A wise man named Socrates once said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” So, whether your time is filled with work obligations, furthering your education, taking care of children, running errands, exercising, or social dinners, the fact of the matter is that you’re busy. In our culture, we seem to take pride in the fact that we’re constantly busy and treat overworking as a badge of honor. But constantly having your schedule filled, being overwhelmed, on-the-go, tired, and stressed is detrimental to one’s life and wellbeing.
We’ve all rationalized we’re just doing what we need to do to get this one project finished, even if it means picking up a coworker’s slack, working over on the weekends, fueling up on sugar and caffeine to get us through, etc. And we often give in to the misguided belief that to be successful in work and life means putting in the face time at the office, keeping up the social engagements, and never saying “no.” But have you ever stopped to think about why you have convinced yourself that being busy equals success? And maybe stopping to recharge might in fact make you more productive and prevent future burnout?
The cold, hard truth is that it’s difficult to stop and just be for a while, to stop the madness and rush of a busy life. It’s just not easy, so we often choose to fill our time with activities to avoid the discomfort of solitude. But just as we’ve trained ourselves to be busy, we can train ourselves to take time to stop and recharge, and work to find balance and prevent stress-induced deterioration of our mind and body. Finding a personal balance between work and life does not always involve yoga and meditation, although these activities are highly recommended. You can start the transition slowly with some of these simple changes:
- Get six to eight hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep by itself has serious health implications, not to mention combining it with high levels of stress. And the fact of the matter is that you can’t catch up on sleep and you can’t “sleep when you’re dead.” Repeated lack of sleep will change your circadian rhythm, and it’s like trying to turn the Titanic around to get your body back in balance.
- Make time in the morning to eat breakfast at home. Get up 20 minutes earlier and you won’t waste 15-30 minutes once you arrive making your oatmeal or poptarts in the breakroom and inhaling them at your desk while half-gazing at email. The bottom line is you’ll use those 15-30 minutes more productively and you’ll have taken some time to recharge each morning. Plus, you’ll already be alert once you arrive at the office and not suffering from “I haven’t had my coffee yet so don’t bother me” syndrome. No one likes that grouchy person.
- Take back control of your schedule. First, recognize the fact that you fill your schedule. Yes, you…you fill your schedule and you’re the one in control of your schedule. Identify your top three or four priorities in your life, write them down, stick them on the fridge or your computer screen, and start saying “maybe” or “no” to anything that’s not a priority. Warning: People might begin to think you’re flakey until you explain that you’re ensuring you have time for yourself. Remember, you do not have to be everything to everyone.
- Get outside at lunch. Take your full lunch hour. Take your lunch outside if you can, or eat for fifteen minutes at your desk (not looking at your emails!) or in your breakroom and then go take a walk. Remember all those magazines and books you want to read? Your lunch hour is a great time to catch up on those, too. Just get out of the office every day!
- Leave the office by 5 p.m. What this really means is take back your evenings. You can’t make time for yourself if you’re always in the office. Once you make your evenings free, you can make time to exercise, spend that time with your loved ones, or do absolutely nothing (it feels so good sometimes!). If you find you are filling up your evenings with commitments and start feeling anxious and depleted, repeat #3.
There are going to be days when you have to work through lunch or weeks when you have something on your calendar every night and you have no idea how it happened. That’s okay. The goal is to be aware of how busy you are and start attempting to control it. You have to constantly work to keep work and life balanced as the sense of balance itself is ever changing. So, when you have a crazy, busy day, just make sure to make time the next day to recharge. And that might mean cancelling and rescheduling a lunch date with a friend. Yeah, they might think you’re flakey, but remember your priorities. Number one should be the health of both your body and mind, because if you don’t take care of those, where will you live?
Author: Alyssa A. Pfennig, CAE, RYT
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).