life balance

We’ve all been guilty of thinking about work while at home. And then there are those of us—many of us—who actually take work home, for real, through our mobile devices. With the ability to always be connected, it can become harder to justify unplugging from work and really engaging with the world around us, which is an essential element in healthy work life balance.

Things have gotten complicated

You’ve probably found yourself checking your email before nodding off to sleep, literally allowing your work life into bed with you. Maybe you’ve been guilty of checking your phone under the dinner table, taking your attention away from those around you. With technology so readily available and portable, it’s getting harder and harder to know when to say “no” to work. It’s getting harder to justify going offline and taking time to be present with families, friends and other not work-related, important aspects of our lives.

Because the workday no longer ends for so many of us between 5 PM and 9 AM Monday through Friday or on Saturdays and Sundays, the boundaries between work life and home life become increasingly blurry, which makes it hard to establish a healthy life balance. For millions of Americans, work seems to demand that we are, to some extent, always available—at the very least constantly checking our email so we can stay on top of things. Regardless of if you are an entrepreneur, hold a traditional 9-5 job or even just work part-time, it can be really hard to know where to draw the line and just go off-line for a while.

Just say no

It’s important that we do put down our devices and take time off. Down time is essential for creativity, compassion, resilience, fostering healthy relationships and general mental and physical health. Without down time to recharge and refuel, we are on an inevitable path to burnout. Burnout can lead us to act unskillfully and/or treat ourselves or the people we care about with less respect than we’d like to. Burnout can also lead to exhaustion, depression, hopelessness and chronic stress. There is a toll to being always on call and not having a good life balance. We have to learn when to say “no” to work, unplugging at least for a little while, on a regular basis.

An alarming trend…

It turns out that the disruption of down time is increasing, especially for people who are younger. We’re working while we’re sick and at home and when we’re taking structured time off as a vacation. Men and women alike don’t disconnect the way they’d like to, and many even feel a sense of urgency to check and respond to emails and other work requests no matter the day or hour.

In a recent study by, they found that over 35 percent of people they interviewed in the 25-34 year old age bracket said they felt pressured to check work email “most of the time”. Less than 20 percent of all the people they interviewed said they had never had trouble disconnecting from their devices. No wonder it’s hard to establish work life balance!

You don’t need to be a statistic, though. You can change this trend in your own life, but it takes practice. Here are five ideas to get you started:

  • Clarify expectations. Speak with your employer about what his or her expectations are for your out of office availability.
  • Set a bedtime for your phone. Program your phone to automatically switch to “Do Not Disturb” between certain hours, such as from 7pm to 7am.
  • Set a bedtime for your Wi-Fi. If you have a router, you can use a smartplug or a timer like this one to automatically shut Wi-Fi down between certain hours. This simple step can make it harder to engage in late-night email checking.
  • Engage your family. Have a family discussion to clarify your family’s expectations about both device use and family time. You might want to collectively create a set of guidelines (like no devices at the dinner table), and agree to hold each other accountable.
  • Increase your screen time awareness. Each time you reach for your phone, pause and ask yourself whether you are on or off work duty. Then ask yourself whether checking your phone in that moment is in line with your values and deeper intentions about how you are spending your time.

Unsure about what’s happening to you and the boundaries between work and home life? Are you craving a healthier life balance? Use this graphic to find out how smart devices are changing our ability to disconnect. And then sit down and look at how you are spending your time and whether there are ways to set up more intentional boundaries.

(graphic pasted below. From )