Up until last year I used to tell people that ‘work-life’ balance is a myth, With not one but two consulting jobs, various freelancing projects and a home to manage, I could only dream of sitting by my window and watching the sun go down while sipping a cup of chai.
If you ask me now, I’d say I was foolish last year. As I am writing this I am getting my chai ready, and I will soon switch off my laptop, keep my phone away and watch the sun go down.
I think I have the work-life balance down to a pat this year, and all it took was five significant lifestyle changes. The first one starts with you accepting that you have a problem, and are willing to deal with it.
The cutthroat corporate world that we live in has us convinced that asking for a reduction in workload means setting yourself up for getting fired. We invariable measure our self-worth, our level of productivity with the amount of work we get done daily, be it at work or home, and that is alarming, to say the least. Why does having a good, productive day have to mean that you ticked off ten tasks on your to-do list? Why can’t it mean that you did two things, really well, stayed happy and managed to find time to read a book too? For me, the most significant lifestyle change was acknowledging that I had a problem – no work-life balance – and if I continued like this, I would soon burn out. I spoke to people around me, including my bosses who surprisingly, were willing to lessen my workload as long as it meant that I got things done on time, and with minimum errors.
If you do not have the privilege of having understanding bosses, the next best thing to do is to limit both your work and personal time.
You are paid to put in eight hours of work, so why are you killing yourself sitting at work till your boss leaves so that no one thinks you don’t work? If I started at 8 AM, I made sure that I walked out at 4 PM. I refused to sit in meeting beyond that and guess what, no one has had any problem so far. Unless you are willing to fight for your own time, no one will do it for you. So limit both your work and personal time. If you are working, keep the phone away, avoid being on social media and limit your coffee breaks to two a day. Similarly, make sure your personal time is extremely private.
Unless it’s an absolute emergency, I made sure I stopped looking at my work emails once I walked out of work. I turn off my Whatsapp office group notifications, daily, so that I would not be tempted to pick up my phone every two minutes. Look at it this way: it something urgent comes up people will call you. So don’t feel guilty for not checking messages and emails as soon as you get them. If you are not going to be strict about your me-time, no one else is going to take you seriously either.
I started this policy earlier this year and boy, has it changed my life (no exaggeration). Not having my phone on me while I am getting ready to sleep, or having some downtime, means that my brain gets a chance to relax. Also, since I am not looking at my emails first thing in the morning, I have the time to mentally prepare myself for a productive day before I check my work tasks.
Seriously, stop! Even if you step away for 20 minutes, do it. Eating at my desk to ‘save time’ was one of the worst productivity killers for me. By 4 PM, I felt sleepy, unproductive and ended up taking far more coffee breaks than necessary. Make sure you give yourself enough (and reasonable) amount of breaks so that you stay productive and give your best to your work.
Try one change each week and notice the difference in your lifestyle. Trust me; work-life balance is the easiest thing to achieve as long as you really want to do it.