Most of us, most of the time, before the pandemic, did what was needed or necessary to meet the needs of the situation we were in. But now, you may feel unsure, afraid or worried you cannot manage. You may have lost your motivation because you feel you are not coping well.
When this happens, without thinking, you may start overcompensating. That is, you continue doing something you believe would show you are okay. You work harder, longer hours, you keep smiling, even when you are exhausted.
Finding a good work-life balance is more than ever essential for employees and working parents to healthily get through these challenging times. The so-called “boundaryless workplace” has become significantly worse. Our professional inboxes and to-do lists alert us wherever we go, often intruding on our free time.
Even before Covid, some leading corporate perks include in-office dry cleaning, fitness centres, and gourmet restaurants which tempt us to stay longer hours at the expense of our own private time.
Like any state of disequilibrium, the result is stress and fatigue, loss of control and even strained relationships, at home, at work and affecting our social life altogether. Ugh.
And once stuck in this negative spiral, I can easily forget the positive aspects of my family and professional life (the excitement of new challenges, the creation of projects, self-esteem and self-worth) and unconsciously focus on the negative perspectives. The impact an imbalance can have on my profession, my well-being, as well as my family, is of concern to me today.
HOW do you go from Work-Life BLENDING to Work-Life BALANCE?
What are the hurdles?
Below are some of the struggles shared by employees working for an international corporation:
- Too many emails per day and having to check them until late in the evening
- With different time zones, cannot have regular hours with lunch/dinner breaks.
- Too many back-to-back online meetings
- Difficult to prioritize as no direct contact with people, and the objectives of the meeting are not always clear.
- Difficult to refuse a meeting or a call when solicited by email. Not sure of its importance.
- With no commute time (to work, for coffee, for lunch breaks), there are practically no ‘real’ breaks during the day.
Do you recognize some of the above in your daily work life routine? Is the above reflecting your ‘new routine’ and are you feeling stuck?
Indeed, the concept of work-life balance cannot be simply a statement of intent. Daily routines need to be thought out again and practised to balance professional and personal needs, for a healthier and more gratifying life.
Some people like routines, while others avoid it as it represents boredom. As an independent Trainer, I am not a routine person either.
However, during times of high stress, maintaining structure and routine helped me feel more organized and in control. At the beginning of the Pandemic, most of my training was postponed or cancelled, and I had no vision of what was coming. I felt lost and stranded, having to change my work style almost entirely, going from in-person to online training and working from home.
When people don’t have a routine or structure to their day, it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration, and focus. This is exactly how I felt. Thus the challenges listed above can become and are, overwhelming.
One way to get out of this negative cycle is to create some new structure and routines for your day. Starting now. This is what I did, and it certainly helped.
How Do You Create YOUR Routine?
You can start by making a list of simple and small ideas which help you get off your screen, relax, rest, laugh, enjoy your own time, including doing nothing. Many small, simple activities are better than a few complicated ones which you don’t get to do. It can be small exercises such as deep breathing for a few minutes, looking out of the window, taking a bath, singing, gardening, playing with your dog, dancing with your favourite music, petting your cat, talking to your children, calling a friend, painting, walking, etc.
Another place to start with creating a new routine is to set wake-up and bedtimes, as well as meal and activity times. The idea is to create a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day. Of course, your schedule may change depending on the day of the week, but sticking to a basic structure for when you get up, eat, work, do activities, and sleep can help you feel less stressed out and more organized.
Structuring your day also ensures that you accomplish those basic tasks that must be done, which will leave you with the time to schedule other things that you want or need to accomplish.
As an example, this is what I did. I hand-wrote on A4 paper with colored pens and pasted it on my kitchen wall. I also had my teen son do his own. I didn’t always stick to the letter and order; however, it did make me feel better and somehow more ‘secure’. I added specific moments for physical movements and ‘off-screen’ times, which I allowed myself to have without guilt.
Find What Works for You
Is it better to have a structured daily schedule or just a general to-do list for the day? That depends on you. I had both. Mine was a structured daily schedule that outlined activities in specific block times, while you might prefer a loose list of things you need to get done in the day. Just make sure you don’t have a too-long list – which can discourage you. Have 3, for instance, which is doable. If you have high importance and need to get it done on a particular day, then scheduling it into your routine and carving out that time to make sure it gets finished will make you feel better.
In other words, deliberately schedule a specific time to take care of 1 or 2 high-priority tasks. Knowing that you have that time set aside for those tasks will leave you free to focus on using the rest of your time effectively.
What are some other solutions and WHAT can you do? Here are some possible concrete actions which attendees brainstormed during an ‘Empower People’ workshop:
- Have regular ‘I’m not available’ notice on my calendar for breaks
- Avoid responding to ‘chats’ immediately
- Block lunch pauses into the calendar
- Have meetings of 45’/50′ (instead of 60′) and have 10-15 minutes of ‘disconnect’ time between each meeting
- Insert ‘walk & drink’ pauses, or brain breaks every 50 minutes
- Attend some selected meetings with videos off and participate whilst walking outside
- Only attend meetings where your presence is essential and where you have a role to play
- Have a daily 1 hours walking time scheduled
- Stop working in the evening at a fixed time and disconnect
- Have the courage to say no
Don’t feel Guilty – Self-Care is VITAL
- Taking time out to engage in self-care relieves the pressures of everyday life.
- It will reset you to get back to a healthy spot where productivity is once again maximized.
- Spending some time on yourself may ultimately benefit everyone.
- Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more!
- From a physical health perspective, self-care is clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Not practising self-care is suicidal. It may save your marriage, your relationships, your friendships, and your life in general.
It Takes Practice
Just like learning a new skill, and changing well-established habits, starting and sticking to a new routine takes time and practice. So BE KIND TO YOURSELF! If something doesn’t seem to be working, that’s ok. Adapt your schedule to make it work for your needs.
You can ask yourself how you feel throughout the day to learn what times you are the most productive and when you are losing energy and focus. Watch out for the signs (in your body and mind) when you require a mental break. Think about what you might need to feel better and get motivated. You may want to take a break, go for a walk, have a snack, or spend some time working on a hobby. What you lose in time you will gain it back in productivity. Don’t overthink, do it. You’ll feel the difference.
If you feel constantly emotional, sensitive to small triggers, you are probably in need of a good rest or of long and regular ‘Time-Out’s. Read my other blog on ‘How to Deal with Emotions – 4 Steps’ if you want to know more.
If you can’t make progress dealing with stress on your own and you’re feeling stuck — consider asking for help, such as with a coach or a therapist. He or she can help you find strategies and solutions.
You can also join the next Positive Discipline workshop for parents, teachers, or Empower People at the Workplace training.
You will LEARN, get INSPIRED, with a group of motivated participants, and have a support group with whom you can CONNECT.
Interested to know more? Any thoughts on the above? Let me know!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you. Stay well, keep the faith.