With life as we know it being changed dramatically this past year and having our homes be our workplace as well as our sanctuary away from work, it’s no wonder that at times we can feel strained from being pulled too many directions.
Working in an office regularly might soon be a thing of the past with everyone being able to use technology to communicate and companies realizing that a lot of us prefer to work remotely anyway (this lady right here!) and they can benefit from not having such a large corporate office.
So the old adage of “leave work at work” is near impossible when that workplace is in your dining room. There’s no physical, visual and often audio separation from where you work to your home. Even if you are one of the fortune ones to have a dedicated room for an office, you probably find yourself often taking breaks in other areas of your home, going to the bathroom, stopping by the fridge, petting the dog, checking in on the kids to see if they’re studying and not playing Minecraft….
Point is, there really isn’t a separation from work and life anymore. But, unlike that old adage telling you to "leave work at work," I’m here to tell you that it’s impossible.
But wait! Before you say, “Well this sounds depressing; I’m going to stop reading this article...” I’m going to tell you what others typically do not: it’s okay that you can’t separate work and life. In fact, by trying to separate them, you’re probably doing more harm than good for yourself.
But (and this is a big but), if you feel like work is overrunning your life and it’s impeding on your happiness, let’s chat more about that and how you can achieve a work-life balance that suits you.
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SEARCHING FOR WORK-LIFE BALANCE
If you’ve ever searched for work-life balance on the interwebs, next to all the photos of scales balancing triangles with work and life written on them, Mr. Google might have given you some confusing results.
For instance, Business News Daily says, “Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one's career and the demands of one's personal life.” But then go to the next suggestion to find the steps to achieve this “equilibrium,” you get Time.com suggesting that “Everything is not equally important. Do fewer things and do them well.”
Well...what the heck. How do you get to this so-called equilibrium state when everything is not equally important? What are we dealing with here...a balancing scale that uses the metric system on one side and imperial on the other? Sheesh.
It’s confusing information out there to say the least. And with work-life balance being of such importance, you’d figure there was more of a consensus on how to achieve it. And if it were so easy as steps 1 through whatever, then why is it so difficult for us all to actually find this balance in work and life?
I’ve stated why we physically have a difficult time separating work from the rest of our lives, but our minds have a difficult time switching gears to end the work day and transition to home life. This happens for a couple reasons.
For one, human brains aren’t computers. We have no screen to shut, and no “home” button to press to transition to a different state of being.
And two, the idea that we are living these polar opposite lives within ourselves, I think greatly detracts us from feeling a sense of oneness. Which, if we were computers, having such dichotomy within ourselves would result in the blue screen of death. No human or computer wants that.
When we feel connected, whole, and one with ourselves and the world around us, it can be amazing, invigorating, gratifying and calming all at once. That feeling can come when you realize that all those versions of yourself, all that you are...you are all of those, all of the time. You never stop being you, present you, past you, and future you.
And this thinking goes for "work you" and "outside-of-work you." If you’re having trouble with this, start by thinking of everything as just your life and not separate entities. After all, it is your home life and your work life. “Home” and “work" just describe your life, but it is ultimately YOUR life.
When we start to compartmentalize our thoughts, feelings, and actions, into different versions or personalities of ourselves, we are splitting our own psyche and spirit. The more we try to separate ourselves into these clearly defined and separate lives, the more our souls are yearning to feel complete.
And if you’re a woman who prides herself on being one hell of a boss lady, then it can be all that much harder to try to separate work from life because you might even feel your best when you are being a rock star at work. So why fight it? Own that you are an amazing work woman, and show yourself to the world! Share some details about how you rocked that Zoom meeting with a friend.
I’d even say to those who don’t like sharing the “bad” parts of their day, you might be missing out on some cathartic venting with someone who totally understands you. A lot of the time we hold back the feelings and thoughts we think others don’t want to hear because it’s not a happy moment.
Yes, it takes courage to show others that life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. But I think you will find that sharing with someone close can help lessen the burden of carrying around so much weight on your shoulders.
HOW TO FIND WORK-LIFE BALANCE
So let’s say you’re releasing your frustrations in a healthy way, and you’re feeling like you’re all that and a bag of kale chips. I'm so proud of you! But the time you spend at work is so stressful that it’s preventing you from enjoying your precious time off. That’s no bueno.
Now that we’ve debunked this theory that a hard line of separation from work and life must exist to achieve a balance, it’s time we talk about finding balance within the one life you do lead.
Tell me if this resonates with you...
Deadlines are fast approaching, you have 20 emails you still haven’t even glanced at, a client called and there’s a fire to be put out that only you can handle, and accounting needs you to explain the $9.76 Starbucks charge on the company card. Umm...hello?! Because you’re 50 hours into your work week...and it’s only Wednesday!
Does this sound like your typical week?
If you’re so high-strung due to work stress, it really can wear on your health and well-being.
Are you purposefully taking time out of each and every day for yourself to recharge? If not, why aren’t you doing this for yourself? I know that despite not giving a damn nor having a spare moment, you still found time to explain to Karen in accounting your necessary caffeine fix. So why aren’t you giving that same level of priority to your own needs and taking time to focus on your health?
Thinking you will “get to it” by the end of the day will never happen. Haven’t you proven this time and time again? So, instead of putting this off to the end of the day or week when you can’t think of doing anything besides binge watching the Great British Bake Off to lull you into a vegetative state, you need to schedule it in your day. Yes. Every. Single. Day.
Make yourself a priority. Make your health and well-being a priority, and take time to meditate to feel restored. Do this every day by making a scheduled appointment with yourself to focus on you. Book it like it’s a real appointment with any other professional you would encounter at work. It is a non-negotiable meeting that you MUST attend.
Decide how long this meditation meeting should be. Is it a quick lunch break of five or ten minutes? Or is it 20 minutes before you even look at your phone in the morning?
Select a time when you’ll most likely be alone so you won’t have other distractions. If you are at work, turn your phone on silent (not vibrate...that is still disruptive), and shut your laptop. Allow yourself to have just a moment to recharge and give your mind a chance to for a bit of calm in your day.
Better yet, if you can this moment either be in nature or be looking out the window at some greenery or trees, the restorative effects nature can help you feel more balanced. Plus, those effects happen very quickly, and compound over time and habitual practice.
If you stick with this meditation meeting, you’ll find that, over time, you will start to feel more restored and more in control of all the things life can throw at you and all the emotions those things can bring. I believe this is the single most important thing you can do.
Most advice out there just focuses on trying to make you more efficient and productive. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that if you’re near burnout, you’re already running the ship as effectively as you possibly can, especially given the level of stress you’re under. The one and only thing you need to prioritize is you.
So take that to-do list numbered 1 through 99 and at the top, write: 0. My Meditation Meeting and give yourself the priority you deserve. Seriously, I know it's right next to you, so write it down now.
So, what’s the answer? Is work-life balance fact or fiction? Well, what if it’s both?
On one hand, the whole idea that work and life are separate entities and you need to endlessly search for this undefinable line between the two is just setting yourself up for disaster because that line...it’s a myth. Right up there with unicorns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.
There is no line that defines parts of your life, but you can find balance within your life so that stressors from work don’t impair your whole well-being. This is true, and it is obtainable. You can find work-life balance, to the point where you might even say it's "life-work" balance and prioritize your life first.
By regularly scheduling in just a little meditation time every day, you’ll give your mind and body the much needed timeout they need to feel balanced in life, both at work and at home.
Stay well and be inspired,
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What other techniques have you tried to achieve a work-life balance? Share your thoughts in the comments section or DM me @inspireddesigninc on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you!
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