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Self-Regulation: The Answer to Work Life Balance

Kelly Bos

Work life balance may seem impossible to attain but self regulation might just be the key to unlock your capacity to enjoy this new reality.

Self-regulation is so important! Studies show that in children it is a bigger predictor of future success in the areas of health, relationships and income than SAT or IQ scores. Remember the Stanford Marshmallow experiment?

A little self awareness and self-regulation of your emotions can help you stay calm and focussed. This enables you to self-regulate your behaviours and enables you to make good choices matching your actions with your values.

Unfortunately, self-regulation is a declining skill. We don't often have to practice patience and self control with so many of our wants and needs being met almost instantly in todays solution oriented marketplace. There is no need to wait for a series to play out over a season because you can binge watch it all tonight, food can be grabbed, new clothes mailed, todays world offers instant everything. But if work life balance is to be achieved we must develop our capacity to regulate ourselves.

Self regulation is like a muscle that can be strengthened and also fatigued. So often we try to keep it together and keep it together... and then eat the marshmallow. Regulating one self is difficult with a demanding job, life, etc. But we all know when some control isn't being adhered to in our lives and how it affects us.

Self-Regulation for Work (and After Work):

The Importance of Sleep:

Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington, authored The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time. In it she explains how she struggled with stress, burn out and fatigue. She collapsed one day and realized she had to make changes. A key component to address was sleep. If you are exhausted you will not be productive at work. Insufficient self regulation with respect to sleep will result in you accumulating sleep debt. Dr. Aki Hinsta mentored Formula One race car driver and Grand Prix winner, Mike Hakkinnen, to increased his sleep up to ten hours a night to achieve his best performance. He wasn't saying eat, sleep and breathe racing, he was saying get to bed. 



  • Stick to a bedtime, Alanna McGinn from Goodnight Sleep Site suggests setting a bedtime alarm
  • Put your devices away at night and don't grab them the minute your eyes open
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • If you can't sleep try practicing 5-5-5
  • Cut out late in the day coffee and exercise
  • To overcome this you gradually have to schedule additional sleep back in daily catching up


Limit Alcohol Consumption:


A drink is used by many to unwind or an excuse to bring people together. There is nothing wrong with this but it is known that alcohol can be addictive and a depressant, so drinking must be done mindfully. Often work functions offer a chance to network and a chance to unwind through meeting up for drinks especially in certain professions where it is part of the culture to win a client, make a sale, or bond with your team.


  • Mindfulness! Think about your limit and track it. There are even apps, the amount you thought you consumed versus what you actually consumed might not line up
  • Drink water in between, this is how my father-in-law has traditionally kept a balance at sales functions
  • Suggest alternatives for meeting up that don't involve alcohol


Addressing Distraction and Procrastination:


I feel like this is becoming more and more of an area to watch in our lives. Instead of getting to bed in good time, getting prepped the night before or knuckling down on a project, we distract. We play one more game of candy crush, we click yet another link on BBC, or we get lost in the black holes of FB and Instagram. It can take a lot to simply put the device away. This habitual consumption is on the rise with increased availability. The truth is we would think clearer and do better if we were taking better care of ourselves. There is also a fallacy with thinking that there is a gift in our multi tasking where it has been shown that we are really doing everything less well.



  • Again put your devices away when you can have real connections with friends and real conversations without one eye on the ping-ing to your left
  • Work on problems in new ways every one to three hours away from the computer
  • Do the tough things first, the things that require more energy and focus
  • Recognize you want to escape and put a limit on this by setting a timer, for example, I will check my personal email for five minutes and then I will get back to my project.
  • Set boundaries with your open office door which can quickly have you multi-tasking by scheduling times you are available for questions or discussions


Through practicing some of these tips you can exercise self-discipline,  delay gratification and make self-care a part of your day to day. Finding this work and life success through self regulation will reduce your stress, increase your capacity and help you make choices that line up with your core values in an emotionally balanced way.