Work-Life Balance: Creating A Happy and Productive Daily Routine
originally published on HerAfter.com
Ours is a society and generation obsessive about the work-hard-hustle-get-shit-done attitude. It’s new. It’s trendy. It’s everywhere: on coffee mugs, punctuating Pinterest boards, even framed into office wall decor. But some days, the mere idea of being that relentless about the rise-and-grind is just too much, and no amount of gold glitter font will change that.
Thankfully, a lifestyle in which your physical, mental and emotional needs are met all while being motivational to help reach your goals has less to do with being ‘addicted to the hustle’, and more to do with simply following your heart, and trusting yourself.
To truly want to create a new daily routine that feeds your mind and heart, leaves you feeling satisfied, and fits in activities that help you be your absolute best (exercise, study, eating well), just be concerned with giving yourself positive joy. When I say ‘positive joy’, I’m talking about the kind of joy that helps you be a better person, a better version of you for both yourself and for people in your life. This is not the kind of joy you get from vegging on the couch for a marathon of reality shows. Positive joy is the kind of joy that comes when curiosity is indulged, when imagination is challenged and explored. With that kind of joy experience daily, you’ll realize that a day filled with soul-satisfying activities can be as productive as it is satisfying, all without guilt of your get-shit-done coffee mug.
Work Life Balance : Fitting it All in Each Day
My every weekday starts the same: exercise between 6:00–7:00am, then touching base with my passion projects before jumping into a full work day. Then I come home to reading, drinking good red wine, and watching documentaries about creativity, or some other subject that inspires me (if you haven’t, check out Chef’s Table on Netflix, by far the VOD’s best documentary show). Sometimes I’ll dictate a podcast for week’s article, or study French language tapes. On weekends, you’ll find me at the library studying great writers, philosophers, and psychology or cooking magazines. In the last four years, Christmas was the only day I didn’t write something, study something, or spend a few hours in work on my personal and professional projects. It sounds like a lot of work that would drain me, but this lifestyle does the opposite: it fuels me.
The reason it’s not exhausting is because these activities help to create a recurring cycle of energy and interest: The morning workout gives me more energy for my workday and helps organize concepts for the upcoming articles you read here. The time at the library gives me resources and inspiration for working later, and keeps me sharp. The evening studying makes me enjoy my true leisure time with my partner more deeply. They feed into each other, helping propel each activity more, like a car engine that keeps the battery powered by actually running the vehicle. So at the end of the day, even if tired, I feel satisfied, and excited for more the next day.
The opposite sentiment is true when my routine slips, and I skip the morning workout and come home to laze in front of the couch. Sometimes, being lazy and ignoring your own potential is even more exhausting than just fully realizing and experimenting with your own capabilities. You might know that to be true if you leave your day job feeling inexplicably exhausted, yet also as if you didn’t actually do anything all day.
We talked last week about tapping into creativity, but there’s more building up a fulfilling lifestyle than just making time to be creative. Thankfully, the work falls on life and on it’s magical ability to balance, and not on you. I encourage you not to put upon yourself the unbearable pressure of believing you have to know exactly how and when and why to change your whole life. Instead, embrace many small changes that you can implement right now. Over time, those positive habits and changes would feed into each other and reward you on multiple levels.
Get Rid of What Doesn’t Serve You
Some activities and habits can be deceiving: they seem to bring you joy, but in the long term only bring you more stress. For example, coming home from work and plopping yourself on the couch for a few hours might appear to be the highlight of your day, a time of decompression to give your mind a rest. But is it really helping you de-stress? Is it making you feel satisfied, inspired and excited for what’s to come? Is it serving to help prepare you for the next step in your life? Is it fostering your intellect, creativity and awareness so that you may reach toward a personal or professional goal you have? If the answer is no, it’s time to end such routines.
Take a look at all the activities you partake in a given day. Make a list of them, and write down how each one makes you feel, or why it’s of benefit to you. Some activities, like eating a healthy breakfast or cleaning your house, might not bring you outright happiness, but they are beneficial in that they make you feel energized, productive, and give you a sense of order and peace. There will be activities that are necessary, and aren’t exactly pleasant, but serve your greater good.
If there’s a daily activity that does not bring you a deep sense of satisfaction nor serves your greater good, get rid of it. Then, replace it’s time slot with something that does bring you joy and serves your greater good. What you replace it with does not need to be something obligatory, like another household chore. Instead, replace it with something that feeds you…
Make Time for What Matters
In our rise-and-grind society, we often take for granted how important it is to make time to enjoy the little things. A life filled with small joys will bring great satisfaction. It’s poisonous to think that if we just fill every moment of our day with getting sh*t done like our office coffee mug tells us to, then we’ll reach our goals and be happy. At the end of that kind of life, you’ll look back and wish you’d spent more of those office hours outside.
So as you create a healthier and happier routine that fosters your best self, don’t try to trim the fat so closely that you lose all the flavor of life. Make sure you diligently and confidently set aside time to simply read a book in silence, or drink really good wine without rushing, or anything that can remind you of the magic of this moment. You cannot capitalize on the moment without experiencing it, enjoying it, and understanding it. You can’t do anything with the moment — including being productive in a moment at the office — unless you live in the moment.
The reason I instruct to do this with confidence and diligence is because any amount of guilt will compromise the satisfaction you get. Don’t ever feel guilty about bringing joy to your own life. Just as I explained that my morning workout helps me be a better, more articulate writer, so does my evening glass of wine. Both make me happy, and give me a moment of personal peace, and so both help me do my work better later. So does my Sunday morning breakfast in bed and my after-work dip in the pool. They may not be ticking things off my to-do list, but they are filling my life with moments I can feel happy, let go, and remember how precious it is to be alive.
Own Your Life and Your Routine
One look at Instagram and you might feel like you aren’t fit enough, artistic enough, well traveled enough or rich enough. And it might, temporarily, inspire you to set your alarm a little earlier and run an extra mile on the treadmill. But that routine, and that fictitious lifestyle you see online isn’t your life and isn’t your routine. Your day, your life, and your routine are all in your hands right now, and are within your power. Don’t worry about what all the Instagram stars are doing on their Ibiza vacation, and don’t let it make you feel less-than, unproductive, or unworthy.
Your routine, your day, and ultimately your life are yours, right within your hands as you read this, and you are endowed with the power to embrace them and make them your own. Don’t play comparison games, they are games you are fixed to lose. And whatever you do, never tell yourself that a productive life cannot be filled with simple and happy joys. The more you implement positive joys into your routine that help you be your best, most aware and awake and of service to this world, the more abundantly you’ll be able to celebrate joyously all the moments of your day.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Originally published at herafter.com on August 22, 2016.