We’re all well-versed in talking about work-life balance. Perhaps we even have certain tactics in place. Maybe it’s making sure you take your lunch break and never eat at your desk. Maybe it’s ensuring you have a routine at the gym. Maybe it’s about turning off your notifications outside of office hours to maintain the separation of work and life.
But is that enough to keep them separate? Does it even work?
It is hard to switch off completely from work and allow yourself the space to take time for yourself. As work weighs overbalance, we start to make concessions.
I’ll go to the gym tomorrow. It’s just until this project is over. I’ll take my two weeks of annual leave later.
But our resilience waivers and we get better at making excuses and concessions; each time work chipping away at the life until the scales flip over. And then what?
Building mindfulness at work can help us understand when those scales are starting to tip before they fall over.
Like with any sickness, realising the warning signs of burning out can help you catch it early. And it comes down to listening to yourself, giving yourself the time to breathe amidst the stress and hustle.
We get used to being ‘yes’ people at work – always saying yes to taking on a new project or new client. Much of the time it’s so we can prove ourselves at work, impress the boss, work towards our next promotion or next opportunity. We are always working in the service of a future payoff, but where does that leave time for us?
We are all committed to this idea of hustling and being a boss, leaving us little room to let our minds and emotional strength to catch up. But without it, we can start to lose the joys of life, throwing our work out of whack as well.
For me, it took tipping the scales back over – to prioritise life over work.
I had followed every step in the school-university-internship-job pathway that I was supposed to. I even felt lucky that I had found a job that I felt was stimulating and exciting. I enjoyed the challenge, the hustle, even the thrill of being busy but ending the day having completed everything – even if it meant ending it way past office hours.
But staring down the barrel of a lifetime working the hustle, feeling like I would always just be chasing the next promotion was a scary thought. And when I decided to quit my job to travel for a year, it felt like a massive weight was lifted off me. But I had always believed it would just be a little while.
What started as a sabbatical through Southeast Asia quickly turned into a paradigm-shifting experience. I had the space to pursue hobbies. I was exposed to people who had turned these hobbies into passion projects – these digital nomads. Albeit, I was a little in awe of the simplicity of a life sipping coconuts by the beach during a work break.
But more importantly, I was listening solely to myself. I listened to my body – allowed myself to sleep, had time to exercise in the morning because I wasn’t rushing to work. I listened to my brain – riding through a productivity wave or realising when I wasn’t productive and would end up wasting more time pushing paper around in the semblance of work. I listened to my mind – allowing myself to take a breath and meditate.
For the first time, I felt like I had space to breathe; and I was never more productive.
Nine months later, I’m still on the road, currently working remotely from Spain. I set my hours based on my productivity cycles. I take on work that I know I am passionate about and will drive greater creativity. I give myself time to relax in a moment, check myself, do what it is that I need to do to best prepare me for work and for life.
This is not to say that everyone needs to quit their jobs, escape to the other side of the world, just to rebalance their work and life.
In fact, I’ve caught myself a few times ‘life-ing’ more than I’ve worked or working more to compensate for the immense amount of life I get to experience while traveling.
And I’ll be perfectly honest, it hasn’t always been easy. The fear and overhanging FOMO can often be debilitating and make me question if I’m cut out for this lifestyle. In fact, it’s what brought me first to Yoga with Bow, working with Marjolaine to accept this new lifestyle and realise the potential it has to restore balance in my life.
But what it reminds us is that it’s not as simple as cutting our days in half by the hours that are work or that are life. These lines will inevitably blur and tip out of balance – even as a digital nomad. It’s about giving one the space to understand your own needs and realising how that can affect and improve your work.
If the space you need ends up being a few oceans away like mine, look me up!