This is a 3 part series on work-life balance. Welcome to Week 2! In week 1 (go here if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet), I talked about how to make sure you have the right job for you. If you’re so unhappy that every Monday morning you need to be pushed out the door (I’ve been there!), go ahead and check it out. Not everyone gets to do something that they’re passionate about or a job that can be considered meaningful and full of purpose; but if it’s sucking the life out of you, it’s wrong!
Work-life balance on your terms. Part 2 – Define your terms
I know what you might say. That I can’t resonate with you because I don’t have a full-time job anymore. But I had one! I went through all the possible phases: life sucking full-time job, enjoyable full-time job, boring-as-f*** full-time job, no job at all, enjoyable part-time job, passion part-time job that pays by the hour, low to no paying passion part-time job. I did it all.
What made a difference, in the end, was defining what I want and going for it.
1. Define your priorities and envision a ridiculously fulfilling life
We usually start considering work-life balance when we have new responsibilities in our lives, and we need to make time in our schedule for them: kids, pets, relationships, hobbies. How does your list look like? Mine goes something like this:
- spend time with Alin and the Beagles
- fitness activities – running, Yoga
- staying healthy
Each of these requires time that I wouldn’t have if I were working every day from 9 to 6 and sometimes more. I would try to get everything in during the weekend, and adding the usual house chores would make me drop dead on Sunday evening. I bet this sounds familiar!
I needed room to breathe, so I imagined the perfect situation and set that as my goal. From there, I started working backwards – what do I need to do, by when and how can I split this into phases?
Take 5 minutes for yourself and close your eyes. Imagine the perfect working day. How does it go? Do you have a quiet morning for yourself, cycle to work, finish all your tasks in 5 hours and then spend the rest of the day with your partner? Or maybe spend the morning with your kid, take them to daycare, and then be a boss at your corporate job for the rest of the day? Or are you writing a blog post on a beach in Hawaii while the bartender keeps bringing you Pina Coladas (oh, yeah!)?
Note: not working at all is not acceptable, you need to do something to get some money in. Unfortunately, they don’t grow on trees (sad face) and even playing the lottery will require some time and effort.
2. Define the rules what will have the quickest impact
Now you have a dream (ok, let’s call it vision or goal). But if it’s as crazy as I asked you to make it, it will take time. However, you can implement little rules throughout the day that will immediately change things for the better. Here are a few examples:
Have a set hour in the day when you’ll stop working no matter what. For me, that’s 5 pm; if you have one in your contract, respect that. Of course, there are always exceptions, but there has to be something pretty damn important for me to stay in the office past 5. Think about it this way: you’re not paid more if you’re doing extra hours (unless you are!?); if deadlines are unreasonable and require you to do overtime, the problem needs to be addressed; who benefits from you staying late to finish that task? Unless you’re in violation of your contract (I always read the contract to see what’s REQUIRED of me), do yourself a favour and set a finish time for work.
No work at home, unless it’s a dedicated work from home day. Don’t bring work and work problems in your environment. Home should be a place to disconnect and reset, so keep it protected from other people’s business. On the same note, no work email on your personal phone. The only work app I have on my phone is Slack, with NO push notifications, so I can check if I have any messages during a work from home day, if I need to be away from the computer for a while.
Commute and lunch time are yours. If you can work on your commute and can count that time towards your working day allowance, you can choose to do so. But most of the time you don’t have enough space or a seat at all, so it’s improbable. You could still do something useful for yourself though: run or cycle, read, study, listen to a podcast. And since you do this twice a day, you get time for yourself. Lunchtime is a great opportunity to take a break and move away from your work. And the best thing you can do is exercise. If you have food packed from home, you have plenty of time to go to a 30min class or quick run, shower and eat.
3. Work on your dream in the background
Because it can be a very different vision, it’s useless for me to give you a blueprint for a plan. All I can suggest is to split it into small goals and work on them, one at a time.
And that’s it for this one. I’ll be back next week with the final piece of the puzzle: productivity. Because if you deliver on time and with good quality, you will never have to work extra hours.