time management

Are You Making This Work/Life Balance Mistake? Hint: It’s Not 50/50

May 6, 2024

Reading Time: 15 minutes

How to set boundaries

Are You Making This Work/Life Balance Mistake? Hint: It’s Not 50/50

If you’ve ever tried to follow a 50/50 work/life balance – one where you split your time evenly between work and personal life – then you know life just doesn’t work like that. What does work? An adaptable, ever-changing approach to balance that fits your current life’s demands (and protects your well-being!).


Lately I’ve found myself falling down an Instagram rabbit hole of content all about creating little kits. This one account seems to have a kit for everything: a car cleaning kit, a car travel kit, a snack kit, a hotel cleaning kit, a medicine kit, a surgery recovery kit. You name it, there’s a kit for it. And the thing about all of these kits is that every single one is so aesthetically pleasing, cute, and perfectly organized into matching aesthetic pouches and clear plastic containers. It really is a dream to look at, and to watch her assemble all of these perfect little kits. I was even inspired to make a few kits of my own: like my little kit filled with medicine and cleaning supplies to take with me to hotels when I’m traveling for speaking engagements. And every time I pull it out of my suitcase and unzip the contents, I really feel like my life is so together. Way to go, Anna. You really thought of everything.

And I think the reason why I love these kit assembly videos so much is that most of the time life has us feeling like we’re being pulled in a hundred different directions. And I’m going to bet you know exactly what that feels like.

Work/Life Balance: A 50/50 Split?

Maybe your work has been demanding more than its fair share of your time, or family responsibilities are overwhelming every ounce of your energy. We’ve all been there, feeling as if we’re supposed to maintain this perfect equilibrium—like we should always have a 50/50 balance between our personal and professional lives.

But let’s be real. Life isn’t neat or predictable. It doesn’t fit neatly into compartments – Like those perfect matching aesthetic kits on Instagram – where everything Is the perfect shade of beige white or light blue and aligns perfectly all the time. So that’s what we’re unpacking today.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the ’80s you’ve heard of work/life balance. And when we hear the word balance, we tend to think of 50/50. Two equal sides. It’s this shiny, ideal state where everything in life aligns perfectly—half of our time and energy goes into our careers, and the other half magically distributes itself among family, friends, self-care, and hobbies. Sounds nice, right? But if you’re like me, or anyone else juggling the highs and lows of real life, you know that’s just not how things work. It’s easy to understand why so many people say work-life balance is not a thing, work-life balance isn’t real.

In fact just the simple act of striving for this mythical Perfect Balance can actually set us up for frustration and burnout. So instead of striving for something that doesn’t exist, we’ll talk about finding a rhythm that works for you: an adaptable, ever-changing balance that fits your current life’s demands and protects your personal well-being. 

So today, we’re talking about

  • How the myth of a 50/50 balance sets unrealistic expectations, and why it’s important to understand that perfect balance doesn’t exist.
  • 3 red flags to watch out for when life is becoming too lopsided
  • When to test-drive simple strategies to create a healthier balance
  • How small, consistent adjustments can lead to significant changes in how you feel about your time

So, grab your coffee, take a deep breath, and let’s take a look at how we can shift our mindset and start crafting a life that feels balanced, not because it’s split evenly, but because it’s split wisely.

50/50 Work/Life Balance Doesn’t Exist

Here’s a little secret: that perfect 50/50 balance we all hear about? It doesn’t really exist. Let’s talk about why that’s perfectly okay. 

So, we’ve kicked off our chat with a pretty bold statement: The perfect 50/50 balance is a myth. Now, let’s unpack that a bit. Why is this idea so popular, yet so unrealistic?

Think about all the roles you play in your life—you’re possibly a parent, maybe you’re climbing that career ladder, a friend, a partner… the list goes on. Now, can you imagine trying to split your time equally between each of these roles, every day? It sounds exhausting, and honestly, it’s just not possible.

Life isn’t neat or predictable, and sometimes, one area will need more of our attention than others. That’s not failure; it’s just reality. Trying to maintain a strict 50/50 split can lead us to feel like we’re constantly falling short.

So, why do we hang onto this idea? Well, it’s comfortable, right? It gives us a clear goal to aim for. 

We like clear. We like easy to understand. And what is easier to understand than a 50/50 breakdown, straight down the middle? There’s a reason why “Explain it to me like I’m five” is a common request these days.

But just because something is easy to understand doesn’t make it possible  in real life. It’s like something that works in theory but completely falls apart in practice. And it sets us up for frustration because life is fluid, dynamic. It changes day by day, sometimes minute by minute.

Balance Is a Feeling, Not a Formula

You’ve probably heard me say before that balance is a feeling, not a formula. And how do you create that formula? It’s personal. And it changes as our lives and our priorities shift. Our version of work/life balance five years ago probably wouldn’t make sense based on what your life looks like now. And again, that’s okay! 

The Balance Pitfall

Before we move on, there’s one pitfall I want to make sure we avoid. It’s a big one. Once we acknowledge that the perfect 50/50 work/life balance is a myth, there’s a temptation to swing completely the other way—to think, “Well, if I can’t have perfect balance, why bother trying at all?”

This kind of thinking can actually lead us into more chaos. It’s like saying if I can’t follow my diet perfectly, I might as well eat whatever I want. But here’s the kicker – abandoning all efforts to find balance can leave us feeling more overwhelmed, stressed, and less fulfilled. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Finding a healthy mix, a balance that feels right for you and your unique circumstances, isn’t about giving up. It’s adjusting, shifting, and being flexible with how we distribute our time and energy based on what our life demands at any given moment. 

So I encourage you to start thinking about balance not as a set in stone, perfect 50/50 split but as an always adjusting, sliding scale. Some days work might take up 70% of your time, other days only 30%. The key? Making those adjustments intentionally, making sure that over time, nothing important is being completely neglected.

How to Tell When Our Work/Life Balance is Lopsided

Now that we’ve busted the myth of the perfect 50/50 balance, let’s talk about how to tell when our lives might be tipping a bit too much in one direction. It’s easy to miss the signs until we’re overwhelmed, right? So listen up, and if any of these red flags sound familiar it might be time to rework your balance formula. 

You’re Constantly Exhausted

The first red flag is constant exhaustion. I’m not talking about the usual end-of-the-day tiredness. This is more like, “I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired” kind of exhausted. If that’s how you feel, it’s a sign things are off-balance.

Now as a mom of a 5-year-old and 3 year old I completely understand that exhaustion comes in a lot of forms. There’s multiple wake ups in the middle of the night exhaustion, there’s my kids and I have been trading germs and  everyone’s been sick for the last 3 weeks exhaustion, there’s sleep regression exhaustion. That’s not the kind of constant exhaustion we’re talking about with this red flag.

The exhaustion I’m talking about here goes deeper – it’s chronic, and it doesn’t seem to ease up, even after a good night’s sleep. This feels like feeling drained almost all the time, no matter what you do to rest or recuperate. It’s the kind of fatigue that lingers and starts to impact every aspect of your life – your mood, your productivity, your relationships. and you might even find yourself chugging Ventis instead of Grandes just to get through the day. Or maybe you find that you’re snapping at your loved ones and everything feels like a chore.

So let’s say that this sounds familiar and that your kids or illness aren’t impacting your sleep. If that’s the case it might be important to recognize that something is out of balance. Maybe you’re over-committing yourself, maybe you’re prioritizing work or other obligations over your own well-being, or perhaps you’re not delegating enough and you’re trying to handle everything on your own. Whether that’s because you don’t have anyone to delegate to, or you don’t want to inconvenience anyone, recognizing this kind of exhaustion is crucial because it’s your body’s way of telling you to slow down and reassess how you’re spending your energy. It’s a real wake up call that something needs to change, whether that’s setting better boundaries, learning how to say no or prioritizing your mental and physical health. 

So if you’re constantly feeling wiped out with the caveat that your kids are not waking you up in the middle of the night, take a moment to really think about what might be causing this imbalance. Are there any areas in your life where you can pull back a bit and add some more rest and recharge into your days? Because taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it is absolutely necessary for maintaining both your happiness and your health. 

You Have No Personal Time

All right, here’s the second red flag to look out for and it’s a lack of personal time. Having a lack of personal time isn’t just about not having time to relax, or watch tv, or enjoy hobbies, although those things are certainly important. Instead when I’m talking about a lack of personal time here I mean consistently finding yourself with zero space in your schedule that’s just for you – I mean space where you’re not in mom mode or boss mode or partner mode or any other obligation you’re just you being you.

When every minute of your day is accounted for with work tasks, family duties, social commitments or even volunteer community responsibilities – it’s easy to lose track of your own needs and you might start to feel like you’re always on, always in demand, and there’s just no downtime to recharge.

This lack of personal time can absolutely lead to burnout because it’s like trying to run a car non-stop without ever taking it in for maintenance. Eventually something’s going to give and you don’t want that something to be your mental or physical health.

Stop right now. Seriously, stop right now and ask yourself when is the last time that you did something just for the joy of it, just fun for the sake of having fun, something just for you? And this could be going for a walk, this could be reading a book, this could be watching one of your favorite shows whatever. If you’re struggling to remember the last time you had a moment to yourself without feeling rushed, it might be time to pause and rethink your priorities and your current commitments. 

This might mean saying no to some things, so you can say yes to yourself. There are no rules against scheduling personal time for yourself just as you would a meeting at work – In fact, when members of the It’s About Time Academy are creating their ideal weeks, I encourage them to block personal time on their calendars, making it a non-negotiable.

Remember, it is not selfish to take time for yourself. In fact, it’s essential. it’s what allows you to keep giving in other areas of your life without depleting yourself completely. Think about what you can adjust to carve out that time for yourself. Even small changes can make a big difference, giving you those necessary pauses to breathe and enjoy life, making you more resilient and we’re present along the way in every other aspect of your life. 

Your Relationship Are Suffering

All right, two red flags down, one to go. Our third red flag is all about relationships, our meaningful  connections with family friends and partners that might be suffering if our lives are totally out of balance. Not only do you find yourself having less time for others but the quality of time you spend together is also lacking.

If you find that conversations with friends are constantly cut short. Or maybe you’re physically there,  but mentally you’re running through your to-do list trying to figure out what you forgot or what still needs to be done, or if every interaction feels rushed or obligatory, that’s a sign that things might be tipping too far in one direction. When work/life balance is straining your relationships that can lead to feelings of disconnect and frustration not just for you but also for the people you care about.

You know I’ve shared before that back when I first started my career in crisis communications, I looked up to the women that I worked alongside who were in high-powered important positions. I’d see them stepping out of meetings to take calls. In social settings I’d see them walk out of the room again to take calls. And I wanted to be that person, who was so important, so needed in that moment that everything else had to wait. Until of course I actually became that person and experienced first hand what it felt like to step away from the table and watch as your friends or your family shook their heads because there you go again. 

The thing is, and I hate that I had to learn this the hard way, the thing is it’s more than just missing a few family dinners or skipping a couple brunches with friends when our relationships start to feel strained. It can create a ripple effect. You might start to notice tension building. Resentment and misunderstandings become more frequent and support systems especially when you really need support feel broken.

So what do you do if this red flag feels familiar? First, start by communicating openly with the people that you care about. Share your challenges, let them in, let them know how hard it is for you and also let them know that you’re working on finding a better balance. A lot of times just being open and honest about your situation can ease a lot of the tension that you and the person on the other side of the relationship might be feeling.

But of course that also means that you have to follow through with creating that better balance for yourself and we’ll get to that in just a bit. But once you’ve been open and honest, next look for ways to make relationship building a part of your routine. This could look like a weekly date night with your person, this could look like setting aside time each day to connect with your kids. This could look like scheduling a regular phone call with a friend or planning small simple get togethers that don’t require much preparation but allow for quality time. 

If you haven’t listened to Episode 223 featuring Andrea Olson she talks about how she prioritizes relationships when she builds her schedule and she looks for opportunities to incorporate fun activities into building a relationship. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. And it’s also remembering that getting together with a friend doesn’t have to be a whole big thing. It could be as simple as a walk around the block to catch up.

Remember, we were built for connection and nurturing your relationships is absolutely vital, not just for your own happiness but for creating a supportive and loving network around you. Your connections are the Bedrock, the foundation of a balanced life, they ground us,  and remind us why we’re striving for balance in the first place.

It reminds me of an afternoon recently out in the backyard with my girls. It was the end of a pretty long day, but the weather outside was perfect and there were still some more things on my to-do list that I could have hunkered down in my office to wrap up before dinner, but instead I headed outside to push them on the swing. Because what is the work for? If the purpose of the work is to enable me to create a life for myself and my family and yet I spend more time creating the life then living the life, then what am I doing? So out in the backyard pushing them in the swing listening to them giggle and scream, I got one of the most important reminders that this, for me at least, this is what it’s all about. This is what the work is for and if I don’t have this time, then the work is pointless.

3 Steps to Regain Your Work/Life Balance

So now that we’ve identified three red flags that might be telling us that our life is a little bit out of balance, let’s talk about what we can actually do to start shifting things back toward a state that feels good for us. Let’s take some actionable steps, no matter how small they may seem at first.

1. Do a Time Audit

The first strategy is doing a time audit, or a time study. And don’t let the word audit freak you out, the IRS is not coming for you. Essentially, a Time study is tracking your time for a week. It’s doing a study of how you spend your time. I talk more about what it looks like to do a Time study in Episode 51 but here are the quick and dirty instructions: 

First, decide what you’ll use to track your time. You can go old school and carry around a pen and paper and track how much time you do everything throughout the course of your day, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Or you can go a little bit more high tech and use a time tracker like Harvest or Toggl

Toggl is one of my favorites. It’s essentially just a more digital way of doing time tracking. You can also track your time in your notes app. Like, I brushed my teeth from this time to this time, I took a shower from this time to this time. 

Okay so what’s the point of doing the time study? The thing is that you might be surprised to see how your time is actually being spent so once you have about a week’s worth of a Time study take a close look at it. What are you spending time on that you don’t really need to? What activities that you spent your time on give you energy, and what is draining you? How often are you in default mode, opening up your phone to scroll Instagram for 30 minutes at a time? When you can actually see the data this will help you make informed decisions about where changes are needed and that could look like cutting some things out or maybe just tweaking them but it’s hard to know what’s causing the balance when you don’t have the numbers behind it, otherwise you’re just operating based on assumptions and a feeling.

2. Set Boundaries

The next strategy is all about setting boundaries and I saw my friend Kelly Nolan’s post on Instagram recently about how the concept of setting boundaries is kind of lofty. It’s kind of a high concept, it’s not something that you can just touch to understand. What does it even mean to set boundaries?

We know that setting boundaries and holding to them is critical for regaining balance when life is out of whack, and so setting boundaries starts with getting clear on what your non-negotiables are. What rules do you want to set for yourself? That’s how I like to think of it. 

Now, if you know me, I am not a rule follower. If there is a rule, I’m going to look at how I can break it or bend it, but when it comes to boundaries, I like to think about what rules am I setting for myself? So maybe you decide maybe you set a rule of no work emails after 7:00 p.m. Maybe you set a rule that Sunday mornings are for family time with no exceptions. Maybe you set a rule that you only do three meetings a day and no more than three because you know that you get completely drained and can’t function after the third meeting. Maybe you create a rule that you don’t do meetings on Wednesdays. The sky really is the limit when it comes to the rules that you can set for yourself in order to maintain those healthy boundaries  in your life and at work.

And then once you set those boundaries or define those rules, actually write them down. There is something so concrete about writing these down for yourself that makes them so much more real so don’t skip that step.

Remember boundaries aren’t there to hold you back, they’re there to protect your time so you can make sure that there’s space available for what truly matters most to you.

3. Prioritize Self-Care

All right and here’s the third strategy, and I know that some of y’all are going to roll your eyes and I don’t care. The third strategy is prioritizing self-care. Prioritizing yourself. And I’ve talked about self care enough on this podcast for you to know by now hopefully that self-care is a whole lot more than bubble baths and massages and getting your nails done. Yes all three of those are definitely considered self-care, but self care just like time management is not a one size fits-all thing. 

What helps you feel recharged is going to be unique to you. Back in Episode 217, I talked about how fun it can be to create a me Time menu so that you always have some kind of self-care idea to fall back on whenever you need to recharge.

Remember self care is not a luxury. Self-care is a necessity. you cannot show up as your best self in the roles and responsibilities you have in your life if you do not take care of yourself. So get acquainted with what helps you feel recharged. Create your me time menu and build it into your calendar to make it happen.

And as much as I wish that implementing one, two or all three of these strategies could completely change your life overnight and instantly redistribute your time and energy into your perfect version of work-life balance, let’s be real. Small changes can lead to big shifts over time. So what’s one small thing that you can adjust this week to make your life feel just a little bit more balanced?

Work/Life Balance Isn’t 50/50

So there you have it – we have covered a lot today – from debunking myths about balance to recognizing red flags and diving into strategies that can help steer us back to a happier healthier way of life.

Balance isn’t about perfection, and balance definitely isn’t 50/50. Balance means making the best choices we can, given our circumstances, and sometimes that means being okay with the messiness of life. We’ve got to embrace the fact that some days will be better than others and that’s completely normal.

Remember, the changes we talked about today don’t have to happen all at once. Think of this as a step-by-step process. Maybe this week you start by tracking your time, and next week you try setting one small boundary or rule for yourself. I’m going to say it again: small steps lead to big changes and every little bit of effort counts.

One thing I want to encourage you to do is to keep a journal or use an app to track these changes and reflect on how they’re impacting your life. So often when we implement a new strategy or try a new tactic we just keep blowing and going and we don’t stop to think about we don’t stop to ask ourselves: Is this working? How is this going? How do I feel? I encourage you to pay attention and notice the positive changes no matter how small because they can be incredibly motivating. And if you ever feel like you’re starting to slip back into your old habits, that’s okay too. You’re human. It’s all a part of the process. Adjust, learn, and keep moving forward.

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