When it comes to finding work-life balance, making time for fun and the pursuit of individual goals can be crucial for enhancing your happiness and well-being

Many Americans have long assumed that career success requires long hours, prioritizing job achievement over personal pursuits, and making short-term sacrifices. At the same time, however, there is evidence that the current work culture is leaving many workers dissatisfied and unhappy. In fact, many of today's workers are increasingly resistant to working longer hours and prefer to prioritize work-life balance.

Interestingly, a recent study offers evidence that prioritizing enjoyment and a balance between work and life is essential for reducing stress and increasing overall personal happiness, thus supporting the age-old adage that all work and no play make a dull life.

Prioritizing fun and freedom: the study's findings

Researchers from the University of Essex recently published the results of a revealing study on the prioritization of achievement over enjoyment. Those results found that those who focused more on achievement than fun saw a reduction in their happiness.

At the same time, subjects who focused their attention on freedom and enjoyment reported boosts in overall life satisfaction, sense of well-being, and sleep quality. Study participants who emphasized relaxation and hobbies also saw significantly reduced anxiety and stress.

The University of Essex Department of Psychology's Dr. Paul Hanel summarized the findings:

"There is no benefit to well-being in prioritizing achievement over fun and autonomy. This research shows that there are real benefits to having a balanced life and taking time to focus on enjoying ourselves and following individual goals. Ironically, by doing this, people could, in fact, be more successful as they will be more relaxed, happier, and satisfied."

Work-life balance and your career

Over the years, we've consistently sounded the alarm on issues like burnout, toxic work environments, and even faking happiness at work. One common theme that seems to connect those different concerns is the need for a healthy balance between an employee's work and personal life. Unfortunately, too many American workers are so focused on achievement that they may not even realize that their work-life balance is out of whack.

As Dr. Hanel notes, that lack of balance could be hindering your ability to achieve the type of career success that you're seeking. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reprioritize work-life balance and find the harmony you need to enjoy success and personal happiness in equal measure.

6 tips you can use to rebalance your work and life

Below, we highlight six key tips that you can use to seek more balance in your work and personal lives.

1. Identify your priorities

Too many people allow themselves to fall into a state of work-life imbalance – and with good reason. Without a plan that establishes your priorities, there's a good chance you'll end up emphasizing work to the exclusion of your personal life. To avoid that, you need to consciously prioritize enjoyment outside of work. Be prepared to make lists of your priorities that you can use as a roadmap for balance.

2. Separate your work identity from your personal identity

Don't be one of those people who believe they are their job. Actively work to maintain separate identities by reminding yourself that your job is not who you are; it is what you do. To solidify that separation of identities, make sure that you maintain separate to-do lists, schedules, and expectations. This separation of identities can also help you to unplug when you leave work and reduce stress and burnout.

3. Define and enforce your work-life boundaries

You should also create rules that set boundaries between your job and personal life. For example:

  • Leave work at work

  • Create a routine that clearly marks the end of each workday

  • Establish rules to control workplace communication during your off-hours

  • Practice mindfulness when you're at home, focusing on being in every moment

4. Take time off

A recent Pew survey found that 46% of American workers use less paid time off than their employers provide. That's regrettable, since evidence suggests that vacations and other time away from the office are important for reducing psychological stress. 

In short, take time off when it's available, and use it to focus on the things that bring you enjoyment.

5.  Maximize productivity to minimize excessive hours

Focus on ways to increase your efficiency. One reason so many people work more hours than they should is that they are not as productive as they could be. Find tools and strategies to maximize your efforts during normal working hours, so you can resist the temptation to work longer hours just to get things done.

6.  Prioritize fun

Never spend your off-hours worrying about work. It's difficult to find any real work-life balance if you never identify things outside of work that you enjoy doing. Whether it's spending time with your loved ones, engaging in a favorite hobby, or visiting new and interesting places, always make time to have fun and enjoy life. After all, if you're not enjoying yourself outside of work, what's the point of it all?

Finding the right balance can help you to avoid a dull life

While America's workplace culture may still be focused more on work than personal life, that doesn't mean you need to accept that norm. The evidence suggests that a healthy work-life balance can increase happiness and personal well-being, so the smart thing to do is to pursue that balance in your own life. With a little effort and commitment, you should be able to find enjoyment in your personal life and success in your career.

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