“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.”
“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.”
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
Maintaining a balance in life is perhaps harder today than ever. Demands in school or at work can push down on you. Information is flooding like a never-ending river into life. The opportunities to explore different things have never been so abundant.
If you don’t set limits and work in a balanced way you can become drained, overworked and in the end even burn out for quite some time.
So what can you do about this serious challenge? Well, I do not have all the answers.
But I have some. I have found a couple of things that work well for me. If I do not do them regularly I tend to become cranky, feel drained and my thoughts tend to become more pessimistic. But when I stick with these habits – which is fortunately most of the time by now – I can maintain a balance that allows me to do good work and feel good.
1. Set your clear boundaries for the day.
This is extremely important, at least for me. I have to have limits to properly balance work with relaxation.
So I do not work after 7 o clock in the evenings. I do not work before 8 o clock in the morning.
I also recommend finding a balance within the work hours. Take breaks during your day to stay sharp and to have energy for the evenings and weekends too. I usually work for about 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break per hour. During that break I get away from the computer and do something different like going out for fresh air, eating something or watching half an episode of the Simpsons.
I could work more each day. But working without breaks except for lunch tends to make the quality of my work to suffer pretty quickly. You may not able to take breaks like that at your job, but take the breaks you can where you are.
Since I work from home it can in its own way be hard to keep away from working further into the evening. There is no office or school to leave.
Since I have the fortune to have two computers I use the one I am writing on right now for work. It is powered down by 7 o clock or earlier. And then it stays shut off until the next morning. This way I draw a boundary that helps me to stick to my work schedule for about 95% of the time.
2. Do not work on weekends.
I try to stay away from the usual impressions and routines during the weekend. I usually take one media- and internet free day. I rarely check my emails on Saturdays or Sundays.
Instead I spend time with my girlfriend, friends, family, a good book or movie or I do some other fun activity.
This relaxes and recharges me. By having strict limits like I have described so far in this article and by doing different activates during the rest periods compared to the work periods I am being kind to myself and so I can most often avoid the grey zone.
When you are in the grey zone you are basically thinking and worrying about work when you are at home or you having a day off. Or you think about your home life and challenges there when you are at work.
Avoid the grey zone. It sucks the life out of you.
3. Handle the 3 fundamentals of energy in a good way.
If you have read any of my books you have probably heard about these 3 fundamentals. They are quite obvious but if you manage them well then life and work become a lot easier and lighter to handle.
The three fundamentals are: getting enough sleep, eating well and getting enough exercise.
If I do not eat well or get enough exercise in week I tend to become more tense and worried. I have less energy. I find it harder to make decisions and to take action.
If I do not get enough sleep I feel more stressed, thinking clearly becomes harder and negative thoughts tend to pop up more frequently in my head.
Sticking with the two first tips in this article can help you to get more sleep because it is easier to get sleep well when you are not stuck in the grey zone. Getting your regular exercise – walks to and from work or school is a simple way to get more movement and fresh air into your life – does in my experience also help with getting quality sleep.
So be honest with yourself and take a look at how you are managing your own three fundamentals. If you find something you want to improve then take a small action to get that ball rolling today.
4. Listen to yourself.
When you become more irritable, start to feel drained, tired and creativity plummets listen to that. Do not plod on straight into the brick wall.
Instead, schedule more time to take care of yourself. Instead of running off with your regular routine after school or work, take the time you have for yourself and spend much of it on yourself. Just stay in bed with a book for the evening. Or go out for quiet walk in nature. Do something you know relaxes and recharges you.
No one will reward you for running into that wall and feeling even worse or even becoming burned out. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself and prioritize your health to be able to continue to give value to your world in the way you do at work and in your personal relationships.
5. Ask yourself questions that bring clarity to your work.
Regularly reevaluate how you are working.
One good way to do so is to ask yourself questions that bring you clarity, help you focus on the most important things and perhaps to find a new and healthier perspective. Questions that snap you out of busy work, checking your email for the tenth time today and that make you pause for a second and look at how you spend your life.
- Will doing this matter 5 years from now? Or 5 months from now? Or even 5 weeks from now?
- Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal?
- Why am I doing this?
- What are my top 4 priorities in life? How am I balancing them in my life right now? What is one thing I can do to find a healthier balance in how I spend my time and energy?
As always, you do not have do any of these things perfectly. I don’t. But by taking small steps, by increasing the percentage of time when you do the right thing or take the more positive action your life will change for the better.
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