prepared for change when you place greater value on daily routines that serve your mind, body, and spirit.
  8. Take breaks. Train yourself to take breaks every 15 to 20 minutes. Get away from your computer; stretch and move around to remain on track and get perspective.
  9. Become a time-management zealot. Avoid “busy work,” procrastination, and activities that needlessly eat up your time. If the day gets away from you often, start keeping track of how you are spending your time, in 30-minute increments.
  10. Believe in yourself. Jot down all the little successes you amass with your new life plan on a daily basis. This will help encourage you to stay on track. Stay determined.
  11. Exercise often. If exercise has been pushed aside for work far too often, consider starting slowly. Walking just 20 minutes a day alone has huge physical and mental benefits, but will also encourage you to relax and think more clearly.
  12. Self-talk matters. What is your inner voice telling you each morning? If it’s all the things that seem impossible to accomplish, shift gears. Even if you need a short script in the beginning, give yourself some affirmations about your new journey and how you’re on pace to make great strides.
  13. Learn a new skill. Getting a more balanced life is enhanced when you get out of your comfort zone and find new, healthy ways to feel a sense of accomplishment.
  14. Just say "no" at home and at work. Setting boundaries to work and home pressures is critical to your ability to find happiness. Whether it’s all-consuming work demands or exhausting personal commitments, be kind to yourself and become more aware of when these activities will drain you. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
  15. Find a career pursuit you love. However you choose to shift to more personal time, make sure your professional life holds gratification. It’s too easy to repeat the same routine daily to the detriment of your longer-term well-being.
  16. Find a leisure passion—or focus on the one you have. Do you have a pastime you’ve neglected or have you considered a new one? This can help ease into a more balanced existence, whether it’s music, sports, reading, or other pursuits.
  17. Enjoy nature. Experiencing the great outdoors has countless benefits that will enhance your life.
  18. Connect with favorite friends and family. Has your inner circle been neglected? It may be time to become more engaged with positive people who add to your quality of life.
  19. Spend less time on social media. Social media, while a necessary part of life for many, can also be your worst enemy. In large doses, it can become an impediment to making real personal change. Consider limiting yourself to 30 minutes to an hour a day.
  20. Get organized. Your surroundings have an impact on your productivity and focus. Consider whether it’s time for spring cleaning. It may well become a spring cleaning of the mind, too.
  21. Consider modifications to your workspace. Have you ever found that you’re more productive in a different work environment? Consider making a few updates to how (and where, if you work from home) you operate best. Think about how such factors as comfort, lighting, and small conveniences could move you forward.

Big changes are never for the faint of heart. But now is the time to take concrete steps that will lead to a more enriched and balanced life.

More from Lynn Taylor
More from Psychology Today