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  • Writer's pictureJackson McMahan

How to Create Good Work/Life Balance as an Autistic Adult

Updated: May 9

By guest writer Jackson McMahan


If there’s one task that many of us aim to achieve, it’s finding a balance between our personal and professional lives. Finding a work/life balance can be a difficult pursuit. It requires figuring out how much of your time should be dedicated to work, how much should be dedicated to your personal well-being, and how you can have both without messing up either side. 

A balance scale that is a symbol for finding the ideal work/life balance.

What a “balanced life” means can vary among people. For an autistic individual, they will need to take their autistic traits into account to create the right balance. Regardless of how one tries to figure out the balance between their personal and professional lives, it’s a process that requires a lot of consideration to be successful.


This blog post will cover why finding a work/life balance is important, in addition to describing how autistic individuals can achieve it. What’s important to remember going in is that finding the right balance between completing all of your work without neglecting your personal life can be a tricky process. 


Finding the sweet spot will not be an easy task, but it’s a task that’s worth pursuing nonetheless, so let’s dive in.


Why is Having a Healthy Work/Life Balance Important?

While it may sound appealing to some people to always focus on work or only focus on your personal life, the truth is that spending too much time on one or the other can negatively affect you. If you overwork yourself, then you won’t be working in your best state. Over time, this can lead to work burnout as well as personal health issues.


Enhanced Productivity and Focus

A man focusing on his computer work. He has been very productive.

When an autistic individual has a well-balanced routine, they are more likely to be productive and focused during work hours. This routine, which distributes work and personal time, ensures that they have plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. This balance is important as it allows one to recharge mental and physical energy.


Improved Mental Health

Continuous work without adequate personal time can lead to increased anxiety and stress. This anxiety and stress can then cause someone to panic and fall further behind on their work. Therefore, balancing work with leisure and relaxation activities can improve one’s mental health and ensure they remain on task when they need to.


Better Physical Health

Three women running together for exercise in a city.

Overemphasis on work with little personal time can lead to someone neglecting their physical health. Achieving a balance between work and life helps ensure that there is ample time dedicated to important health-maintaining activities. This includes engaging in regular physical exercise, focusing on proper nutrition to adequately fuel the body, and guaranteeing the rest needed for recovery.


Opportunity for Personal Growth and Enjoyment

Engaging in hobbies, interests, and social activities outside of work is important for personal development and happiness. Ensuring that an individual’s routine includes adequate rest and personal time is important, as it allows them to recharge both mentally and physically. 


This replenishment of energy not only enhances their ability to perform effectively at work but also contributes to a more positive and engaged attitude toward their professional responsibilities. This balanced approach can also help someone reduce stress and improve overall job satisfaction as well as life satisfaction.


Burnout Prevention

Autistic individuals can be prone to burnout because of the challenges they face in environments, especially at work, that are designed for neurotypical needs. These challenges can include sensory sensitivities, social communication differences, and the requirement to work in environments that aren’t designed with their needs in mind. Maintaining a balance between work and personal life helps autistic individuals guarantee they have adequate time and space to recover from work-related stress and reduces the chances of autistic burnout.


Balancing Personal and Professional Life

Now that we looked at why it’s important to have a work/life balance, it’s time to figure out what that balance looks like. Everyone is going to have their own standards for what a good work/life balance is, but here are some general guidelines for how you can achieve it.


Understand Your Personal Needs

Take the time to self-reflect and understand your personal needs. In this case, the personal needs could be how much energy you need for your job or how much time you think should be afforded to each side of your life. When you know what your needs are, you have set the foundation for a work/life balance.


Set Clear Work/Life Boundaries

Another important part of balancing work and personal time is setting clear boundaries between them. This might mean having specific work hours and sticking to them, turning off work notifications after hours, or having a dedicated workspace that is separate from personal spaces. These boundaries help in mentally and physically separating work from leisure, which is important for decompression and relaxation.


Prioritize Time Management

A man checking his watch, knowing it's time to return to work.

One of the most important ways you can balance your work and personal lives is to have effective time management. This involves not only planning and organizing work tasks efficiently but also ensuring that you have time for rest, hobbies, and social activities. One way to stick to a balanced routine is by using tools like calendars, planners, or apps.


Try Creating a Routine

Many autistic individuals find comfort and stability in routines. Establishing a consistent daily routine that accommodates both work and personal time can be very helpful. This routine should account for work commitments, rest periods, and time for hobbies or other personal activities.


Try to Be Flexible

While routine can be comforting for many autistic individuals, it’s also important to be flexible. Life is unpredictable, and some jobs have more of this as part of their nature than others, and being able to adapt to changes without excessive stress is a crucial part of maintaining balance. This can involve adjusting routines as needed or finding ways to cope with unexpected changes in a healthy manner.


Include Relaxation, Rest, and Recovery

It's important to recognize the distinct roles that relaxation, rest, and recovery play in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Relaxation involves engaging in activities that you enjoy and that allow your mind to wander freely, like reading a book, listening to music, or spending time in nature. This helps in reducing stress and rejuvenating your mental energy. 


A woman resting on a hammock as part of her work/life balance.

Rest, on the other hand, is about giving both your body and mind a complete break, which often means getting enough sleep or simply doing nothing for a while. This is crucial for your physical and mental well-being. 


Recovery time, a concept often overlooked, involves activities that help you bounce back from particularly demanding or stressful periods at work. This could include practices like mindfulness, light exercise, or spending time on hobbies that help you regain your strength and focus. 


Being conscious of what you really need in the moment and making sure to pair that with an activity that meets that need ensures you are at your best both at work and in your personal life.


Reflect On and Adjust Strategies

Finally, one should regularly reflect on their work-life balance. What works well today might need adjustment tomorrow. As your needs and circumstances change, you should reassess and modify your strategies to maintain a balanced work and personal life.


Conclusion

Achieving a work-life balance is a dynamic and ongoing process. It’s not something you’ll figure out quickly, so you’ll have to approach it with an iterative mindset. That said, no matter how hard it can be to juggle your personal and professional lives, finding a balance between the two is worth pursuing. Doing so can help you be productive when it's time to work, relax when it’s time to step away from work, and generally maximize your quality of life.


For autistic individuals, finding a work/life balance involves good time management and a deep understanding of personal needs. It’s also important to establish healthy boundaries and know how to be flexible when needed. It’s about creating a lifestyle where your needs are satisfied, and establishing routines and boundaries that promote both professional growth and personal happiness.


Just remember that finding a balance is a personal and subjective process. What works for one individual may not work for another, and that's perfectly okay. What matters most is finding what works best for you and understanding that this may change over time. Doing so will involve a combination of self-awareness and a willingness to adapt and adjust strategies as life evolves.


Your own balance should be tailored to who you are, respecting your individual strengths, challenges, and aspirations. By doing so, you're not just striving for a better work/life balance; you're actively shaping a life that resonates with your personal definition of success and well-being. Keep in mind, your path to balance is uniquely yours, and each step you take is a positive stride toward a more satisfying and enriched life.


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