The Protestant work ethic is something that was definitely part of my upbringing. It's basically this idea that if you work hard, you will be handsomely rewarded. As I got older, I started to realize that it's only, kind of true. Sometimes people earn something fantastic, just because they're somebody influential's daughter or son. Sometimes people get things because they actually worked really, really hard for it.
I grew up in a work-obsessed culture, and devices like smartphones only made it worse. Suddenly, being able to have a cut off time is a lot harder. Although it's tempting to always be checking work emails, achieving work/life balance is important.
If you don't regulate your time, then you'll go through burnout, and burnout is a horrible feeling. I've gone through it too, in fact, I wrote about it for an online magazine.
You're probably wondering how you can create that sense of self-control, that's necessary, to also just plain live your life. Here are five tips on how you can achieve work/life balance.
After a certain time, put your phone out of reach
One of the hardest things for me to regulate, when I started freelancing, was how much time I was spending on my smartphone, computer, and other devices. Just like any other freelancer, all it took was one email to change my week, and maybe even grow my income, over the long-term. Understandably that makes spending an evening, staring at electronic devices extremely tempting.
I've started to realize that if I don't put my phone out of reach, after a certain hour, I'll obsess over my inbox at weird hours. There's time for work, and there's time for just plain sharing a moment with another human being, and those activities will overlap unless they're carefully regulated.
When you take time off, commit to it
I've traveled a bit this year, and I've found that people are generally pretty accommodating if you tell them in advance that you're traveling, therefore response times will be slower. I think one of the most important things people can do, is not be too hard on themselves when taking time off is necessary. In a work-obsessed culture, where work from home options are becoming increasingly commonplace, it's important to really commit to taking time off, when you get the chance to do so.
Don't forget to Take Care of Yourself
One of the silliest moments of the 2015 England Rugby tournament was when the cameras picked up on a coach stopping the game, just to say to one of the players:
"Take care of yourself, okay?"
It was comedic because it seemed random, but I also think it was actually kind of genius. I think people, in general, need a reminder every once in a while, that we're not robots, so it's up to us to take care of ourselves. If we don't our work will suffer, because we will suffer.
Things like family, food, mental and physical health aren't things that deserve to suffer, so that work can improve. Sure, work is important, but so are the basic aspects of survivial.
Access what counts as an emergency
If someone emails you at midnight, you don't have to email them back at midnight. If someone emails you on your day off, you don't have to email them back on your day off. If it's an emergency, that's an exception, but there's rarely any need to respond instantly. But what counts as an emergency? It's up to you to decide.
Last but not least: Eat the Elephant, One Bite at a Time
I grew up with this expression, and it's freaking fantastic. What it basically means, is that the only way to tackle something big, is to tackle it in bite-sized chunks. Manage your time wisely, and put careful thought into what you'll do when. This will make large tasks a lot more managable, and work/life balance a lot more plausiable.
So what are your work/life balance strategies? Is this something that you struggle with? Feel free to comment in the comment section below.
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