October 19, 2016

Finding Balance

When you're always on the go

As someone with lots of things on the go, do you struggle to find the perfect balance?

I do. Until recently I’ve always ignored the idea of work/life balance. My focus is often on work, so I’d let life slip by unnoticed. With a drive to hustle, the idea of work/life balance just doesn’t fit with that mantra. Hustle makes work/life balance sound like something for the undriven. 

You never hear about the vacations that Gary V takes because he’s always hustling – right? Driven people work, lazy people enjoy life. It just didn't seem possible to have the perfect balance between the two.

In the past year I’ve worked myself to the ground multiple times. Having a full time job means I use any spare time to cram in personal work. Six am wake up calls are precious, giving me 2 hours of dedicated personal work time before I open Slack.

Yet while cramming personal work in every gap and crack has been productive, it hasn’t been beneficial for my physical and spiritual health. There’re times when I say yes to too many things. Opportunities come along that seem too good to pass up. I cram my schedule with work and end up squeezing in life things like dinner or coffee with a friend.

Can work/life balance be achieved without negatively impacting our output or successes?

We all overcommit ourselves with work sometimes. In creeps that overwhelming feeling as we start to question how am I going to pull everything off?

Working ourselves to the ground isn’t a sustainable or healthy way to work (speaking from experience). We know that there needs to be some kind of boundary to alert us when work becomes too much, and yet we ignore this importance. Work/life balance is often visualised as splitting our time between a positive and a negative. We’re told we need the positivity of life to balance out the negativity* of work.

However our time shouldn’t need to be split to enjoy a fulfilling life. Instead of balancing the two, we can experience the two of them harmoniously on one continuum: Life.

Doing work we enjoy is fulfilling. Sometimes we don’t want to balance it with life, but enjoy it as life. Work gives me goals and direction. Life gives me learnings and experiences that I can feed into my work. It’s one looping continuum where time is made for priorities and moments precious to us.

Instead of focusing on balancing work with life, let’s focus on lifestyle. Aiming for a happy and healthy lifestyle doesn’t imply anything needs to be balanced. It just needs to be enjoyed. Find the things most fulfilling and make time for them. That could be family, work or something in between. 

Work/life balance isn’t a perfect mould that we can apply to our lives. Depending on your priorities or things of importance, one will always be more present and attention demanding than the other. 

Working shouldn’t feel guilty. If one evening you’d rather spend time with someone special than your laptop – do that guilt free.

Once we’re content with our lifestyle it’s common to still feel overworked, tired, anxious and stressed. These can be avoided by recognising when those feelings start arrive and listening to your body. The body and mind is powerful. We have to listen to it to keep it healthy (relationships included). Having a healthy body and mind can hugely influence the quality of your work. Is your body craving a rest? Grant it that.

Here’s how I’m trying to do to create a more happy, healthy lifestyle:

1. Say No – This is a tough one. I’m an ambitious person and often say yes to everything. I don’t like to disappoint people or pass up good opportunities. After saying yes to too many things too often, I’ve realised that I have to be more selective about what or who I say yes to as it can influence my lifestyle.

2. Make time for important things – When something’s in my calendar it’s a commitment made. Making time for friendships is hugely important but only happens if it’s scheduled. For example, Owen and I have a calendar appointment for a coffee date every Thursday morning for 1 hour. No work gets scheduled in that time. 

3. Allow myself to rest – Listening to my body can be difficult. Especially when there’s a deadline on the horizon. There’s been several articles that discuss how lack of rest can influence your performance and productivity. If I’m feeling exhausted I try to sleep early or wake up a little later. Bodies are like batteries – the more full the more power it’s gonna have. The last thing I want to do is run myself to the ground. 

4. Have a hobby – Doing things outside of our industry can have unseen influences in our work. I’m considering taking up pottery as an opportunity to create something with my hands – off the screen! Prolonged periods of time on my laptop has encouraged me to find a hobby that takes requires me to use other parts of my brain.

5. Set realistic goals – Achieving goals is healthy for your mindset. If you’re constantly aiming towards unrealistic goals you’re not going to feel like you’re getting anywhere. This can be discouraging and influence your ability to do good work. Setting realistic goals has helped me not only experience feeling of accomplishment but also motivated me to prioritise.

Identify what’s important to you. Uncover the things in your life that you enjoy spending your time on. Then, make time for those things. Don’t stress over finding a perfect balance. Find what helps you live a happy and healthy lifestyle. Listen to your mind and respect your body along the way, they’re your only source of fuel to help you achieve success.

*I’m not saying that all work is negative. For many people work is seen as a positive. I’m simply using it as the negative in this example, but it could totally be a different combination for you.

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