It’s been said that happiness is a matter of balance. American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously demonstrated this point when compiling his hierarchy of needs – a pyramid shaped diagram, guiding a person through to coveted self-actualization. Maslow believed a person was unable to reach the pinnacle of human happiness without every aspect of their life first being in balance.
As humans, we tend to ignore good advice, even if it does come from famous American psychologists. Our work lives can be great examples of this. In our quest for security and fulfillment, we’ve actually ended up working longer hours and putting more strain on our health and relationships. Balance becomes imbalance, and health becomes exhaustion.
Re-balancing again though, and finding that happy state you crave, doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 easy steps. Just by changing the way you approach your work life, you can find yourself becoming more creative, more energized, and happier. Oh, and you’ll also bypass a nasty period of burnout.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Define Your Own Idea of Success
One of the biggest mistakes people make is living up to others’ idea of what constitutes success. Feeling compelled to impress your father, provide luxury for your spouse, or compete with your brother, will only leave you chasing someone else’s dream.
Success should mean doing things your own way. Ask yourself: are you working for your own reasons, or for the reasons of others? What do you want that you don’t have right now? Write down your answers on a piece of paper.
2. Set Yourself Boundaries
Take a look at your garden fence. That simple piece of wood is there to let you know where one garden ends and another begins. That defines your space. How many of these boundaries do you have in your professional life? If the answer is just a few, you probably need to evaluate the way you work.
If you have no set idea about where work ends and where it begins, you’ll feel tempted to take it everywhere with you. Just that like, balance is lost.
3. Schedule Family Time
While you’re lost in your career, time is still passing. Your parents are aging, and your children are growing up. Time can’t go back for a re-do. Overworking means, you can’t be with your family during those hours. Scheduling family time means you’ll never let the important moments pass you by.
Exercise is essential for a healthy body and mind. Not only is it a great excuse to get work off of your brain, it’s also a fantastic way to stay healthy. Thirty minutes of exercise each day will do more for your mood and your stress levels than any pharmaceutical on the market. Plan on doing something physical that you love this weekend, maybe go biking, play basketball or tennis, take a hike or have strenuous sex with the person you love. You’ve got to start somewhere.
5. Switch Off Your Brain
Any piece of equipment left on for too long overheats. Your brain may not be made from electrical components, but it still functions in the same way. Too much mental work and it will begin to fatigue. Switch off your brain at least once daily by engaging in intense relaxation or by becoming engrossed in a calming activity.
6. Watch for Signs of Exhaustion
If you’ve been putting in extra hours at the office, you may have been stealing them from other areas of your life. A couple of common places people take time from is sleep and down time. This leaves them vulnerable to the effects of burnout, which pounce when the body is at its most fragile.
Signs to watch out for include: poor sleep, lack of patience, and a reduction in creativity. If you find yourself experiencing any of these, it’s time to slow down.
7. Work Smarter
To have more time to spend elsewhere, you need to work smarter, not harder.
You can work smarter by delegating tasks that aren’t as important. You can also use proven time-management techniques to ensure you’re getting the most out of each and every hour. Try prioritizing tasks and let the smaller, less urgent things move to the next day when necessary.
8. Take Short Breaks
If you want to enjoy other areas of your life, you’ll need energy to do so. Consuming all of your energy in the workplace is a little like spending all of your money on gasoline. It stops being a smart idea after a while.
To stay energized, health clinics recommend you take a 5-10 minute break every hour. This will help reduce tension and keep you at your best. Get up and walk around the office, unplug and meditate, get outside for 5 minutes and feel the sunshine,
9. Get Perspective
Do you know anybody in your life that balances their work life and their regular life perfectly? If so, it’s worth asking for their advice. Many have found out the hard way exactly what happens when the scales of life become lop-sided. When the scales tip unfavorably, it can cause dis-ease, which is un-ease in your body, this may lead to a break down of hormones and cause them to go awry. This is at the root of all disease. At the end of your life, what do you think will have mattered the most? That’s where you need to focus yourself each and everyday.
10. Remind Yourself Why You Do What You Do
Putting your career before wellness can often be the result of distorted thinking. You may believe success will make you happier, or money will give you more choices. If you look closely, you’ll probably find the opposite is happening, and all that you’re gaining is an over-worked mind and unfulfilled social life.
Reminding yourself why you do what you do, workwise, will help you see you can find many of those benefits you seek outside of the office.
Balancing your life doesn’t mean reducing your level of commitment, or quelling your fiery passion. It simply means… balancing it. By putting into action the tips above, you’ll begin to notice a counter-intuitive reaction-taking place. You’ll find you get more out of yourself, and don’t need to push yourself to the max to get tasks done. You’ll also find you experience less frustration and guilt at the idea that you’re neglecting the people and things that you love.
Make this month the month you decide to fix your work-life balance. Your life will be all the better for it.
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