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

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.

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.

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Kelly Weiss

Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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