Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is committed to “work-life balance”. So much so, that in the attempt to lead by example, he took a whole day off during a work trip to Japan a few weeks ago to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary (Side note by the author: Congrats to the couple!). Yet he caused a national uproar by doing so.
But, let’s be real, is there even such a thing as work-life balance? Or is this maybe just another ambitious idea of us modern day multi-taskers wanting to have it all? Family and career, self-fulfillment and professional recognition – at the end of the day, it’s all life.
Sure, work tends to sit at the top of our priority list. It’s there, not only because it is what we spend most of our time with, but also because it financially supports all the other items on that list. And, ideally, because it makes up a large part of our identity. Now, add modern-day technology to the mix and our tendency to neurotically check our emails, texts, and social updates more frequently than the inside of our fridge and you end up with just a big blur of what’s work and what isn’t.
“You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”
Katie Thurmes, Artifact Uprising Co-founder
So, in a world where most of us tend to find themselves in “always on duty” jobs, how do we establish a healthy balance to allow ourselves some life? Nigel Marsh, author of “Fat, Forty and Fired”, shared his ideas of the perfectly balanced day and how to make it happen in one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking TED talks I’ve watched in a while. Do yourself a favor and absorb this one with your morning coffee today. You won’t regret it.
There’s clearly no one-size fits all approach, but hopefully, Nigel’s inspiration and some of these tips will help you move into the right direction:
1. Do Things That Matter
Throughout our day, we get distracted by all kinds of little things that end up consuming more of your time than we think, without actually being beneficial to any long term goal. Ask yourself: What are the most important goals for your company this year? Or this quarter? Map out the top three and align every to-do list every day according to those goals. If you structure everything you need or want to do at work by aligning it to your top three long-term goals, you’ll find yourself using your energy more efficiently. That same principle applies to your personal bucket list. Use your time every day in a way that reflects what really matters to you to feel more balanced.
2. Establish Your Own Productivity Rhythm
Some of us enjoy starting the day early – others just don’t function in the morning. You need to respect your own boundaries to be your most productive self. Pay attention and start noticing your own patterns. Are you more focused in the evening? Usually, get a creative push in the afternoon? Whatever it may be, you want to attack your daily to-do’s in a way that matches those characteristics to get the most out of your work day.
3. Embrace The Off Button
Pretty much every piece of technology has an off button. Go ahead. Be brave. Use it! It may be the hardest thing to do but it’s worth it. To get started, do it in phases. Maybe just turn your devices on mute at the dinner table. Leave your phone in the car during grocery shopping. When you are on vacation, be on vacation. Books are still a thing and can be very relaxing. They won’t ring at you, believe me. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll gain a different perspective on things. You’ll be able to tackle things a more analytical and less emotional way, if you allow yourself to step back every once in a while. Or maybe you’ll simply appreciate the silence and gain some freedom back you may have totally forgotten about.
4. Find A Non-Work-Related Passion
Without any personal interests or projects outside work, you put yourself at risk of becoming resentful and loosing your own sense of self eventually. You’ll create a dangerous cycle that leads you to only being able to find fulfillment and personal appreciation in your work. While it sounds dedicated to focus on work every breathing minute of your life, it really isn’t a lifestyle. Who are you outside of the office? Find something that makes you get excited about stepping away from your computer and smartphone. This may seem like another thing you’ll need to dedicate time to at first but really you will benefit from it on so many levels. You’ll feel more energized, motivated and expand your horizon beyond the office doors.
“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future.”
Earl Nightingale, American writer