Sometimes it’s because you have more work to do. But other times it’s because your habits and preferences have come into conflict without you realizing it.
Perhaps the defining feature of work-life balance is its tenuousness. For too many people, avoiding job-related burnout takes some combination of smart career choices, constant vigilance, and dumb luck. But it shouldn’t really be this way.
One of the reasons work-life balance may feel so elusive–and so at risk of sliding through your fingers the second a new project lands in your lap, or when your personal life takes an unexpected turn–is because certain preferences or habits in our lives inevitably shift without us realizing it, creating internal conflict. So the key to regaining balance isn’t necessarily to overhaul how you manage your time or to automate everything you possibly can (though sometimes that can help, too).
Instead, you need to resolve that hidden conflict–and you can start by asking yourself these three questions.
1. IS MY WORK (STILL) FULFILLING ENOUGH?
If you’re constantly worried about spending too many hours in the office, it may not just be because you suddenly have gobs of work to do. Indeed, many people feel confused about why they feel so overworked when not much has drastically changed in their work lives.
Rather, you might feel like you’re working too hard because your job isn’t sufficiently rewarding–monetarily or otherwise. As a result, your work experience becomes more emotionally and physically draining than it used to be. Or alternatively, you might actually be spending more hours at the office than you need to for much the same reason: because your lack of fulfillment and passion is making you less productive.
Indeed, many people–from executives and entrepreneurs to artists and law-enforcement officials–spend long hours working without ever feeling like their work-life balance is a problem. Sure, it might be easy to dismiss these folks as workaholics with unhealthy obsessions, but that doesn’t change the fact that working long hours doesn’t negatively affect them. On the contrary, it fulfills them.
So rather than immediately looking for things you can cut out of your work life, try asking yourself a bigger question: “Does my job truly hold meaning for me?” Maybe it used to, but your interests have changed. Or perhaps the job has changed in a way that no longer squares with your sense of purpose. Whatever the reason, be honest with yourself, and consider whether it’s time to explore new opportunities or even a different career altogether.
Continue onto Fast Company to read the rest of the tips.