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The Need for Work/Life Balance

The Need for Work/Life Balance


    Do you work over 40 hours a week and still feel like you can’t get everything done? We have all been there. You are sitting at your desk saying…

    “If I just could work 3 more hours today, or 10 more hours this week I could get all this work done.”

    Then you sit there hour after hour, day after day and the work is still there, but you are more stressed out because your productivity has gotten even worse. Why, you wonder, is this happening?

    We all think the solution is to just work more hours. While this sometimes works in the short term, it can have dire consequences in the long run. The problem with such long hours of focused concentration is the burnout that we have all experienced at one time or another. Especially if you are a freelancer, you have to be extra conscious of how you spend your time and you can’t afford to make these mistakes. You don’t have the security of a regular job – if you are not putting in the time, you are not getting paid. However, at the same time you don’t want overwork yourself up to the point where you are burned out.

    Balance of uptime and downtime

    We all need to strike a balance between our work lives and our personal lives. It is far better to have eight hours of productive, focused work than 16 hours of unfocused staring at the screen. As much as we would like to think that we can work 24/7 if we just put our minds to it – we can’t. Balance in your life means you are well rested, you don’t feel the need for coffee or stimulants to keep you going and you are able to focus on your own. You will generally feel everything is doable and you don’t have any excessive stress.

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    When we talk about balance in our lives we are talking about the proportions of uptime and downtime in our daily routine. Uptime is anything that requires you to think. This is what we all do when we are “working.” These are traditionally “left brain” activities such as processing emails, taking notes and analyzing information.

    Downtime is anything you consider “fun” and does not require a lot of conscious thought. However, this need for balance can be a subjective idea. One person’s downtime could be another’s work drudgery and vice versa.

    Switch it up

    It is important to actively schedule breaks into our work day. Make sure they are short periods of true mental disengagement. Professional athletes call this performing “dissociative activities.” They know they need to balance periods of extreme concentration with a completely different activity. If you could see the locker rooms of many pro athletes during breaks on practice days, you would see them playing video games or watching movies. Even though their bodies are still clad in their uniforms their brains are completely removed from the previous tasks and are completely focused on something else.

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    These activities may seem to us to be mindless and without real purpose. You may think playing a short computer game on your computer during work hours when you have a 10 minute break is not a good use of your time, but it is the changing of thought patterns that is exactly what your neural pathways need.

    When we are trying to insert these types of activities into our daily personal lives we can do things in our off hours such as getting a massage, catching up with friends, shopping or learning a new skill. Using the right side of the brain in creative pursuits such as art can be tremendously relaxing for this very reason.

    The need for balance varies from person to person and depends on your attention span. Find out how much balance you need. During the work day, experiment on small breaks at different times and find what works best for you. Most people need 15 minutes of rest every 90 minutes of work in a day, and at least one day a week, and one week a quarter off. When you discover the pattern of breaks and rest that allows you to remain focused and productive you will have reduced your stress level and you will have more consistency in your daily routines. This self-management tip is key for your personal success and I hope that you will incorporate this into your life.

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    (Photo credit: Scales with Work and Life via Shutterstock)

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    How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

    How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

    Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

    But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

    Sight – Visual Stimulation

    The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

    1. Maximize your exposure to light.

    Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

    Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

    2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

    Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

    Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

    Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

    3. Take note of your environment.

    Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

    By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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    Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

    What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

    4. Engage in conversation.

    Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

    Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

    Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

    Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

    5. Listen to upbeat music.

    Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

    Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

    Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

    If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

    6. Work your nose.

    Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

    If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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    Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

    Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

    If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

    7. Have a good breakfast.

    Start off with the most important meal of the day.

    Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

    Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

    Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

    20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

    8. Drink lots of water.

    Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

    So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

    How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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    Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

    3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

    9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

    Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

    Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

    Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

    25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

    Touch – Tactile Stimulation

    Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

    10. Splash cold water on your face.

    Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

    This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

    5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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    11. Use acupressure.

    Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

    Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

    12. Get moving.

    Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

    And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

    You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

    Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

    Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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