Ah, work. That thing that fills up the majority of our days and alternately fulfills and frustrates us, while (hopefully) enabling us to provide for our families.

One of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life is to try and carve out a semblance of work/family balance. It’s a constant work in progress and last time I checked, there were no college courses teaching this vital life skill that many, many people could benefit from. Striving for this balance is something I was woefully unprepared to accomplish and something I still struggle with on many days.

Although it may feel that I am tilting at windmills at times, I will continue to try to put my job in its' proper place while keeping my wife and children in theirs. Why? Because I only get one shot to be a husband and father and it is my responsibility to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be.

The bottom line is this: We have to work. It’s more and more expensive to live and acquire the things we want and need for a happy, successful, safe, and healthy life. But that doesn’t mean that our job has to consume us or determine our identity. Remember that our job is what we do, not who we are.

Here are some tips to remember when struggling to avoid work becoming your life.

1. Limit Work at Home

We must set boundaries because if we don’t, our job will creep deeper and deeper into our home lives. Many of us do not have jobs that end at 5 p.m. Most of us are tethered to work via email or phone calls at nearly any hour of the day. And we feel a responsibility to answer those emails and calls because we need our jobs. However, we must learn that there are times when we need to cut the cord — literally and figuratively. There is a point where working at home after hours is unhealthy and counter productive.

2. Put the Phone Away 

Here’s the easy way to accomplish that: Turn off your email and turn off the ringer on your phone. When you can, put the phone in a drawer or out of view and turn your focus to your family. You’re home and should spend those valuable and priceless moments with your full and undivided attention on your family. When the kids go to bed, you can check your phone. It's more than likely that your work colleagues survived without you.

3. Talk to Your Boss

If you’re having trouble separating work and home life, make sure your boss or supervisor knows how you feel. Have a conversation and explain to them why you need your time at home to be free from work. Most employers want their employees to disconnect from work, recharge, and feel fulfilled in different facets of their lives. This is one of those moments when your boss needs to know that your family is a priority, too.

4. Schedule It

You schedule meetings at work, right? So, schedule playtime or family time, too. It might seem strange, but if it’s the only way to fit family into your hectic schedule, then just do it. By creating a specific time for family outings or activities, you make that time sacrosanct and will be more apt to maintain that schedule in the future. Before you know it, everyone in the family will look forward to those moments and rely on them.

5. Use All Your Vacation and Comp Time

If you have time off, by all means, use every last day. You’ve earned it and you deserve to use it. This is also valuable time for you to reconnect with your role as a parent and to disconnect from work.

6. Say No

If you are asked to work extra shifts or cover for another employee, remember that you can say no. It’s difficult, especially when many of us are being asked to do more with less at our jobs. But you are a dedicated employee and you have a right to your down time. If you feel that you need a break and need to spend that time with your family, then just say that you can’t work.