3 Ways Goal Setting Helps You Achieve Work-life Balance
Why do you need goal-setting for work-life balance?
Having a life is one thing, and maintaining it is another. In the bid to create a ‘dream’ life, we often mess up our work-life balance and end up living even less than ordinary. Having the perfect work-life balance is a dream, and yes, it is! No soul can perfectly balance his work and life, but a few simple and ordinary steps can help us pitch near to the balance, and get happiness out of it.
A basic, yet powerful step in achieving work-life balance is goal-setting. Why do we say so? Dustin Wax, in his piece, “The Science of Setting Goals” made a powerful statement:
“When setting a goal, we invest ourselves in the target as if we’d already accomplished it.”
When we set a goal, we invariably invest ourselves, or commit ourselves, to achieve our purpose. It motivates you to set priorities and allocate your resources to these priorities. Most importantly, it gives you a vision, or a mission, to reach out for. This is true for all our goals - micro and macro.
In a nutshell, goal-setting helps bring a balance to our priorities in life and at work in the following three ways
- Goal-setting reduces work-life stress and anxiety
- Goal-setting helps you manage work-life conflicts
- Goal-setting helps you avoid work-life distractions and improve concentration
Let’s discuss each aspect in detail.
1. Goal-setting reduces work-life stress and anxiety
Have you found yourself getting constantly burned out or stressed out in the office?
“Taking the Strain” a study published by The Institute of Management noted that in the UK, 70% of managers think that work-related stress is having an adverse impact on their personal lives. Is the impact limited to this? According to the British Heart Foundation, stressful jobs increase the risk of coronary heart disease, up to 50% in men and women. In short, stress at work can hit our personal life hard, and vice versa is true also.
Let’s discuss how goal-setting can reduce work-life stress and anxiety.
#1: Goal setting helps you have realistic expectations from yourself
“Unrealistic expectations” is a bug that is one of the biggest reasons for stress and work-life imbalance. The constant fight between what ‘you have to do’ and what ‘you can do’ percolates our personal and office life every day. Expecting more from yourself, than what you can realistically do, can severely hamper your self-esteem and self-worth, which in turn can cause severe stress and even clinical depression
How can you avoid it?
- Be honest about your expectations. Rather than assuming, evaluate your commitments and list out those which you can accomplish today.
- Communicate early: Once you have evaluated your tasks, communicate those which you cannot perform. Do it early, not at the thick of time.
- Create boundaries: Draw clear lines between what you can do, and what you cannot. Be specific.
#2: Goal setting gives you clear direction and reduces ambiguity
The common reason for stress is the fear of failure or fear of non-achievement. This may drive some to work additional hours, take heavy workload, and work towards achieving something that is beyond our control.
Goal setting allows you to focus on the work and not just the outcome, which means, you are pushed to work smart and not just slog. How can you set such goals? To reduce ambiguity at work, your goals need to have the following prerequisites:
- List down your tasks, the toughest ones at the top: Eric Jaffe, in this article, stated that people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress.
- A clear deadline: Having a deadline keeps you aroused for work, and as per Yerkes-Dodson law, a person’s performance increases when his ‘arousal’ increases.
- Each task is strategically planned: Strategic planning helps you analyze the tasks, create an approach, and unlock possibilities. This is where any remaining ambiguity is deleted.
How can it help you to achieve work-life balance?
- When you assess your situation and set smaller goals, you avoid the risk of unrealistic expectations, which can destroy your work-life balance
- When you set micro-goals, you add clarity and thought-process to your tasks, which means you automatically reduce anxiety, moodiness, and ambiguity - the three dangerous attributes of work-life imbalance
- Goal setting also helps you get back up from failures and not let set-backs in personal life affect your professional life, and vice versa.
2. Goal-setting helps you manage work-life conflicts
Our work-life balance can be severely impacted if our time, energy, and focus demands of one role come into conflict with another. It is a dilemma where you have to fulfill your work obligations and family obligations within a limited period of time. The result is that many of us may find ourselves meeting the demands of our job while sacrificing the family, or the vice-versa. In succinct terms, work-life conflict boils down to ‘supporting your family’ vs. ‘caring for your family’.
The problem with work-life conflict is that it makes you feel like a failure in both the roles. Also, it can happen to anyone, a single person, a parent, or, even elderly ones.
Let us first understand some basic types of conflicts that a person goes through some of the other times in his life. J.H Greenhaus and N.J Beutell, in their study named “Sources and conflict between work and family roles” stated the following two types of conflicts:
- Time-based conflicts: Time-based conflicts arise when spending more time at work interferes with your personal life, due to which you cannot fulfill your family responsibilities. Usual occurrences of time-based conflicts are when you are forced to do overtime or have to slog for extra hours
- Strain-based conflicts: These arise when pressures and anxieties at work spill over to the family, leading to fights, or strain in relationships.
How can goal-setting help you resolve work-life conflicts?
#1 Goal-setting helps you manage your finite resources
Work-life conflict in itself is not the cause of stress, but letting it go unresolved can lead to stress. When you set goals, you are wisely allocating your finite resources to your priorities. With clear goals for the day, you are more likely to finish your tasks on time with high productivity. When you schedule your tasks, you are less likely to spend time on mundane activities.
#2 Goal-setting helps you build resiliency
When you set actionable goals, your body uses your inner energy to fulfill each task at hand. This, in turn, makes you more resilient. As a result, you are in a position to develop the ability to fight crises or to say conflicts. Scientists have realized that with resilience, you can not only withstand a conflict but get back up from failure too.
What can you practically do?
- Schedule time for a vacation to unplug from office and be with family
- Use all your leaves in a productive way for yourself or your family
- Honestly communicate your issues with your supervisor
- Maintain friendly relations with co-workers
3. Goal-setting helps avoid work-life distractions and improve concentration
Distractions, big or small, have the ability to derail work productivity. Researchers have found that it not only lowers but also degrades a person’s productivity at work. This means that with constant distractions, you end up spending more time at work, which can lead to frustration, anxiety, and stress, all at the expense of your personal and family life. They take up more of your energy than you think and can impact your work-life balance.
Nir Eyal, in this article, explains that it’s not the things that cause actual distraction, but our response or reaction to it is what causes it. The real solution for any distraction is to increase our focus and concentration into things that really matter, and reduce it into things that don’t. What helps us to do it?
The answer is Goal-setting.
How does goal-setting help you avoid distractions?
#1 Goal setting helps you manage your time efficiently
Research has shown that individuals spent 28% of their work-time in dealing with and recovering from interruptions. When you set daily goals, you are in effect blocking your time for important tasks, and your brain is getting wired to stay focused and avoid distractions. Without goals, our workday will become like a boat without a sail, at the mercy of the winds around it.
One platform that can help you manage your time efficiently is Habitify. With it, you can create to-do lists, schedule calendars, and even learn new habits for personality development. It is designed to help you track your progress in real-time and make improvements along the way.
#2 Goal setting helps you to be in control of your environment
A multitude of things in the environment around us can interrupt our lives. These environmental factors can hamper our thoughts, beliefs, standards, and even our vision. Constant distractions can also trigger mood disorders and other negative traits, which may inevitably lead to work-life conflict and imbalance.
On the other hand, setting specific and precise goals every day, every month, and every year can help us design the right environment that will help us succeed, and reduce negative influences. As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, the productivity expert says:
“If a person doesn’t create and control their environment, then it will create and control them.”
How can you use goal-setting to avoid work-life distractions?
Using the concept of ‘Power Breaks’: It can be impossible to stay focused if we have a large number of distractions around us. Sometimes, the biggest distractions may come from the smallest of things, like unnecessary emails, messages, short breaks, social media, colleague chats, etc. The solution is to have a regular ‘power break’ of 10 minutes after every 2 hours to attend to these mundane ‘distractions’.
Create a positive environment: A negative environment can have a detrimental impact on our goals. Hence, use the following tips to create a positive environment around you:
- Resolve work and family conflicts without delay
- Have a good inner social circle of friends and associates
- Use technology wisely
- Change your location or job if it doesn’t match your goals
A person is said to achieve work-life balance when he has enough time to pursue his personal and work interests. The laws regarding our working hours and leaves were enacted to this effect. The problem is, since we all are unique, the ratio of work-life balance for one person, maybe different for another. Hence, it is imperative that you find the right balance that works for you.
It may be very difficult to achieve work-life balance every single day. The key to achieving it is to make sure that no aspect of our life overshadows our entire life, may it be work, or our personal lives.
We have touched upon a basic solution to help you achieve the right kind of balance. Now the ball is in your court to make the right set of decisions. Will you?