I felt a buzz on my leg. I knew that it could only mean one thing…another email, another customer, another escalation.
My palms go sweaty, my head begins to spin, I feel a rush of butterflies flutter in my stomach.
I feel anxious, I feel nervous, I feel angry.
Why am I always wired into work 24 by 7?
Why can’t I just enjoy a normal weeknight without being a slave to my workplace?
Why can’t I have work life balance?
Actually what is work-life balance? Is it an imaginary separation between work and the rest of your life? Is it finding the perfect balance between how much you work and how much you don’t work?
The more I think about the term work-life balance the more I dislike it. Work is a part of our lives. Some of us work to survive, some of us work because it is our passion, and some work because our parents tell us we have too…regardless of the situation working is a part of life. The quicker I understood that you cannot separate work and life into separate entities the quicker I was able to address the true issues of my discontent. It’s not the fact that I had to work during my “off” hours that bothered me, it was the fact that I was not in control of my life in general.
I let my guard down, I let complacency set in, and I chose to allow my life to spin out of control.
You see no matter where you live, no matter what situation you are in, no matter what type of work you do, you alone have the power to choose the thoughts you wish to think, and hence you have the power to choose whether you allow work to control your life.
I chose to be a slave to work and worst off I chose to let work dictate my schedule, my family time, and my me time. And I was unhappy with the fact that I could not balance it all.
Shutting off my work during off hours did no good because when I walked back into work the next morning, there were already too many fires to put out. I just delayed the inevitable….stress, anxiety, anger.
I said to myself “James stop making excuses, it’s time for your to take control back.” How did I respond to my own challenge?
1. Understand that there are times that you will have to work during your “off hours”, but also realize there are times you will have to take care of “personal” things during your work hours too. (Could this be what work life balance means?)
2. Find quiet time for yourself…find time for you to reflect, plan, and have peace…find time to put yourself in the right frame of mind before your official day start. So what did I do? I started waking up at 5 AM each morning to give me more me time (It was hard for the first few weeks but now it’s a routine)
3. Organize yourself before your workweek starts. Make sure your calendar is properly blocked off so that you have time to complete to your most important “work” or “non-work” related items (It takes me 15-30 minutes on the weekend to organize the rest of my week so that it is less stressful…totally worth it)
4. Organize my calendar so my most important things get done first thing in the morning! I have the most energy and passion in the morning. Ad-hoc and immediate work requests can wait because the eventual fire will get bigger if I let my most important things fester (Turn off my email, turn off my instant messenger, throw on my noise cancelling headphones first thing in the morning and FOCUS)
5. Make it a priority to take care of my physical health, because once I lose my physical health I stand to lose everything. My workout’s in the gym cannot be missed, no excuses. Eat not for pleasure but eat to sustain your body and mind. Meditate daily. Get to bed earlier every night…what good is it anyway to watch the late night news?
6. Don’t be a pleaser be a leader. Stop saying yes to everything because doing everything eventually amounts to accomplishing nothing
a. Find ways to hand off projects to team members
b. Find ways to teach others to lead in my stead
c. Disengage from tasks that I don’t need to be doing
d. Trust my team and allow them to make crucial decisions without me
I still don’t know what work-life balance means but does it even matter? I feel more content at work, I feel more engaged, I feel happier at home, but yet I still work at home during my off hours. However, my work has shifted from being reactive to being proactive. The work I do at home during weeknights or weekends properly sets me up for a fairly smooth ride during the work hours.
By the way, I no longer feel the buzz on the phone anymore, but that’s because I turned off the sound and buzzer.
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