Lessons on Work-Life Balance From High Achievers

Success doesn’t have to come at the cost of a fulfilling personal life. 

While it’s important to be passionate about your profession, the ethos of “all work and no play” can actually inhibit performance.

Citing a study conducted by Towers Watson, workplace journalist Karen Higginbottom writes that workers “suffering from high-stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absenteeism levels than those not working under excessive pressure.”

The largest cause of stress in the U.S. workplace? A lack of adequate work-life balance. Luckily, establishing a healthy balance between your personal and professional life isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Let’s take a look at three valuable pieces of advice from high-achieving professionals who have successfully maintained fulfilling personal lives while advancing in their career.

1. Work smarter

“You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.” — Andrew Wilkinson, founder of MetaLab

While keeping your nose to the grindstone might seem like the best way to ensure success, overworking yourself will actually deplete your creative energy and make you less likely to excel in business. Like Wilkinson says, it’s not about working yourself to exhaustion — it’s about making your work work for you.

Instead of burning the midnight oil, find ways to stay focused and complete tasks more efficiently during the day. That way, when you leave the office, you’ll be able to give your brain some much-needed rest. Your time outside of work should be devoted to a different set of priorities, like maintaining meaningful relationships, spending time with family, or developing new hobbies.

2. Make it personal

“Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

As the author of Lean In, a book that empowers women to pursue professional leadership roles, it’s not surprising that Sandberg advocates the ideal of staying true to yourself in the workplace. But her point is an important one. By pitting “work” and “life” against each other, we ignore the fact that work is an integral part of our lives, not an isolated entity.

By integrating your passions with your profession, you might just find yourself excited to go to work each morning. You don’t have to check your personality at the office door.

3. Decide what matters

“You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And thinking that way empowers you to work really hard for a really long period of time.” — Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo

As much as we’d like to believe that our capacity to squeeze everything we want out of work and life is limitless, Mayer suggests a different approach. Regardless of how diligently we work, we can’t fit everything into our lives.

So sit down and ask yourself: How do you define success? Which successes will make you the happiest? Which project is the most interesting and important to you?

Prioritize your work so that the most essential tasks get done first, and give yourself a little more wiggle room to complete the rest.

 Mayer’s advice can apply to all aspects of life, from business to relationships to hobbies.

Once you’ve prioritized the most important aspects of life and work, you’ll be free to focus on the work that ultimately matters — not just the work that’s in front of you.

Ken Sterling is the Executive Vice President at BigSpeak. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant, and sales & marketing expert.

This article was originally published on YFS Magazine