There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of, Work to live, don’t live to work… Don’t quote me, and I don’t know where this originates from but it brings up an interesting line of thought. many people actually ENJOY living to work. Sensei used to say that if he genuinely enjoys what he’s doing, then it isn’t work. And if he gets paid for doing what he enjoys, then it’s icing on the cake. And that can be a beautiful thing. But it’s important to recognize that one needs to find a proper balance.
Most people refer to it as “work/life balance,” because it rolls off the tongue a little better. But I revered it to “life/work balance” in the title, because life should always come first. Even if it doesn’t care about your plans. And once again, I digress… Modern life no longer lets you get away with living life COMPLETELY off the grid and without a source of income and social resources. So for the most part, we need to make our peace with the fact that one way or another, you gotta get a job! (I hear my dad’s voice, booming in my head!)
There are no doubt some contrarians out there, who would argue that they know someone who spent their lives living in a cabin in the woods, off the grid and never had a need for money. I have to admit that such a life holds some appeal, but I would never survive since I require technology such as my insulin pump and medicine to go along with it. Eventually, these off-the-grid folks will need money in some way, shape or form in order to get treatment for grievous injuries or illnesses. But that’s hardly the point of today’s post.
The point is, you need to strike the correct balance between your work life and your home life. Depending on what you do for work, this can be superbly easy. You clock in, do your work and clock out. You may not need to think about work while you’re at home. But if you allow exhaustion and lack of motivation FROM work keep you from enjoying the aspects of life, then you still haven’t struck the right balance. You need to be able to enjoy your down time. AND you need to know how to “shut off” the work part of your brain. If you’re doing a puzzle with your wife but thinking of that proposal you need to finish writing, then you’re on the wrong track.
I can admit to being guilty of this, as my previous career showed me. Even when I was home, I was always “on duty,” unable to turn my mind off, sleep properly or enjoy my down time to its fullest extent. It can be harmful, and your loved ones can easily come to resent this behaviour, if left unchecked. So I guess the question is, what can you do to ensure that you find this proper balance? And how can you ensure that you maintain it? Lucky for you, I’m going to share some thoughts on that!
Have a routine. This is the spice of modern life, but most people don’t necessarily understand JUST how important it is. Having a specific routine, first thing in the morning can get your mind accustomed to the fact that you need to get moving. Whether you choose to start by sipping that first coffee and reading the paper or you prefer to shower, shave (for us guys), get dressed and wolf down that day-starting batch of carbs, staying consistent on work days will help you to have some very much-needed “get up and go.” When your work day is done, it’s also important to have a routine, for the opposite reason. It gets you and your body wound down for the night’s sleep ahead.
Do some stuff. This should be common sense, but if you flop down on the couch and do nothing once you get home, you’ll sour your energy, become stagnant and you’ll leave your thoughts open to contemplating the day’s work and potentially the following day. You want to be able to enjoy your free time. Play with your kids. Have a workout or go for a walk. Have a glass of wine and watch a movie. I often hear the siren call of naps and early sleep. But if you get a full night’s sleep anyway, you should work towards maintaining your energy for the awake hours.
Don’t work outside of scheduled hours. Sometimes, our plates can get pretty full and it can get away from us. For those of you committed to the work you do, it can be pretty tempting to bring your work home with you and try to catch up. This is significantly easier with current pandemic restrictions causing many office-based positions to be performed from home anyway. And working at home can feel more comfortable, since you’re among your home and your family. Things may feel less pressured at home, but it isn’t the office and you should save your home time for those things that are not related to work.
The bottom line is that unless you win millions of dollars through the lottery or inherit a fortune, the need to work isn’t going anywhere. And in truth, a job can be a fantastic means of expressing oneself and making a mark on the world. I often like to say that I’d continue working even if I won the lottery because I’d go out of my mind without something to focus my thoughts and skills on. Not to mention that I would potentially drive my wife nuts by being home around the clock. But the reality is that balance is when you clock out and head home at the end of the day, leaving the “work” behind to be picked up again tomorrow. And steer towards the “life.” There’ll always be work to do. But life doesn’t last forever. ☯