Remote work and freelancing are now on the rise. These days you hear more and more of people quitting their desk jobs to travel around the world. Working as a “suit” seems to be no longer as desirable as being free. And it’s no wonder. Most of us live, work, and die under a lot more pressure than we did even a few decades ago. Stress is one of the main drivers of illness; it reduces productivity and increases anxiety. However, occupations keep getting more and more automatic. Computers do a lot of the “boring, repetitive stuff”. So why do we have so much stress? And what can we do to achieve balance? Read this article to find out.
How we got here
All the technology around us hasn’t made us idle. Workers have to make a lot of decisions and a lot more often.
Advances in technology increase the frequency of “stressful events”. Stakeholder meeting? You can have it every day, via a video-conference. A global economy also means a global workforce. Hence, you get greater competition, outsourcing, offshoring. Everything is now more stressful.
Balancing work is no longer a matter of following an 8-hour workday. 100 years ago, people would go to work, punch in a card, do their job, finish, go home. In reality, many of those jobs have now far extended schedules. Some of us have to take work home as some workplaces fit too much responsibility within 8 hours.
Balancing work and life is now all about protecting your mind. Cultivate your intrinsic motivation. Prune out the negativity, level your anxiety, and reboot your brain. Boost your creativity, enhance your fitness, improve your blood flow. Meditate. It sounds more like a list of chores than well-being. Seems like you have to do far more than work, play, and rest.
Don’t lose hope! You don’t have to give up on the work you love in order to achieve a balanced life! Rather, there is another way to do keep both in check.
Therefore, here is a hard-take on how to balance your life and work. Let’s try to make it easy and fun. Our “Rule of engagement” is: everything is interdependent.
You start your workday when you wake up. However, few can say that they’ve had an incredible night of rest. In fact, an abundance of studies suggest that most people do not get enough sleep. Both quantity and quality are far below what is adequate or healthy. Here’s what science tells us so far:
- The recommended quantity for adults is somewhere between 7-8 hours. Some people need more, which is something you should also try.
- There is such a thing as “sleep deficit”, which is something you likely suffer from and it’s bad for you. Worry not, you can recover that deficit in weekends: rest more in weekends.
- Sleep happens in cycles that contain a highly-important segment called R.E.M. (not the band). This is crucial for your brain healing itself. You need to maximize your total R.E.M.
- Waking up right means waking up at the end of your R.E.M., not during it. There’s a secret art of napping which you can use. Make sure you sleep a total of T=15+ S*90 minutes (where S is the number of sleep intervals). For example, sleeping 7 hours and 45 minutes or 9 hours and 15 minutes, or 6 hours and 15 minutes. This ensures you get full cycles.
- Decrease light pollution in your rest area, as well as in your before-bed activities. Physical exercise during the day improves sleep quality.
- Good rest replenishes your creativity. Creative means resourceful.
Sleep research is still way behind any other sort of research so do your own research. You can learn a lot about how to sleep better.
Start your day with an intense workout
High intensity interval training is popular for a good reason. You can choose anything that your physician agrees you can do.
Keep this in mind: a morning session gets you going in ways pretty much nothing else does.
You will feel younger, you will love how your clothes fit you, and you will love that increased metabolism.
A quick, intensive morning workout is what you need to:
- decrease your stress hormones;
- get your day into focus;
- calm down;
- get ready for any challenge.
This can be HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or anything else. Most of all, choose something you like and stick to it.
Begin with the end in mind
You had a great night of rest and a great workout, and now you are energized for the day ahead. Now what? Organize your day. Think about what your day will be like. Consider what you need to focus on, when and how to achieve various goals or objectives.
Move with purpose! Secret is: focus on non-work items first. For example, think about birthdays , important family events, some shopping. Add self-care, or plan for a hobby, such as tennis with a friend. It will make your day better.
Most people take a relaxing shower and burden it with work items. Don’t think about deadlines, there are so many ways you can meet and beat them. Instead, think about what makes you happy. Follow with thinking about how you make others happy. Soon, others will respond in kind.
Your co-workers will feel you are happy and respond with a similar energy. In fact, most of us “tune in” to others and their mood. Make sure that people tune in to your better side.
Calibrate your work-life relation
Organize your teams and regulate your workflow by proper delegation. It saves your work and your business a lot of time and energy. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
Better yet, let them delegate by themselves. Moreover, cut the security chord that’s tying you to your work over the weekend. No email, no phone.
Taking extra-work over the weekend is not something that helps you. Rather, it damages your productivity. A tired horse carries smaller loads over shorter distances. Get organized the smart way, for yourself and others.
Don’t abuse the work horse. Let it live!
Get a hobby
You likely already have a hobby. If you don’t, think about getting one. Maybe you could get a hobby that doubles as physical exercise.
In fact, this is a great opportunity for networking. Choose a team sport, and you also get to learn about working with teams.
You could also focus on yourself. For example, there are products and solutions that allow you to run a marathon with 9 months of training.
This is an amazing opportunity to bond with thousands of like-spirited individuals. Having a hobby boosts your brain activity and your creativity while improving your morale. It makes you smarter by training key areas of your cognition. Also, it allows you to escape your current context for a while, and go to a happier place.
This is not something only introverts do. Meditate. Keep a diary. Contemplate on how your work week went. Whatever it is you do or like to do, do it. And make sure you keep track of yourself.
Join an amateur theater company, or a public speaking circle or a literature club. Start doing therapy or learning a system of therapy. Get yourself a chance to know yourself. This will allow you to better understand and relate to others, which is particularly useful at work. Moreover, it will help you harmonize with different personalities and understand team dynamics.
Achieving balance is not something you can read about and put in place straight away. Rather, it is an organic process, one of constant self-evaluation and adjustments. It will take you from where you are to where you need to be, maximizing your chances at happiness.