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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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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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