Hey there…. yes you…. the one at your computer, watching the screen but totally blank in your mind. Exhaustion is setting in. It’s getting late. You are on your fourth coffee. You have things to do but no energy with which to do them. Yes you. Watch this space. This piece is for you.
Work is important to you. We get it. Work gives us a purpose. It may be our passion. It provides an income. It gives us a return on the years that have gone before. It enables us to contribute and utilise our skills. It keeps us connected. It allows us to express ourselves and improve on the person we were yesterday. There are many rewards for our work that keep us keeping on.
Enter stage left our personal lives. At times, our personal lives and work commitments live in harmony. At times, the two are diametrically opposed forces pulling at each other like two three-year old’s fighting over the last piece of fairy bread. It’s my turn! No, it’s mine! It’s all mine!!! Stop it!!!! The argument is real. And for most of us, decoding who is the winner and when they should win, is a near impossible task. However, it doesn’t need to be.
Our personal time and space incorporates our family time, spiritual needs, sporting interests, periods of relaxation, time with friends, reading THAT book, emotional downtime, the list goes on. When we deprive ourselves of personal boundaries and invest all our eggs in our work, the ultimate loser is in fact, our work. That is, to be the highest version of ourselves at work we need to ensure that our bodies and minds can achieve balance and perspective. We have all been, or worked with, that special someone who has no life beyond their office. And whilst this may lead to the initial impression of success, dedication, and performance, it quickly unearths limitations in perspective and sustainability. You cannot expect to sprint all the way through your career and maintain your breath until the end. We are humans. We have a fundamental need for socialisation, connection with others, relaxation, and quality sleep. Our children, our partners, our grandparents, our gardens, our holidays, our art, all add to the breadth of our life, and the school of life has many lessons for us to graduate.
There is nothing world beating in what I am writing at this point. You have probably already been warned that your success in this world will not be defined solely by your pay rate or frequent flyer status points (especially now Covid has grounded us and all the planes around the world). Yet knowledge of the need for balance, AND execution of that balance, are two totally different flavoured biscuits! One is a plain Scotch Finger – knowledge is good. And one is a Special Edition Triple Chocolate Coated Tim Tam – if you can get your hands on it, you’re pretty excited that you made the effort to nail it!
So how do we achieve that balance between work and personal time. Like many other key life challenges, the solution can be found in how we think. You don’t need an expensive executive coach or a four-day-work retreat to sort this one out. It’s all in our minds. Our attitude around our work and personal lives can cause us to favour one over the other or to stand calmly balanced between the two. Here are some tips to challenge the way you think and bring you closer to that level of harmony.
Time is a finite quantum
You don’t get a bonus round at the end or an extension for good behaviour. You have a set amount of time on this planet, and you need to use it wisely and with respect to what matters most. You do not want to get to the home straight and start trying to cram time with loved ones and your bucket list of things to do, into a two-week period with a walker to factor in. Time is the ultimate commodity. Use it wisely to serve both your career goals and to foster a happy and rewarding personal experience.
Understand the connection between work and personal investments
How does your work serve your personal life and vice versa? This connectivity is important to understand and respect. Your work gives you exposure, identity, finance, and confidence, which are all important assets when it comes to achieving a happy personal life.
On the other end of the spectrum, your personal time helps you foster intimate relationships, grow in wisdom, explore your interests, heal your body and mind, maintain a healthy body image, rest and recuperate, and see your work as exactly that – work. There is a synchronicity here whereby your work needs your investment in personal time and your personal time benefits if you are successful in your work. Keep in mind that being in successful at work is not about title or pay. It is about feeling successful and happy in your work. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Understand your fuel tank reading
Each of us have a fuel tank. When the low fuel or check engine light flashes, there is little point ignoring it. To do so can result in a major health issue or the inability to work. Our body and mind are hardwired to look after themselves. There is no point asking your body and mind to just suck it up and push on. If you feel you need time away from work, you can be confident that it isn’t a typo. We need to pay attention to our fuel tanks and appreciate their role in keeping us balanced.
Engage the minds of your loved ones
We can sometimes make the mistake of saving our best conversations and debates for our work colleagues and playing a smaller game at home. To respect the intelligence and contribution of our work colleagues more than the intelligence and contribution of our family, friends and social connections is to limit the stretch and vibrancy in our personal lives. Yet it is so easy to fall into this trap. Talk to your loved ones. Throw your ideas around with them. Discuss some “what if” scenarios. Collaborate and debate with them. Talk and explain what is going on for you. Be brave enough to share home truths and ask for feedback. We are better at our jobs when we have extensive relationships out of work and those relationships have a degree of richness. Be as keen to talk to people in your personal world as you are to talk to work mates, the CEO, and that workplace mentor. Lessons and stretch can come from anywhere.
Create a healthy gap between your plans and deadlines, and the here and now. Meditation is critical to allowing the mind to repair and reset for the path ahead. Deep diaphragmatic breathing and allowing yourself the space to just sit in the present moment, helps us make better moves at work, slow things down, speed things up, and to make better decisions about how we allocate our time with respect to point 1 above. Grab a spot outside in the fresh air, breathe and just be for a bit. You will be surprised where this leads you.
This is bigger than you
Investing in others is our greatest source of self-satisfaction – it’s not all about us. There are times when our work can become all-consuming and lead us down the path of gazing intensively into our own navels. And too long in your own belly button can become unhealthy.
Spending time outside of work and exploring some personal time out can help us identify and commit to opportunities to help others and the community in which we live. This is therapeutic for all of us as when we give to others, we become higher versions of ourselves. In understanding another’s pain, we can heal our own pain. In giving to others and going without, we can grow in strength and begin to piece together what we are really meant to do with our lives. And if nothing else, giving back and helping others can extend our social network and help us switch off the noise in our head telling us that the work report or presentation we must deliver is all that matters. Work is but one part of us. And who says it should be the biggest section?
When we change the way we think about work, and time, and play, this drives different behaviours, and delivers different outcomes. The goal of work life balance may seem complex, but I suspect we enable this situation by pressing on, instead of pressing the STOP button. I encourage you today to press the STOP button and reflect on the six tips above. Some may mean little to you. Yet there may be at least one or two that activate the nerve of change and send you off to explore the true meaning of harmony.