Work-Life Balance — Finding it Slowly But Effectively

The line differentiating work from life can be thin & blurry. Sometimes invisible. But it is there. And here’s how to emphasise it.

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

If you are sold to the idea that Work-Life balance is bullshit and that it shouldn’t be called what it’s called because work is part of life, you probably love what you do and don’t need any time off. You’re probably also a stakeholder and thus discriminating in work hours and after-work hours isn’t your thing.

But drawing the line has its own benefits and if you have decided to find a balance, here’s what you need to do step by step.

It’s a Process & Not a Time-Table to Follow

My workplace offers flexible timings. I can come and go whenever I want, it’s the work I deliver that matters. That said, it’s a fast-paced startup where everyone’s on their toes at all times. So for me, balancing work and life isn’t about telling myself and my team that I can only be available from this AM to this PM.

It’s about carving enough time for:

  1. My well-being (staying entertained, educated and healthy)
  2. My family & friends (staying connected, celebrating)
  3. My personal goals (career goals)
  4. My professional goals (work stuff)

On some days all 4 parts get fairly proportionate chunks of my time and on some other days they don’t. But I make sure that in the long run, I distribute my time equally. For example, at the end of the week I roughly measure the time I gave to each quadrant and make up for the ones that didn’t get due attention, during the weekends.

But arriving at this system took time and patience. I did it step by step.

Step 1: Baby Steps — Caring for Yourself

Start with incorporating these 3 actionable tasks to your crazy schedule:
Stay hydrated, Eat on Time, Connect.

  • Water: Adding 10 glasses of water to your day is the easiest step. There are Apps for it! Set yourself reminders or add it to your to-do list glass by glass. ‘Have 1L water’ is an unclear goal. Add timely spaced tasks - ‘1st glass of water, ‘2nd glass…’ and so on.
  • Food: Stop skipping or pushing meals. Keep the food mostly healthy.
  • Connection: Set aside 30-dedicated-minutes everyday to connect with family/friends. Try to have meaningful conversations. They matter the most.

Incorporating these tasks is your first step in progressing towards prioritising your health and becoming self-disciplined.

Step 2: Setting Protocols — Urgent Work , Evoke Productivity, Healthy Habits

Now it’s time to make changes in the way you handle post-work hours, peaks & getting into routines.

1. Responding to Urgencies — If it’s important to instantly reply or answer a call after you’re done with your day’s work, limit yourself to certain number of mails/texts you will send and/or number of people you will interact with. In case of work emergencies, telling yourself that you’ll work for just 5 more minutes doesn’t always end like that. So try something new. Delegate or finish whatever you’re doing in a strictly limited time-span. I’m not saying it’s possible every time, but mostly it is.

2. Productive Sweet-Spot — Pinpoint the factors that boost your productivity. The nook, time, music, people around you, lighting, anything! Knowing the factors that stimulate your ‘Productive Sweet-Spot’ is important becuase:

(a) You can put together the factors to conjure productivity, find your flow and work efficiently as and when required. (E.g. Binaural beats, dim lights and quiet corners are a few things that work for me most of the times! As long as I can arrange any of these, I am in mood to get work done.)

(a)It’s especially important for those of us who end up wasting work hours due to lack of feeling productive. And then compensate during our personal time, out of guilt. Even if and when you have to compensate, at least be able to orchestrate productivity with bringing in the factors to rescue yourself from just blankly staring at your screen.

3. Pick a Health Routine — If you already have one, pick one more. You’re looking for change, which you’ll find only by introducing new habits. Self-care habits are more convincing to cling on to and thus easier to continue.

If this sounds impractical at the moment because of time-crunch. Start by adopting healthy habits like cutting down on booze intake, waking up on time, skin-routines, positive thinking, confidence building, etc.

But to avoid time-crunches and to bring protocols in action, you need a schedule!

Step 3: Getting Serious—Scheduling & Prioritizing

Even if you think you won’t be able to stick to a schedule, keep trying. You will eventually find a pattern that works for you.

  1. Schedule your Day in parts.

My early mornings are strictly for routines that allow me to spend time with myself. I choose from yoga sessions, watering my plants, coffee, newspaper, occasional skincare drills, oversleeping, etc. I force myslef to stay away from social media during this time.

10 am to 5 PM, you’ll find me in office. Then evenings are for de-stressing routines (cooking, netflix, writing and reading/researching) and after 8:30, it’s all about dinner and family.

The schedule is strict in the sense that ideally mornings are for myself, the day for work, evenings vary from professional goals to entertainment and the remaining time is for the family.

2. Schedule your Day based on Priorities.

The key is to choose what you let go of wisely. Maintaining a schedule that separates ‘important’ from ‘urgent’ takes practice and honesty. I am still working on this one.

Sticking to ‘baby steps’ and ‘protocols’, made me arrive at a pattern that allows me to control how I choose to spend most of my days. More importantly, it keeps me from living passively. I can’t imagine going back to the time when days used to just pass by.

Let me know your thoughts!

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