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How do you achieve work/life balance?

I recently finished up grad school and have entered the workforce as a mechanical engineer. Since there is so much to do, I have been staying up later to manage all the different projects I'm working on. It's a bit overwhelming. Any tips on how I can balance a heavy workload along with other parts of my life?

#worklifebalance #career #engineering #engineer

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Victoria’s Answer

Great question!

I just started my career about a year and a half ago and sometimes finding a good work life balance can be hard. One of the main things I have learned to do is saying no when something is way outside of work hours. It is still hard for me to say no to calendar invites from a boss or colleague. Unless it is an urgent matter, I have learned to prioritize my well-being and say no.

One of the other main things I do to prioritize a good work-life balance is blocking out on my calendar when I won't be available. This way everyone on your team and other colleagues know that you won't be around during that time. It's also important to make sure that you put your calendar on working hours so it is known when you will be working and when you won't be around!

Finally, if I am feeling overwhelmed I make sure to let someone on my team know! You are on a team for a reason, if someone can help, they will!

I would just say remember to put yourself first, especially if it is in a remote working environment.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Paul
Thank you comment icon Thanks so much Victoria, this is all pretty great stuff! Yeah saying no will be tough for me, but I'll definitely strengthen that. Melvin Summerville
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Gurpreet’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team

Howdy Melvin,

Work/life balance is hard and looks different for everyone. What works in one position won't necessarily work when you move to a different company. It's a lot of trial and error but here are some things that I have found work well for me:

1. Your calendar is everything! Along with using it for work, use it to make sure you schedule in self care. Taking care of yourself is one of those things we often forget about unless we are reminded to do so. This can look like blocking off time on your work calendar to take lunch, scheduling time to go to the gym, or just setting aside 15 minutes for some meditation.
2. Only do work during working hours. This might change if you're working on a project or have a big deadline approaching but try to hold yourself to only working during normal hours. Not only is this a form of self care but it also sets an expectation to your coworkers that you will be online and responsive during business hours only.
3. In the age of technology, we feel the need to be plugged into all conversations at all times. I'm guilty of having my work email and Slack available on my phone because I don't want to feel like I'm being unresponsive when people need something from me. A way to achieve balance between being informed and using your off hours for yourself is to mute notifications after a certain time (ex: 6p). The messages are still there but you aren't constantly being pinged throughout the evening.
4. This is one I personally struggle with but it's important to say no. When a colleague asks for help, it's natural to say yes and want to be helpful. Before taking on a new request, take a few minutes to assess what else you're working on and if you have the capacity to help. If you're already juggling too much, it's okay to say no or say that you can help at a later time.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Paul
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your answer. And I completely agree with your specially the item 4. It's really difficult to be kind but say no to all kinds of request come to you suddenly and breaking your plan. If you can understand the most important thing for you at that moment and focus it an make the right decision. It would be very helpful to keep work/life balance and feel happy Jasmine
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Mike’s Answer

It is tough to do early in your career, but you need to learn to say no. There will always be times when you have to work longer to finish a project but it is bad for you and your employer if you consistently work at a level that will burn you out.
Further, take the time to handle your personal life. Many times after taking on a new job I took too much focus away from my family. One year into the job I could see how stupid it was as whatever i was working on would have been fine with me giving it a little less attention.
Finally, the best advice I have ever seen is to not get good at the stupid things. As an example, if you become the best person to set up a test (or make a fancy spreadsheet, etc.), you will find that is what you are known for and will find yourself getting pulled in to do that for others. Find out what is valuable to your company and boss (and his boss) and get good at that.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice, Mike. Paul
Thank you comment icon This is helpful for me, thanks for your input Mike! I definitely need to master saying no and prioritization. Melvin Summerville
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Andersen’s Answer

Hi Melvin. Work-life balance sounds like an ideal goal, but we can always identify ways to keep getting closer to it. In your situation specifically, I would start with managing expectations with your team.

Andersen recommends the following next steps:

Make a list of projects you are working on
Understand their priorities
Understand the expected outcome
Understand if you can perform as expected given your current capability and availability
Align with your team and make adjustments
Thank you comment icon I am really grateful you took the time to answer this question. Paul
Thank you comment icon Great advice, Andersen! Alexandra Carpenter, Admin
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Lauren’s Answer

Hi Melvin! This is a great question that I think a lot of people struggle with their entire careers. In my opinion it really depends on where you work. Some places don't have a good work life balance and others do. It's important to set up proper expectations while you're interviewing. Ask your interviewer questions about the work culture, the work life balance, what the typical work hours are like, and what is the culture around vacation days and time off (do you have to have your work device/check your emails or are you allowed to totally disconnect). This way you know upfront what the company is like. The interviewer should be honest with you to an extent, but you can also go on websites like Glassdoor where real employees provide their feedback on working for a company and you can see what they say there.

I know some people go into the work force thinking they will never work outside of their hours, but sometimes things happen and you end up having to work late. If it happens occasionally and you are passionate about what you do it doesn't end up being that bad. You don't want to risk your career or job by telling your boss or someone superior that you will not work late sometimes. If it's happening too often and your social/personal life is suffering then it's definitely worth setting up proper expectations with coworkers and signing off right when you are done with work.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. Paul
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Patrycja’s Answer

Congrats on graduating your school! It's really tough to manage work-life balance at the beginning of your career, but as most thinks in life the longer you're in the game the easier it gets. You learn how to prioritize your work and in which areas you need to act with urgency. You also learn how to work with people and set boundaries - but as I stated before it all takes time. There is no other way to gain this experience other than just power through the initial hardships.
Thank you comment icon I will use this advice as I prepare for my career. Paul
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Wei’s Answer

For me, the work and life balance is a big challenge. I'm a bit hard to make it, but I'm trying my best to do it with below steps:
1. Make work plan for every week
2. Work close with teammates, share the work info, and handle over the long-term work with each other in case of absence
3. Using the Pomodoro technique: set a timer for 40 minutes and work steadily until the timer goes off, then have 5 minutes break
4. The most important thing, get family support for the OT work
5. Walk to office and home
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to help. Paul
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Priya’s Answer

Hi Melvin, I work in a completely different field but I have been working on work-life balance a lot in my field. I think giving yourself permission to know you do not have it all figured out and it can shift from time to time. What worked for me one year may not work for me the next month. I think tuning into my values and needs and trying to balance those in the day is helpful. I do not always take care of them, and its a work in progress, but trying is what is important, I think! Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. Paul
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Jennifer Guzman’s Answer

I work in the Telecommunications industry. For me work-life balance is a challenge especially after Covid-19 since we were forced to transition to a remote work environment. These are some of the things I do to keep my sanity and balance:

1. Block time for lunch to ensure you're not booked for a meeting
2. Set blocks of time to work on different tasks
3. Go for a walk or exercise at the end of the day
4. Take time off as needed
5. Block time to catch up with peers you haven't seen in a while (this helps with personal touch)
6. Make time for your loved ones
7. Take breaks after long calls
Thank you comment icon This was super helpful, thank you! Paul
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Vernie’s Answer

Hello! I think the best way to achieve work/life balance is to manage your time wisely.
Using apps like google calendar or to have a planner/journal can be handy. Start planning your weeks ahead, and jot down the things that you would have to do, in order to physically see how much free time you'd have.

Hope this helps. Goodluck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. Paul
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Alyssa’s Answer

Congratulations on your recent accomplishments! Balancing a new and challenging career can be difficult and I personally believe it is a trial and error process, what works for me will not work for everyone so its best to be flexible and gentle with your expectations.
A few things that work for me is to understand what tasks I need to be involved in and what tasks I can delegate. Resisting the urge to take on every new task or assignment can be challenging (especially being new to your role) but you and the business both suffer if you take on more than you can handle. I also have found success in planning out my days and leaving a little space for unexpected events or tasks so that I don't feel overwhelmed if something needs my attention last minute.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to help. Paul
Thank you comment icon Thanks so much Alyssa! I definitely have bitten off way more than I can chew because I want experience as well as to challenge myself and see what the day-to-day work is like, but what you and a few others have mentioned are what I want to implement. Melvin Summerville
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Robin’s Answer

Hi Melvin,

It can vary from person to person. I set a start and stop time for my work day. This was difficult when the pandemic started as many folks started to work from home and boundaries became blurred. Overtime I learned how to express my boundaries to fellow coworkers. Many of them were in the same position and understood the importance of work/life balance. Being able to set the right expectations with others is critical.

I also set time for exercise that forced me to "turn off" my work in my head. The ability to disconnect from work will help with your mental health. Meditation or other techniques work well to reduce stress.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to help. Paul
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Gaby’s Answer

Hello Melvin, juggling with work and personal life is challenging but doable. I recommend you first have a conversation with your manager on what are the priorities and have these meetings regularly. Prioritizing your tasks helps find time for other activities. Learn to say NO to that is not important or postpone what is important but not urgent. Plan your days, and stick to those plans the best you can. Schedule time for your personal life interests and responsibilities, pencil them into your calendar. There are also so many tools, books and trainings on time management and work/life balance that could be useful. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Paul
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Carl’s Answer

Hi Melvin. Achieving a work/life balance can be a challenge for all of us. I'm not going to restate some of the things that have already been mentioned in previous answers but my biggest piece of advice is to set boundaries. There will come a time when people don't care what your calendar says or what other priorities are on your plate, they just want you to meet their needs no matter what the cost is to you. Don't be afraid to say no to people when it impedes your personal mental and physical health. This will not always be easy. People may leverage that against you, say you're not a team player for taking care of your personal needs but it is necessary to achieve work/life balance.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Paul
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