The Mythical Work/Life Balance
Imagine yourself on a cycle, trying to stand still with legs on the pedals. To keep balance you need to keep moving.
Work/Life balance is such a mythical term. It keeps bouncing around. “I have no work/life balance”, “That company has no work/life balance” and it exists in other forms as well. “My office work eats up my week” , “What is a weekend?” and more. There is a flip side also “There is not much at work, it is boooring”, “There is nothing challenging”, etc.
We are going to focus more on the busy souls and bless them who have time at hand for other stuff in life. Hopefully , something they like and enjoy doing. The following are in no way rules to live by or applicable everywhere. Pick whatever you like?
Boundaries exist for a reason. You walk into a library, hush!. You, walk into your office, work mode activated. Respect it. Enforce it. Don’t let it spill over in home. Similarly keep your home tasks at home.
- Having separate work and home profile on laptop can work wonders. Preferably logout and login and switch modes.
- No trespassing of data. No personal logins on work and vice versa.
Concept of time is tricky for the brain. Imagine a college assignment due two weeks from now. When are we going to complete it? The night before. Now imagine an assignment due tomorrow, when are we going to do it? Tonight.
Remove the concept of working across weekends. The moment you set the deadline as Friday. It is Friday. Entertaining the idea that can you can invest time on weekends, tricks brain in expansion of time. The moment you reset it to something else, it contracts.
When you enter on time plan to leave on time. Plan the day accordingly. That lunch break, that office walk, that chai-sutta break and the water bottle discussions are game changers. Everything is important but the sense of urgency should be there. Once you set a daily deadline. Our brain suddenly fires on all cylinders.
When you walk in your home, remind yourself to keep the office at bay. Unless you are in emergency services nothing can go wrong if you reply to a mail in the morning.
“Beware –little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship” — Benjamin Franklin
Notice your phone, it is not only draining the battery. It is also draining your attention. We are slowly becoming addicted to micro interactions. All hail the dopamine release on like and comments. Is there a notification? “Oh just the credit card people for the 100th time” Mute all social notifications. If anything is urgent you will get a call. Avoid using phone to take mini breaks. Take a walk. Get up and move. Add some steps and give your active brain and eys some rest.
We need to work on increasing our focus time. Killing notifications is the first step.
Identify low yield tasks. More time spent does not mean more productive hours. Aim for high yield tasks
How to identify high yield tasks. Make lists. Top 3 are the high yield tasks. Preferably make them at night before sleeping. Don’t remember it. Just jot it down. Keep your brain cells free.
What questions to ask when making the lists? “If I get x done will it be called a productive day? “
Kill others ruthlessly.
Find focus time and protect it. Mark it in your calendar. Respect others time and help them respect yours. Say no, to the break or ad-hoc tasks you don’t want to take. Remember the deadline we set for ourselves. No one is going to be hurt over the no.
Delegate better. Enable people to take decision on their own.
“ If budget is below X don’t ask me”
“If checklist passes, take the next step”
Find a repetitive task? Automate it , document it, teach it and eliminate your dependency.
Resist the urge to do it yourself. Lot of us see things in immediate landscape. “If I explain this will take me an hour, If I do this may be 15 min”. This kind of situation will lead you to experience “ Déjà vu ”. Thinking long-term helps a lot here. 1 hour today save future x iterations. Saving is not only those interactions but longer uninterrupted focus time plus teaching is the best form of understanding.
Estimation is another pain point. When you under estimate, you are throwing yourself under a lot of pressure. We have chronic problem of thinking of best case scenarios to achieve X. Amazon does it best. Under commits on dates of delivery and delivers before time leaving behind delighted customers.
Please remember, no matter how determined you are willpower is limited. Spend it wisely. Here, shoutout to the companies providing travel service and lunch to employees. Employee is saved from figuring out what to eat and how to reach. They can use that effort elsewhere.
Avoid meetings which can be emails or a slack chat. Always have a clear cut agenda and deadline for a meeting. Excuse yourself when the time is over or help conclude the meeting. Always provide multiple options for setting up a meeting.
Deep Work is a fantastic book on this subject. It covers how to do more while still enjoying the personal time. Another skill to pick up is learning how to learn. Planning an article on the same. Let me know.
Remember end goal is not to become a robot, it is to become more efficient/productive. Stillness is a gift, stop being too busy.