The illusive struggle to manage ‘work’ and ‘life’ © Aziz Acharki (Unsplash)

The myth of a ‘work-life balance’ and how to get it right
Are you feeling torn between work and life? Read the three secrets to harmonizing your career and happiness
1 Nov 2023

Although we say “work-life” balance, work and life are not two different entities. The reason why we separated ‘work’ and are trying to balance it with ‘life’ is because we have made:

1. Work = stressful

2. Our working day longer than the time spentfor ourselves or with loved ones.

If this is changed, there will be no need to make an effort to ‘balance’ work with life. How to do that? Here are three secrets:

1. Detach ‘work’ from stress

Work doesn’t have to be stressful if you use these hacks:

I. Use both hemispheres of your brain when at work. We often over-utilize either side of the brain depending on the nature of the work we do. If your work requires more logic and problem-solving, you use your left brain more than your right. An effective way to balance this is to listen to music or do something creative. If you work in an artistic field, you tend to use your right brain more often. 

In this case, do some logic-driven tasks, some calculations, or maybe look at your finances more often. Meditation and meditative practices help with whole-brain synchronization and thus help reduce stress, enhance memory, and boost creativity. Having a mid-day meditation (ideally before lunch) can be quite effective and helpful to recharge you for the rest of the day.

II. Spend time with nature even when you are at work. Continuous work without breaks can take a toll on our bodies. Whenever possible, take a ten minute stroll in the nearby park. If your work doesn’t allow this, even taking a glimpse at trees out of a window could serve as a good detox.

III. Avoid conflict at work. If there are conflicting situations, be mindful of being kind, compassionate and helpful. Managing your mind and how you feel is the topmost priority. Don’t let a tiny issue disturb your poise. Practice showing gratitude and serving selflessly. It pays off in countless ways!

2. Manage time better

Less time wasted means you have more time to do the things you need and want to do. This can be used to spend with yourself or your loved ones. Here are a few ways you can manage your time better:

I. Eliminate junk tasks off the calendar: identify and avoid activities that do not contribute to your goals, such as checking social media, attending to distracting notifications, browsing the internet, or attending unnecessary meetings.

II. Say ‘no’ skillfully: this is when you are asked or offered something that does not align with your priorities or goals. This means being clear about your reasons and values for saying no, being polite and respectful but firm and assertive, offering an alternative or a compromise if possible, explaining the benefits or consequences of saying no and avoiding guilt-tripping or apologizing excessively. If you do this right, it can save you a ton of time.

III. Use time blocking with dead spaces: divide your day into blocks of time, each dedicated to a specific task or activity based on your productivity at that time of the day. Include dead spaces: time for yourself, where you can simply recharge or complete tasks that spill over. This can help you prevent burnout, improve your mental health, and boost your creativity and productivity.

These strategies will help you protect your time and energy, and help you avoid overcommitment, resentment, or regret that can affect your well-being or relationships.

3. Make your well-being a priority

Life is like riding a bike. You need to both steer and drive in the right direction with the correct fuel to reach your desired destination. The steering refers to the goals in your life and the fuel is your well-being (physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual).

Many of us aspire towards a larger vision, whether it is for ourselves or the global community. We have direction but we often forget to take care of ourselves and our health as we pursue our goals.

The dark side of overworking

Overworking can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, insomnia, and other chronic conditions. According to a study by Harvard Business School, working long hours can reduce your ability to generate novel ideas and solutions. Working under high pressure can also impair your cognitive flexibility and divergent thinking. So, by overworking, we are not only failing to work at our optimum capacity but are also damaging our health and our capacity to work.

We should enjoy the journey of reaching our goals, not just the destination. Mental clarity through compartmentalizing work and life will naturally result in a more balanced lifestyle.

With our well-being as a priority, we will naturally want to devote time to exercise, sleep, yoga, meditation, replenish our resources, and spend quality time with loved ones.

In a nutshell

The formula is easy: enjoy your work, manage your time well, and prioritize your well-being. Then, you can experience life at its best, with no more stress about ‘balancing’ it.

* Vedant Kulkarni is an International Yoga Master, recognized and accredited by the Government of India.
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