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I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me


Action 47

Get a good balance between work and life

Love and work are said to be the cornerstones of being human and both are very important for happiness. Yet juggling the demands of each can be difficult. By thinking differently, we can perhaps find ways to have a better balance between work and home.

where to start

Like many things there is no one right way or magic formula. Our work and family circumstances vary enormously. For example: how many children we have to juggle, their ages, their in-school and out-of-school activities, the amount of social support we have, the nature and demands of our job and our partner's job, the scope we have to flex our hours of work and where and when we carry out our duties, the amount and type of childcare support our employer provides, as well as who we are - our personality, strengths and outlook.

We have to find what works for us at any given time - recognising the need to be flexible as personal, family and work needs vary and change. In the list below are some ideas to think about and try.

Some of the ideas are things that you may be doing already to juggle family and work - but if it continually feels a strain, take a step back and consider whether an adjustment to the approach you are taking could help. You could focus attention for a few days or weeks on one idea the list at a time before moving on to another and it may trigger other ideas for you.  

1 What are your patterns?

Being more mindful of the different potential sources of conflict between work and family life, including time, demands, strain and behaviour (see above), can help us to start to be more conscious of the patterns we tend to fall into and so help us to think of effective strategies to guard against these.

2 Use your skills to be more effective

The way in which we think about the demands upon us makes a huge difference to how we feel and how effective we are at responding.

Think of the ways in which your family life and the skills you use at home can make you more effective at work and how your work and the skills you use there can be effectively used at home. Also, why not try out some of Action for Happiness's resilient thinking tactics.

3 Make some time for fun

Positive emotions spread to others and they enable us to be more resourceful, flexible and open, which helps us to be better at solving problems. So, whilst you may not feel like having some fun at work or at home is important - you may find it actually helps.

4 Team up

Connecting with others is a key source of happiness and part of that is feeling supported and supporting others. It also helps build happier communities.

So who around you is juggling similar work and family demands? Are there ways you can pool or swap resources - for example sharing the cost of childcare or baby sitting for each other one night a month?

Who around you can you call when you need to? For example to pick up your child from school when you have an urgent need to stay late at work? How can you be there to help others? Can you between you set up a system (even if it is just swapping mobile numbers with other parents in your child's class) that will provide some back up for each of you in times when it's needed?

5 Make your boundaries clear

It isn't easy, especially in some jobs, but making some clear boundaries between work activities, family and even personal time can be an effective approach to balancing work and home.

Often it is the quality of the time we spend not the quantity that makes the difference. And there is strong evidence that our ability to stay focused on the present rather than worrying about the past or what we have to do next is important for happiness.

For some people it may be having clear times when you are available to deal with work issues and times when you are solely focused on things at home and so have your email switched off and work calls diverted. In some jobs, having times at work where you close your door and get on with the tasks you have to do and other times when you are available to others can help.

Or having a time each week set aside for you and your family to do something together such as sitting down for a meal without distraction of the tv, phones or computers, going for a walk or playing a game together.

6 Time for you

Research has shown that making a little time and space for you is really important for your own happiness and will have a ripple effect to those around you. And it doesn't need to be much. For example just 10 minutes of mindfulness practice a day or 20 minutes of exercise can make a huge difference in your energy levels, your emotional state and your coping ability. Or fitting in some time for a hobby or leisure activity that you enjoy or find meaningful - even it is just an hour a week.

7 Use your strengths

How can you use your strengths more at home, at work and even in juggling work and family life? Researchers suggest that we are more effective when we are using our strengths, we find it more intrinsically satisfying and it can even help us feel more energised.

8 Partner with your partner

What are the ways you and your partner can use these ideas to optimise how effective you each at home and at work, and to increase both of your happiness levels and build rather than put strain on your relationship? How can you be supportive of each other and both get your needs met?

The quality of your relationship is central for the happiness of your whole family so without adding to the pressures on you both it is important to have at least a little focus on building and enriching it.

9 Get your priorities aligned

Having some alignment between what we really value, the actions we take and how we spend our time can also make a difference to how happy we feel and how satisfied we are with our lives overall. And it is easy to loose sight of this when we are caught up in the busyness of everyday life.

10 Work with your employer

Some employers offer benefits such as flexitime, short or compressed work weeks, working from home, onsite childcare or view having a 'family friendly' culture and policies as important for a productive and happy workforce. Since what works for some employees may not work for others, why not talk with your manager or HR about what would help you give your best at work and be sure to tell them any practical ideas you have that may help you and benefit your colleagues and the organization.




Baltes, B.B., Clark, M.A. & Chakrabarti, M. (2010). Work-life balance: the roles of work-family conflict and work-family facilitation. In P.A. Linley, S. Harrington & N. Garcea (Eds),Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. NY: Oxford University Press

Boniwell, I. (2008). Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. London: Personal Well-being Centre

Eby, L.T., Mahar, C.P. & Butts, M.M. (2010) The intersection of work and family life: the role of affect. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 599-622.

Fowler,J., & Christakis,N. (2009) Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study.British Medical Journal, 338 pp. 1-13


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