How to Achieve Work-Life Balance While in the Military

military work life balance

When you’re in the military, sustaining a satisfying balance between your job duties and home life can feel impossible at times.

It may be hard for U.S. servicemembers to achieve a work-life balance because they frequently move and their duties often require them to be away from home and family for months at a time. 

But just because finding work-life balance is more challenging for servicemembers doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to achieve it.

A recent study of active-duty U.S. servicemembers found that lack of work-life balance was associated with poor health outcomes such as headaches, fatigue, and confusion. More alarming, the same study revealed that work-family conflicts led to an increase in suicidal thoughts among servicemembers.

If you’re in the military and you’re finding it hard to achieve work-life balance, then try these tips.

11 Tips to Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Military

1. Remember that balance doesn’t mean equal 

Work-life balance does not necessarily mean that you’re consistently devoting 50% of your time to your family and 50% of your time to the military. It’s never going to work that way.

It’s best to think of work-life balance in the military existing on a continuum. There may be several weeks where your military duties take precedence over family obligations. But then you may be able to shift your focus to family responsibilities once specific military duties have ended. It’s a constant ebb and flow of where you need to prioritize your time.

2. Protect family time when you can

military work life balance

The military can legitimately demand your presence on base, on a ship, or overseas. That means when you aren’t deployed you should protect family time. When your shift ends for the day, go home. Try to resist the temptation to stay late to get work done. If you must stay late one day, then arrange to leave early the following day.

3. Observe “golden hours” 

The golden hours at work are generally between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. That’s when everyone is operating at peak efficiency. Try to schedule meetings and complete tasks between these hours. The more focused you are during these hours, the better your chances to leave on time.

Golden hours at home are usually between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. This is especially true if you have young children. This is the time where your spouse can use your help preparing dinner, assisting with homework, giving baths, and putting kids to bed. Your spouse will appreciate your partnership at this busy time of day and your kids will love having you around.

4. Turn off your phone 

Too many servicemembers are tied to work 24 hours a day because they can access texts and email through their phone.

When you are home, turn off your phone and stay focused on your family. Or at least put it away where you won’t be tempted to look at it.

5. Set an example 

Are you in charge of a team? Set the expectation that your team will be focused and fast-moving during work hours. Then, send them home at a reasonable hour so they can be with their families.

6. Be intentional with your family time

military work life balance

Don’t leave family fun to chance. Make plans ahead of time to go on hikes, visit amusement parks, or even plan simple movie nights at home. Adding these activities to your calendar will increase the chance that you follow through.

Likewise, make sure that school concerts, recitals, soccer games, and parent-teacher conferences are on your calendar well ahead of time.

7. Stay focused on your marriage 

In addition to scheduling family time, remember to set time to connect with just your spouse every day. You sacrifice a lot to be in the military but don’t forget that your spouse does as well.

Scheduling date nights away from the kids is important to keeping your marriage strong. Small daily rituals like chatting before bed or having coffee together in the morning can go a long way in keeping you connected to your spouse.

If you ever feel like the lines of communication are breaking down, then don’t hesitate to get help from a licensed marriage counselor. Advice from a professional can often prevent small issues from becoming big problems.

8. Make decisions as a family 

Pursuing a career in the military means that you’ll potentially be faced with tough decisions about your career. Sometimes what’s best for your career isn’t what’s best for your family and vice versa.

When you have a choice to make, keep this rule in mind: “every career decision is also a family decision.” Discuss any possible changes in your career with your spouse. Explore how your new responsibilities will impact your family life.

If you come to a decision about your career with input from your family, you’re more likely to make the right choice and reduce the risk of your family feeling resentful.  

9. Take care of yourself

military work life balance

Remember, work-life balance also means taking care of yourself.

Make sure you’re taking time to exercise, meet with friends, read, and pursue hobbies that are important to you. Give yourself permission to get away for a few hours to recharge your batteries.

Be sure to let your spouse know that you need this time to yourself. And be willing to give your spouse the time he or she needs to take care of themselves as well.

10. Anticipate and plan for challenges 

You know that a military career will come with many challenges that will impact your family. These challenges include frequent moves and possible long-term deployments overseas.

Discuss how you and your family will adapt to these changes ahead of time. Write down your plan and review it from time to time.

That way, when you are in the midst of a challenge, you’ve already discussed solutions and workarounds which will help everyone feel less stressed and more in control.

11. Remember to be grateful 

While being in the military can be frustrating, focusing only on the challenges and difficulties of a military career only breeds resentment and anger.

It’s important to remember why you chose to join the military. You can be proud that you’ve chosen a life devoted to duty, honor, and self-sacrifice. As a servicemember, you’re pursuing a career that takes physical and mental toughness and discipline.

In addition, you and your family are entitled to many valuable benefits that civilians don’t have access to such as the GI Bill, retirement benefits, and housing assistance to name a few.

Plus, your spouse and dependents are eligible for a variety of benefits.

Take time each day to be grateful for everything the military provides.

You Can Have Work-life Balance in the Military 

Having a successful military career and a fulfilling home life is possible. With planning, open communication, and a positive attitude, you can find work-life balance while in the military.  

If you’re ready to transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce, then be sure to contact Empire Resume. We are experts at creating military-to-civilian resumes that get results. 

In addition, our military blog is full of articles to help you with your job search. We know how to help veterans achieve career success!

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

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