Regardless of the market situation, the temptation to work around the clock is strong. You don’t want to miss the next big client, the new deal, the potential hot listing. So you volunteer for weekend duty, take paperwork home, and even when you’re trying to sleep, your mind is working overtime. Your bank account may be healthy, but you’re not. And eventually, either your mind, your body, or your family (or all three) will do something to even the score. Ask yourself; is work controlling your life? Here are five ways you can bring some balance and sanity back into your life.
- Count the cost
- Draw the line
- Schedule yourself first
- Take a breather
- Stop feeling guilty
Count the cost. Before you will be motivated to make real changes, you need to understand exactly what the 24/7 work cycle is doing to you. When you’re fatigued, you are more likely to make mistakes—like forgetting an important appointment or getting the numbers wrong on a sales contract. This can have a direct impact on both your income and your reputation. You may be sacrificing relationships with friends and family, missing out on important milestones, whether it’s your grandson’s first smile or your daughter’s soccer championship. Worst of all, the harder you work, the more is expected of you. And suddenly you’re caught in a never-ending spiral of stress. So what can you do to break the cycle?
Draw the line. The first line you need to draw is the one between work and not-work. Today’s technology is connecting you to anyone at any time from virtually anywhere. This leaves you with no boundary between work and home — unless you create one. Decide now to separate your work time from personal and family time. Leave your laptop at the office or in your car (locked of course!). Turn off your smart phone and let your messages go to voice mail. Set aside blocks of time (short at first, because this is hard) when you focus totally on something unrelated to your work, whether it’s walking the dog, taking a bubble bath, or watching a movie with your kids. Which brings us directly to the next step:
Schedule yourself first. If you’re like most people, if it’s not on your calendar or your to-do list, it won’t get done. So take your calendar, anywhere from a week to a month at a time, and get “me-time” into your schedule. Set aside time each day for doing something you enjoy, such as exercise or reading a (non-business) book. Even better, schedule some things you can do with your family or friends — go sailing, dancing or take a photography class. And just so you know, sitting in the sunshine and listening to the birds sing occasionally is not a waste of time!
Take a breather. When you are under stress, rushing to appointments, trying to multi-task, your breathing becomes shallow. This throws your body chemistry off, makes your muscles tense up, thus creating even more stress and anxiety. So once every hour or so, take a breathing break. The goal is to breathe slower and deeper, naturally. To get yourself into that mode, use the 4-7-8 breath recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil, internationally recognized expert in mind-body medicine.
Here’s how it works: breathe in through your mouth for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale completely for a count of eight. Work toward doing this sequence for a total of eight times at least twice a day. If it makes you dizzy at first, and it might, just do one or two sequences until you can feel comfortable doing eight. It is virtually impossible to feel stressed while doing this!
Stop feeling guilty. No one can tell you what the right pattern of work-life balance will work for you. So don’t worry if you don’t get it “right” the first time or you don’t do it the way your best friend does it. Feeling guilty for doing it “wrong” is just another thing to stress about. Develop a schedule and a pattern that fits who you are and is in line with your life and your values.
Creating a healthy work-life balance isn’t a one-shot deal. Rather, it is a continuous process that will evolve as your family, interests and work life change. Re-examine your priorities occasionally and make changes, if necessary, to make sure you’re staying on track.
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