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How I’ve Succeeded in Creating a Work/Life Balance

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How I’ve Succeeded in Creating a Work/Life Balance

The other day someone told me the word well-being is replacing the phrase work/life balance. It makes sense seeing work as part of our life; there is not life, and then work as a separate entity. To me, well-being means living life with more balance and awareness. In order to feel enriched and fulfilled in our lives, I believe we need to have the four fundamental human needs in balance: physical, social, mental, and spiritual.

In Stephen Covey’s book First Things First he describes these needs by the phrase, “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” “To live” addresses our physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. “To love” falls into our social need to belong, give and receive love, and relate to others. “To learn” includes our mental need to develop, grow, and become the best version of ourselves. The desire “to leave a legacy” is our spiritual need to make a contribution to this planet and have meaning and purpose to our lives.

Seeing as how all these needs are vital, focusing on any in either excess or lack reduces our happiness in life and leads to imbalance. Imagine if you spent 80% of your waking time just attending to your physical needs of eating, sleeping and exercising?  You may be healthy, but would would be missing out on your need to connect with others and expand your mind. If you spent most of your waking time focused on your mental needs you may become smart and financially abundant however, your relationships and health would suffer.

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After learning at 17-years-old that the key to a happy and fulfilling life is balance, I made it my life mission to achieve this and see if I really could have it all at once. By setting my priorities and staying focused, I was able to achieve most of the things I wanted in my life by the age of 30.

While building a professional career in marketing and design, I traveled to over 42 countries, lived in 5, spent 15 hours a week engaged in sports activities, competed as a triathlete on the world-stage, studied to be a yoga teacher in an Indian ashram, meditated with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, built close connections to people around the world, and became a qualified personal trainer.

Here are some of the guidelines I set for myself to accomplish all this and stay focused on balance and well-being.

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1. I created my own success formula.

We all have different gifts, talents, and things we are here to achieve. There is no standard model of what makes someone successful unless it’s in alignment with their own principles and guiding system. I noticed early on that those individuals who most people called “successful” had material wealth but were failing when it came to health and relationships; they may have been “successful,” but they also were not happy.

So I decided to look at my values and passions to determine what a successful life meant to me. I then addressed each fundamental human need and wrote out what activities and goals in each area I needed to focus my time on to feel successful. My main physical goals were to be strong and super fit; my mental goal was to reach my full potential; spiritually, I wanted to experience self-actualization and help others do so; and socially I wanted to connect deeply with others.

What physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs do you need to fulfill in order to be successful in your own unique way?

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2. I set priorities.

We only have a limited amount of energy and time, so choosing where to focus our energy is vital for a successful life. Once I made my list of goals for each fundamental need it now came down to keeping the first things first. I knew I couldn’t say yes to every offer that came my way; I had to make choices and feel good about doing so.

For my physical needs, as I had the gift of endurance and an abundance of energy, it became important for me to work out at least once a day. I made it my priority where ever in the world I lived to go to the gym, run, cycle, swim, or do yoga once or twice a day. This meant I had to say no to some social activities. For my mental and spiritual needs alongside my career, personal growth and self-actualization was a major driving force in my life, so I dedicated my evenings after working out to these activities as well as some vacations.

3. I eliminated time-wasting activities.

I often got asked how I had the time to do so many things at once. I remember when I was at university, as a full-time student I worked a part-time job 15 hours a week, exercised 3 hours a day, read a ton of personal development books, plus had a thriving social life. The secret is to eliminate time-wasting activities such as watching TV, surfing the web, checking Facebook, complaining, gossiping, reading trash novels, and other mind-numbing activities. If you calculate how much time you spend engaging in these non-beneficial activities, you will have a lot more time up your sleeve.

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4. I limited my work hours.

In order to gain proper rest and make time for my sporting pursuits, social activities, personal growth and traveling, I set a limit to only working up to 40 hours a week. Although deadlines occasionally extended this, I knew that if I continually worked more I would be choosing work over life. Not only do studies show that people that work 50 hours a week are no more productive than those that work 40 hours a week, I was also observing the health and social decline of my friends who worked late evenings and weekends.

Engaging in activities you enjoy and that bring you fulfillment provide you with energy and drive when you are working, to be more productive. This way you can get more done then just say someone who is burnt out and poor in health. The secret to balance is about quality not quantity.

5. I set up my week. 

In order to stay focused and on track with your goals, it’s important to do a weekly review and planning session. Every Sunday, I would look at the list of activities I needed to do to keep in balance and schedule them in for the following week. I scheduled in my exercise, meditation, work, personal development, social time, and spiritual growth activities. I then kept to the plan 90%, to allow flexibility for last-minute situations. Having this regular routine and schedule also helped keep me grounded.

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6. I meditated daily.

Meditation brings us the clarity and energy we need to keep steering our lives in a more purposeful direction. It provides us the rest, guidance, and calmness we need to stay balanced. Meditation can also be viewed as a mental shower that washes away our subconscious junk. Just like we wash our physical body daily to clean it, our mind also needs to be cleaned daily.

Although a regular meditation practice took me a few years to develop, the effects have been life changing. By starting my day with meditation, I set my energy and intention for the day to stay focused on my path. A morning meditation practice also helps you handle any challenging situations that may arise that would otherwise through you majorly off balance.

More by this author

Kelly Weiss

Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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