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The Work-Life Dilemma: How to find balance within the madness.

October 9, 2017

Have you ever seen a photo of an elephant balancing upon a beach ball? What about a tower of precariously stacked stones? I’m not calling myself a pile of rocks (or an elephant!), but many days, life can feel this crazy. Most of us carry an unnecessary burden of stress, coupled with unhealthy habits, as we navigate “not enough time” between the pressures of work, personal life, and being all things for all people.

 

Sadly there’s no app to magically solve this problem overnight, but here are a few simple lessons I’ve learned along the way, and continue to learn, as I discover a healthier balance between work, life and everything in between.

 

SKIP THE PERFECTION

Our culture perpetuates this idea of perfection, but whoever said that being imperfect means you don’t work hard and give your best? Life is so much fuller when we give ourselves some grace and compassion. Too often, we try to uphold standards that aren’t possible to maintain.  Don’t beat yourself up as you figure out how to create a balanced course.

 

Tip: Be brave and ask for help! A Virtual Assistant, perhaps? (hint, hint) But truly, there's no need to be all things for all people. There's no need to be perfect. We're only human.

 

MULTI-TASKING ISN’T BEST

I used to believe my ability to multi-task was one of my best qualities. Multi-tasking is supposed to make you less stressed, right?  MIT professor, Sherry Turkle, relates that as psychologists’ study multitasking, “they do not find a story of new efficiencies. Rather, those who multitask don’t perform as well on any of the tasks they are attempting.”[1] Your brain isn’t actually doing simultaneous tasks, but switching rapidly between them. Talk about stressful!

 

Tip: Make realistic lists and be present with what you are doing. When at work, take each task as it comes. Give yourself a time limit for each separate task or project. You’ll be shocked at how much more you accomplish. And leave work where it belongs...at work.  Multitasking is not a personal virtue, but learning how to focus upon what (and who!) is directly in front of you will be.

 

JUST SAY “NO”

There’s this strange mindset in our culture that everything is immediate and urgent.  Creating boundaries within work and our personal lives is important to finding a good balance. Just because someone asks you to do something on your one free evening does not mean you should say yes. And just because an opportunity is “good,” does not mean you should do it if you already have enough commitments on your plate.

 

Tip: Practice saying “no.” Look at your schedule and make sure you have created space for what truly matters. It's okay to plan personal/family time and to keep that time safe and sacred. Don’t worry about FOMO. Your family, your boss, and especially you will be thankful in the long run.

 

TURN OFF THE SCREEN

Essayist and literary critic, William Deresiewicz, says, “We have given our hearts to machines, and now we are turning into machines.”[2]  Studies continue to reveal that turning "off" from social media and technology is necessary for brain health and stress levels.  Many people consider their use of digital technology as downtime, but the problem with this is that the brain needs this time of rest in order to process and organize information between learning. When using digital mediums to give the brain respite, the opposite outcome occurs.[3]

 

Tip: Unplug. By having scheduled and dedicated time off of technology, you create the space to breathe and be present to your needs and the needs of others. From here, you avoid distractions so you can manage time and tasks well and deflect the pressure for perfection by the comparison of others on the screen. See how this all works together?

 

A healthy work-life balance is definitely easier said than done, but you define your own version of success. And as with most things, practice makes…better. Okay, that may not be the saying, but it’s not about perfection. It’s about a healthy balance so we can appreciate life, be present with those around us, and be good to ourselves and others.

 

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[1] Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York: Basic, 2011. Print, 163.

[2] Deresiewicz, William. "Faux Friendship." The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle, 06 Dec. 2009. Web. 01 Oct. 2015, par. 27.

[3] Matt, Richtell. 'Digital Devices Deprives Brain of Needed Downtime'. New York Times 2010: B1. Print.

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