Set healthy priorities to balance life, work

By Brittany Jacks
MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Creating a healthy balance between work and life is essential to being more productive and focused.

David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said one of the most important boundaries to have when balancing work and life is accountability with friends and family.

“Talking openly about the challenges of balancing work and life objectives with your spouse, children and friends, as well as with co-workers, helps acknowledge the difficulty and ensures that you do not accept imbalance as a way of life,” Buys said.

Juggling work, family and health can be a challenge.

Juggling work, family and health can be a challenge.

Buys related balance in life to a three-legged stool supported by family, work and values. If one of the legs is not the same length as the others, the stool becomes uncomfortable.

“If you spend too much time at work and developing your career, you risk losing your family. If you become too engrossed in your family, you risk performing poorly at work and ultimately losing your job,” he said. “Take stock of your values, and do not let your ethics and morals get lost in the midst of trying to achieve balance.”

The first of the year provides a good opportunity to reflect on strengths and weaknesses experienced over the last year and make necessary changes for this year, Buys said.

“Review these values and goals throughout the year, either monthly, weekly or even daily in some cases,” Buys said. “We should occasionally take a step back and ask, ‘What is it that we value in life for work and for our family? Do we have strategies in place to achieve those?’”

Susan Seal, assistant professor in the MSU School of Human Sciences, said the two areas do not always need to be separate.

“Do not keep personal business, personal sometimes. An individual is with his or her co-workers eight hours almost every day. Sometimes they need to know why that person is having a difficult time. It might help to understand the person better,” she said. “However, do not bring too much baggage from home, either. Set aside time to talk personal or family issues, and then move on.”

There are many positive tasks people can do to improve their work and life balance, Seal said.

“Find time to rest. Make time to spend away from both work and family. Do something that brings you joy,” she said. “Time management also has a lot to do with healthy boundaries. Create specific times to meet with people or do certain tasks. Increase energy to have more time and be more present with work or family. Doing things for others can also increase productivity and increase fulfillment.”

Seal said when life and work obligations become imbalanced, problems can occur in other areas and with other people.

“Negativity feeds negativity, so when one family member or co-worker is unproductive, those around him or her can become distracted, too,” Seal said. “When people are unproductive, they become disappointed or depressed, which just compounds the problem. That is a good reason for addressing problems as soon as possible.”