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How to Balance Family and a Demanding Career

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Your closest relationships, health, and job performance can all benefit from boundaries.

There’s something that tends to happen as we advance in our careers: the time and space available for a personal life shrink. The stress of the job, on top of long hours, can easily take its toll on your health and closest relationships. Not surprisingly, CEOs and entrepreneurs have higher rates of divorce than the general public.

When you have a really demanding job, the pressure on your health and family only intensifies. So how can you balance a high-level job with your well-being and your most important relationships?

A major component, according to psychologists, is drawing clear lines of distinction between your professional and personal lives. Setting aside specific times when work ends and your focus turns to loved ones is essential for maintaining strong relationships.

With devices that allow us to take work everywhere we go, this is harder than it sounds. Social scientists have found that receiving a notification on your phone or computer is exactly like being tapped on the shoulder; it’s impossible to ignore. And if you’re always distracted, the time you spend with your friends and family isn’t going to feel satisfactory for anyone.

That’s why it’s important to turn off your devices or leave them at work a few times a week. You can even tell your colleagues not to contact you on a certain evening or weekend. More likely than not, they will respect your boundaries.

But what if you still can’t stop thinking about work? Then, according to organisational psychologist Michael Woodward, you need to end your workday well. “Just as it’s never a good idea to hard crash your computer, you shouldn’t hard crash your day,” he advises. “Closing out your day in an orderly and positive way is critical to making that clean psychological transition into the personal side of life.”

A simple routine can give your mind and body closure at the end of each workday. Business experts from Harvard and Yale Universities say that the most productive workers tend to review what they’ve accomplished that day, make a plan for the following day, and take a few minutes to tidy up their physical workspace and computer desktop. This process is both affirming and clarifying, allowing you to let go of your work for the evening and return more focused in the morning.

Fortunately, establishing healthy boundaries between your work and personal life can actually increase your productivity at work. A continuously growing body of research shows that taking time to rest and do other activities enables us to work more efficiently and to make better decisions on the job. Connecting well with a spouse or loved one elevates our mood and increases our confidence, resulting in stronger performance in the office.

In the short term, it may feel challenging to postpone work for personal matters. But, in the long run, you will likely find that a healthy personal life can provide you with an essential source of support in your work.

So, as you advance up your career ladder, don’t forget to keep prioritizing relationships and time off. Professionally and personally, you’ll be glad that you did.