How To Achieve That Magical Work-Life Balance

How To Achieve That Magical Work-Life Balance

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Burn out is real, ya'll. And it can happen without you really even noticing. One day you think you have everything managed but the next you wake up and struggle to do even the most basic tasks.

Honestly, this just happened to me a couple of months ago. I was chugging along, building my business, creating art, going to school full time, keeping up with household tasks. I was thriving. I thought I could do everything. And then I woke up and could barely make breakfast or keep myself hydrated. It was a struggle to complete even the most basic tasks. I watched as all the amazing systems and processes and achievements fell away without being able to do anything about it. It was devastating to me, my mental health, and my business.

Now I won’t pretend to know all the things, but I would like to share with you my tips for achieving and maintaining that magical balance between hustling it out at work and living a fulfilled life. I’ll also go into how I dragged myself out of my burnt, depressive hole.

Here are five steps to setting the boundaries that will help you ward off burnout.

Step One: Make Goals

I prefer to think relatively short term for my goals. Three months is much more manageable than the five-year goals many try to preach. In three months, it is significantly easier to track your progress. Seeing how much you have achieved is a great motivator to continue all your hard work.

Set three to five goals that you would like to achieve over the course of three months. Break these down into smaller, more manageable ‘task-like’ goals that can be achieved in a month or less.

Take a moment to reflect on the goals you have set for yourself. When thinking about them, do you feel overwhelmed? Anxious? Your goals are probably too big or too broad. Try narrowing them down or reeling them in a little until they don’t feel so daunting.

If you are excited about the goals and ready to jump right into the work, please don’t go jumping just yet. There is more to be done before you start toiling away to make sure you don’t burn out.

Step Two: Evaluate Your Daily Life

Sit down and evaluate your daily life. What does the average day look like for you? Which parts do you enjoy? Which parts must you maintain? Are there things getting in your way, what are they, how can you adjust things so that these are not a hindrance? Look at how much time you spend on each task and how long your workday is. Then think about if these things make you happy and help you successfully achieve your goals.

Make a list of the things you don’t like about your daily life. Maybe you hate living in a cluttered house and focus better when things are organized. Perhaps you don’t like working when it's sunny and nice outside, you would rather enjoy the summer warmth. Don’t relish answering emails every day? Hate making breakfast in the morning?

What about things you do like? Podcasts, colorful pens, taking baths? Playing with your kids? Cooking dinner with your spouse?

Think about how the things you do and don’t like about your daily life serve your goals and feed your happiness. If something you don’t like is unnecessary to push you forward, Stop Doing It. But more likely, these will be things that you have to maintain.

Never fret, step number three will help you to manage those things.

Step Three: Set Boundaries

Boundaries are limits and rules we set for ourselves to help us achieve and maintain the magical balance between hustling hard and relaxing indulgently. They are necessary in order to keep moving forward but will probably be difficult at first for you to set them.

Look at the things you wrote which you don’t enjoy. The ones that you decided are still necessary need to have boundaries around them. If you don't fancy living in a cluttered home, then cleaning should be a boundary for you. Start your day by cleaning one thing or one area of your home. If making breakfast every morning is distracting and stops you in your productive tracts, pre-make and freeze breakfast sandwich you can just pop in the microwave or have the same bowl of cereal every day.

Having and maintaining a morning routine is a very important boundary. It eliminates that “what do I do first” feeling of every new day. Create a morning routine and let all the important people in your life know that you need them to respect this routine and help you make it work.

Say you don’t enjoy working when it's warm and sunny out, take your laptop outside! Work on the patio or in your backyard. You can feel the sun on your face and get work done. Perhaps the sunshine is too distracting and makes you daydream instead of working hard. Manufacture an environment which mimics later hours. Get light blocking curtains and turn on your florescent lamp.

Finding creative solutions to the annoying necessities or harmful distractions in your life will help to make them manageable. One of my favorites is to combine a thing I don’t love with something I do love. Answering emails while I’m in the bath is a truly magical work around. My body gets to relax in my Epsom salts and my mind is in a healthier place to reply to all those inquiries. Make the boundary that you won't answer emails in your downtime or on the weekend (just make sure your clients/customers/boss are clear this is a boundary for you).

If you for yourself, some of the most important boundaries you need to set are around your work hours. Set a specific time every day for you to be done with work. Think about how many days you need/want to be working every week. Make sure there is at least one day where you are NOT working. I mean it. One entire day where you don’t do a single work thing. This includes cleaning or strenuous workouts. It could even be a no cooking day.

Think of how this day would best benefit the rejuvenation of your energy. If there is anything that drains your energy, simply don’t do it on this designated day. I promise that draining thing will still be there tomorrow. Additionally, try to squeeze in as many of your favorite things on this day. Play with your kids, go for a hike, take a particularly long bath, get your nails done, whatever.

This day can be difficult at first. For me, I frequently have the feeling that I want to work. My tasks are calling to me, my computer wants me to hit the power button. Being a human who is constantly busy and superb at keeping herself entertained, I often feel the what fuck should I do on my lazy day. On my first do-nothing day, I literally stood in the middle of my living room with this thought running through my head. Vetoing all the ideas that came to me because they were all tasks that would not allow me to relax.

It's hard to get past that sometimes, especially because I like to have a plan or general idea of what I will do every day. I was trying to fight the need for a plan because I thought the plan made my relaxation too rigid. However, when I realized not having a plan was actually making it so that I didn’t enjoy my do-nothing day at all, I decided that having at least a loose plan would benefit me more than throwing it all to the wind.

Try to recognize these types of resistances and find ways to get around them.

Step Four: Maintain Your Boundaries 

If you thought setting your boundaries was difficult, just wait until you begin to maintain them. It feels impossible, sometimes, to break old habits in order to maintain your new boundaries, but it needs to be done. I promise it will all be for the better.

The first step in maintaining your boundaries is communicating them to the people in your life. Make sure your spouse or roommates know about your morning routine and do their best not to disturb it. Clearly state your hours of availability and email response time to people who are expecting to hear from you.

Most importantly, set a timer on your phone to remind you when you have to stop working. This can be one of the most difficult boundaries to maintain. Sometimes you may be right in the middle of a task that you feel you have to finish. Close the computer, walk away from the canvas, set down your camera, whatever it is. I promise it will still be there tomorrow for you to toil over.

This is one that I was falling victim to a lot before, and I’m sure it was a huge contributor to why I burnt out so badly. I would work on something, a homework assignment, a compositing project, a round of sketches for a commission, and my work limit would come around before I was finished doing the thing so I would just keep going. And going. And going. Until I would finally finish and suddenly it’s 2am and I am still sitting at my desk. I would feel great for having finished the thing but, I never took the time for my body, and most importantly my mind, to wind down.

Down time is just as productive as work time. Down time allows everything in you to reset. This reset is crucial for you to continue to do your best work and it is a necessity if you do not want to burn out. It is a necessity every day. Not just most days, or a couple days, and certainly not just that one day. Now, I take a minimum of two hours at night to just sit and veg in front of the tv or read a (non-thought provoking) book.

Some days I won't have hit my work limit because I finish a task and decide that starting a new one world be more taxing than simply relaxing for the night a little earlier than usual. And you know what, I am MORE productive from this habit. Stopping when I’ve hit my limit or when my tasks are wrapped up for the day allows me to start the following day rejuvenated and excited instead of tired and unmotivated.

One of my biggest tips for you is to keep track of the boundaries you maintain every day in a calendar or notebook. It helps keep you motivated and shows you which things you need to work harder on.

But here is the really important part about maintaining your boundaries.

Under no circumstances should you make yourself feel guilty for not sticking your boundaries or achieving your goals. This will only perpetuate a cycle of never feeling good about what you have achieved.

Instead, focus on the things you did accomplish. Reward yourself for the boundaries you did maintain and the minor tasks or goals you achieved. Do this in small ways at the end of each day and in more prominent ways at the end of each week. I like to reward myself with an indulgent snack or a self-care action like a face mask.

Note the ones you slacked on, but just know that these boundaries take time to become a habit for you and you can not blame yourself when they do not come immediately.

Step Five: Re-Evaluate

Every three months, start the process over again!

You may not be starting from scratch, but you need to look continuously at each goal and boundary to see what is working and what isn’t. you may need to make some slight adjustments or throw out certain things completely and try a different method. That’s okay. That does not mean that you have failed, just that you learned something about yourself and how to be better.

This is a step that I was ignoring. I had set boundaries at the beginning of the year and assumed that they would be the boundaries I could always live by. The thing is my life and my capabilities changed while my boundaries remained the same and this led to some serious fucking burnout.

So, make sure you take the time to re-evaluate, readjust, and reward yourself for what you have accomplished.

I have given examples of some boundaries I recently set for myself to help prevent burnout, but I thought I would give a more detailed explanation of that process and a brief insight about how I got myself out of that burnout cycle.

My recent burnout lasted almost two months. As I mentioned in the beginning, it was nearly impossible for me to do even simple tasks. As this dragged on, things that did not absolutely have to be completed, simply were not even attempted. I didn’t open my Shopify admin for a month and a half; I painted nothing for almost two months. I couldn’t even think about managing and maintain my social media.

But for me, the one thing that I could do was clean. Cleaning gave me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of control that I was desperately missing because of this severe burnout and depression. It felt almost like a betrayal to my business, though, to be cleaning instead of building my dreams.

I had to remind myself that something was better than nothing. Cleaning the living room for the third time that week was better than just sitting on the couch binging Netflix. And the control and purpose I felt while I was cleaning eventually circled back around into my business.

It was important that I let myself enjoy the cleaning process, and that I did not make myself feel guilty for cleaning instead of working. Once I got in that groove of allowing myself to do the thing that brought me peace, healing and rejuvenation happened without me even noticing. Over time, I started daydreaming about my business, making plans to move forward while I was scrubbing the dishes.

Burnout is our mind and body telling us we’ve been trying to take on too much. That we need to make time to rest. That we need to reconsider the way we are working. To make ourselves more productive in less time and reward ourselves for tiny victories.

When I finally realized that I was ready to get back to work, I sat down with my notebook and that lovely pen that just glides over the paper and started the steps of setting my boundaries.

Here is a look at that process and some things I wrote down.


  • Reducing my screen time (I was spending much too much time on Facebook)
  • Increase my focus and productivity during work hours
  • Launch two collections
  • Become more physically flexible and get all the booty gains
  • Budget to help with impulse control and financial wellbeing
  • Take more time for myself


  • I don’t want work too late
  • I don’t want to do business and schoolwork on the same day
  • I don’t want to get sucked into the social media rabbit hole
  • I don’t want to respond to messages during work hours
  • I don’t want to live in a dirty home
  • I do want to have a morning routine
    • Podcast and coffee
    • Workout or clean
  • I want to eat better
    • Less carbs and meat
    • More fruits and veggies
  • I want to practice budgeting
  • I want to reward myself more often but also responsibly
  • I want to spend more time outside


  • I won’t message during work hours
  • I won’t work past 10pm
  • I will take breaks every two hours when working at my desk to stretch, get water, have a snack
  • I will schedule classes for only two days a week to have business days and school days separate
  • I will set and maintain a budget when grocery shopping
  • I will work outside when it is a nice day
  • I will reward myself with snacks or self-care and not online shopping when I have accomplished a goal or simply maintained all my boundaries for the day
  • I will have a morning routine


I let all the people I am in regular contact with know about these boundaries so that they could do their best to respect and encourage these healthy habits. I also printed off a calendar with my boundaries at the bottom and keep track of which ones I maintain every day. This helps keep me motivated and clearly visualize which ones I need to focus on more.


Doing a quick re-evaluation at the beginning of July, I changed nothing. However, looking at my goals and reassessing my boundaries at the beginning of August allowed me to see that a few things were falling through the cracks.

Working outside and taking a break every two hours were some boundaries that I was seriously lacking with. I am an extremely visual person so the fact that these two things were not on my monthly goal calendar meant I did not have the constant reminder to maintain them. An easy fix though. I just put these two things into my Daily Boundaries category to help encourage me to track and maintain them. 

I know I am privileged in that I have the support system to take the time to allow my burnout to cycle back to productivity and healthy habits. I know that not everyone can afford to take the time to allow this to happen naturally. Many of you will probably have to recognize your burnout and work through these steps more quickly than I did. Perhaps even over the course of a couple of days. It's important to allow yourself those couple of days.

Take off a Monday or Friday so that you can have a long weekend. Spend two days doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying your free time. It is important you give yourself permission to really enjoy this. If you don’t, you’ll wind up thinking about all the tasks and responsibilities that burnt you out in the first place and this time off will have been for nothing. I know sometimes it will feel you can’t afford to take this time, but I promise it is better to plan and take it now than it would be to allow yourself to become more burnt out.

The last afternoon of your mini vacation, sit down with these steps and set your new boundaries. Also, try to plan when you can have another mini, or even full vacation. Having that pre-planned time off can do wonders in combatting burnout, even if it is just one extra day during the weekend.

Take the extra day. Do all the indulgent things. And don’t feel guilty for treating yourself, but make sure to be fiscally responsible about it.

To help make all this a little easier for you, I am providing you with a bit of my organization magic. A worksheet to help you maneuver through my five steps to achieving work-life balance and a calendar so that you can plan and track your progress. 


← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment