I was scrolling through Pinterest at the end of last year, looking for some inspiration to make me feel more content, more balanced, and I stumbled upon this quote:
‘You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do’.
This struck a chord within me as I have never been able to find the elusive work-life balance everyone keeps talking about. Instead, I tend to jump from one extreme to the next, never quite finding that middle ground between ambition (a love to create something and to have something to strive for) and the much-needed down time required to bond with my loved ones, to find a sense of inner peace and joy.
Being a Social Media Manager and Publisher, I am forever in front of some screen, whether it’s my laptop, tablet or phone, and like the internet, I am always on, always accessible, meaning I am always working. Even during periods of relaxation, when I am spending some much needed time bonding with my family, I continuously find myself taking pretty photos for my next Instagram post, instead of interacting with my son (and it is me doing this, not “the boss” interfering with my work life balance). This realisation irks me and after some soul searching and discussing the various options on how to find a way to achieve this balance and to create an inner sense of happiness, with my good friend Tanya, I finally achieved some insight and a way (or 10 to be exact) in which a work-life balance in our current technology driven, always on, world can be achieved.
1. Learn to differentiate between ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-care’
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Let’s face it, nobody likes a selfish person. Nobody likes to be surrounded by someone who’s only interested in themselves. This is not a good trait in any environment, whether at work or within a family or circle of friends. A person who acknowledges that they need to take care of themselves, before they can take care of others, is however not selfish – this person practices self-care.
2. Find out what balance and ultimately happiness means – to you
It is important to practice introspection, to find out what is important to you as a person. What makes you happy, what brings you joy? And once you know the answer, do it! Taking care of yourself does not mean you have to quit your job and travel the world. What it means however is that you can do a better job at work, and at home, once you are better taken care of. Happiness fuels us, so define it and actively work towards it.
3. Stop the guilt and set your boundaries
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We have all felt it, “Where were you this weekend?” , “Why could I not reach you last night?” We live in a digital age and era and letting a client down because you were not available during an after hour time of crises, can ride the guilt train. Though some of these may be valid feelings, it is not “normal” to expect that you will always be available. Once you know the difference between being selfish and self aware, and you know, deep within yourself, that you are doing certain things (whether it is working more, or living more) which make you happy and that these things are not selfish but rather that you are simply taking your own needs, wants, wishes and dreams into consideration within the bigger picture of your surroundings, then there really is no need to feel guilty. So stop it!
Set your boundaries and stick to it. No one comes out with a manual on do’s and don’ts- if you have written your manual on how you wish to be approached , you need to start implementing and reinforcing it. Communicating these boundaries may mean speaking to your boss, or if you are self employed, it may mean saying NO to your habitual behaviour, like those “instagram on the move pictures” I spoke about. It may even mean getting a dual sim phone that you can switch off after hours (but who does that, right?). It takes 21 days to break a habit- I challenge you to try it.
4. Take some ‘time out’
Now, once your boundaries are set, take some time out of every day to simply ‘be’. Yes, this means that you need to switch off your phone, your laptop, your tablet and your T.V. Take this time to reflect on what it is you need to do today, take this time to center yourself and take this time to prioritise your time. The online world is designed to distract, take time out to make sure you stay focused.
5. Prioritise what is important over what is urgent
Stop leaving things to the last minute and make a list of important things to do every day. Do not fall into the cycle of putting out fires the whole time.
6. Take care of yourself physically
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Part of taking care of yourself is taking care of your body. A healthy body creates a healthy attitude and a healthy life (both physically and mentally). Eat healthy and do some exercise! A practical way of implementing this is a lunchtime exercise routine. According to the research 20 minutes most days of the week is already effective in handling stress.
7. Spend quality time with your loved ones
Have you noticed how much better your relationships become once you start giving people your undivided attention? Although it is often difficult to do this, we need to prioritise at least some time daily for our loved ones; time not spent in front of the TV or a smartphone or tablet, but time spent actually interacting. We need to spend some time talking, instead of instant messaging on Slack or Skype. Not only will this benefit the overall connection between colleagues, friends and family, this undistracted “time in” time will benefit your own well-being.
8. Share your joy and pay it forward
Now that you’re semi-sorted, do something good for someone else, whether it’s a kind word, a smile, or helping those less fortunate. Whatever it is, share kindness, joy and happiness with the rest of the world, these feelings are infectious and so good, not only for society as a whole, but for ourselves as well.
9. Connect with nature
Spend time outdoors, enjoying and relishing in nature. This does not have to mean the same thing to everyone – some might do this by camping, others like indulging in a braai for example. For me, this means spending time near water, specifically waterfalls.
10. Be spiritual
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Grant Welsh mentions in his studies that one of the eight characteristics well-balanced, happy people share, is that they all seem to practise some form of spirituality. Spend time tending to your spiritual being, whether this means meditating or prayer or simple reflections to you. A healthy soul, a healthy body and a healthy mind go hand in hand after all.
I hope these 10 tips help you as much as they have helped me! Now go out and find that inner happiness so integral in a balanced life and above all, choose to be happy.
About the author: Alexa is an adventurous mommy blogger blogging about family related activities excursions and inspirations at Things To Do With Kids. Their website, app, magazine and blog aims to enrich the lives of families by making family time fun time.