We all want to make more money and find stable income. This is especially true amongst millennials, who haven’t seen the same gains as other demographics. But this search causes many of us to tolerate a lifestyle that focuses too much on work and stops us from developing other aspects of our lives.

Finding the right work-life balance can be tricky, especially in the current labor market. More than half of all employees believe it’s a very important part of selecting a job or career, yet many aren’t sure exactly how to make it work on an individual level.

It’s easy for to know where you stand in your work life with things like a 360 performance review, but it’s much harder to evaluate where improvements can be made in your personal life. While it’s often difficult to balance all these priorities, there are many effective ways to improve your quality of life.

What Matters to You?

This is the first question you should ask yourself as you approach any lifestyle change. If you’re hoping to improve your work-life balance, there’s a good chance you feel like you aren’t using your available time for what’s really important in your life. The first step is therefore to identify the things you want to make time for.

Determining your top priorities will help you envision a lifestyle that fits all of your needs, rather than just the financial ones. Unfortunately, this often leads to conflicts.

You’ll have to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and what can’t be left behind. Working long hours, for example, may be unavoidable if you have certain career aspirations. These tough decisions are part of the process.

Practical Ways to Maximize Balance

While it’s important to visualize large-scale change, that starts with smaller adjustments that add up over time. The first way to do this is to analyze your time management. Flexible hours are actually one of the best ways of maximizing work-life balance. Figure out which work priorities are important enough to dedicate yourself to, and try to minimize anything that doesn’t align with your goals.

You’ll also need to learn how to put your own needs first. Many people work long hours simply because they feel they “should,” but your career should work for you, not the other way around. This involves setting limits on each aspect of your life and letting lower priority items go in favor of the things you truly care about.

The most important part of work-life balance is simply understanding that it’s your life. If your job isn’t making you happy, or if aspects of your personal life are an excess drain on your time, remember that you don’t owe your time or happiness to anyone or anything. Work-life balance is all about taking control of your life so you can enjoy your time.

Of course, making important lifestyle changes is never quite so simple, and many of these adjustments start out very small. If you try to make the shift all at once, you’ll likely end up back where you started. That’s why you should try to make minor changes that will improve your quality of life. As long as you consistently manage your priorities with a view to your long-term goals, positive changes will follow.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course).