— Written by Shubika Bilkha
Whether its skimming the morning newspaper or scrolling through my instagram and twitter feed, or in every session that I enter as a leadership and performance coach, I am inundated with queries on how we solve this eternal dilemma of maintaining the ideal work-life balance?
Having worked in the realm of corporate finance M&A, been an entrepreneur and a managing director, I know this plight all too well. I have personally swallowed the same pill of overachievement and zealousness, having pulled an average of 17-18 hour work days, red eyes and more, for many years of my work life. And there is no doubting the high that the adrenaline rush brings with it.
With stress, anxiety and depression on the rise in our society, it is no wonder that the topic of maintaining a balanced life has become newsworthy.
Whether it is your mental peace of mind, your relationships with others, your productivity, your health by way of blood pressure, heart diseases, lifestyle diseases, hormonal imbalances, high cortisol levels and more, or even just your overall demeanor, satisfaction levels and fulfilment, they are all impacted by a poor work-life balance.
While there are a number of wellness gurus, yoga and meditation experts, life coaches and therapists who serve to guide all of us with videos, memes, excellent seminars and programs, through my work and in my personal experience there is a single ingredient that I believe we first need to manage this internal tussle: a change in mindset or perspective.
The simple question that I ask my clients and we need to ask ourselves then is, how can we become an active participant in our work-life balance story, rather than a victim of our circumstance?
Here are some ways in which we could approach our challenge of maintaining a balanced life to take ownership of our own personal fulfilment:
Stop Making Excuses: Finding a work-life balance, in my experience, is almost like procrastinating on an important task. The more excuses we make for how much we have to do, the less we actually end up doing. Take ownership of the choices you make, look at it through a different lens and get on with actually doing it!
Be Realistic: Managing our own expectations relating to finding a balanced life is equally important. If going to the gym every day is an unrealistic expectation or taking your child out every evening to a new play area is going to be difficult – alter your goal to what is doable. Sometimes projects do come up that need our round the clock time, accept that as a reality. Remember to set SMART goals in the life realm to feel like we are making progress.
Have a direction: In a program that I conduct with executives on ‘The Productivity Challenge’, I have often found that the difficulty is often not about having limited time, but having no goal to help prioritize existing time and tasks. Knowing where you are headed is the best way to focus on what’s most important!
Understand ours and others Drivers: There is no one size fits all when it comes to leading a balanced life. It is essential that we understand our own drivers and motivators to avoid overlooking or giving up what really matters. If we are leading teams or managing people in our lives, it is equally important for us to understand what drives them.
Manage our Time: Poor time and task prioritization and management is often the cause of a lot of stress and anxiety. Once you have stopped with the excuses, understood your drivers and found a direction, adopting an effective time management technique should help keep you in check!
Don’t Perfect Work-Life Balance: A number of my clients’ experience overwhelm because they are trying to ace achieving balance across quadrants in their life. For the perfectionists out there, it is important to make note that this is not a task for a 10/10 score!
Find our Meditative Zone: For someone who struggled to meditate for a number of years, I know this can be difficult for a lot of us. Amidst the daily chaos that is our lives, it is however important for us to find 5-10 minutes of our own meditative space to re-align our energies.
Let Go: Holding on to unproductive thoughts, negative feedback, difficult conversations, overthinking and over-analysing of people, conversations and situations only increases our own anxiety. It is important to compartmentalize, deal and let go of things that impact our positive frame of mind!
Evaluate Yourself: An honest evaluation of what drives us, what we are doing too much of or too little of is important if our goal is to lead a balanced life.
Take a Daily Digital Detox: A simple hack for us digital addicts is to find one hour in the day- could be during dinner with your family, time at the gym, a lunch hour, before bedtime or on your commute home, when we switch off from all digital interventions. Reset, relax and then reconvene for maximum impact!
Next time you find yourself clocking in on the 10th day in a row past 10pm at the office, ask yourself a simple question: If I fast forward my life 30 years, what would I most want to be remembered for? I very much doubt it will be the person who stays at the office post 10pm!
— The author is Partner, EdpowerU – an initiative that focuses on workplace behaviour and personal leadership development
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