Balance (series)

Finding Your Inner Zen; How to Realize a Work / Life Balance Part Five

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

So far this series we’ve covered a lot of ground so just to give you a recap the steps we’ve examined are:

 

The Eight Steps To Find Balance At Work

 

  1. Manage expectations and reduce perfectionism
  2. Break up big tasks and set manageable daily goals
  3. Do important and urgent tasks first and prioritize
  4. Focus on one thing at a time
  5. Delegate where possible
  6. Take breaks and eat lunch
  7. Avoid procrastinating
  8. Don’t define yourself by your job performance or status

 

The Eleven Steps To Find Balance At Home

 

  1. Don’t check emails after your contracted hours
  2. Exercise
  3. Have your five a day
  4. Mindfulness meditation
  5. Schedule in one thing to look forward to each day
  6. Have hobbies and interests outside of work
  7. If you have a stressful work day, prioritize relaxing at home

 

This final week in the series we will take a look at steps eight through to eleven in creating more balance at home, including seeing friends and family, living by your own priorities and taking regular vacations throughout the year.

 

Step Eight: Schedule in friends and family

 

It’s important to keep in regular contact with friends and family if you want your relationships to remain strong and healthy. Ultimately we are social beings so it is vital to maintain and nurture our relationships for our sense of belonging, connection and happiness.

 

If you are really busy you can still text, schedule in a call to catch up, or, better yet, a Skype session or face to face meeting. Try to see friends or family weekly to ensure you reap the psychological benefits of having a close network of social support.

 

If you believe your friendships are not the best they could be, please read ‘Why Building Strong Friendships is Important For Our Health’ to discover the 10 key behaviors which will improve them beyond measure.

 

Equally, should you like to develop closer bonds with family you can read ‘The 10 Key Behaviors That Will Ensure Strong Family Bonds Over the Holidays’ (which is applicable no matter what time of year).

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Finding Your Inner Zen; How to Realize a Work / Life Balance Part Four

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we looked at the first five steps of creating a greater balance in your home life, namely:

 

  1. Don’t check emails after your contracted hours
  2. Exercise
  3. Have your five a day
  4. Mindfulness meditation
  5. Schedule in one thing to look forward to each day

 

This week we take a look at steps six and seven, examining the importance of having outside hobbies and interests and prioritizing relaxation.

 

Step Six: Have hobbies and interests outside of work

 

To develop a stronger identity outside of work it is really important to focus on finding hobbies and activities that are unrelated to work, that you can immerse yourself in and that you are passionate about.

 

Playful activities you can engage in include:

 

Spontaneous

 

  • Singing along to one of your favorite songs
  • Dancing
  • Laughing and joking with friends
  • Listening to music
  • Impromptu shopping
  • Taking a walk

 

Non-Spontaneous

 

  • All sports
  • Board games
  • Creating art
  • Arts and crafts
  • Sewing or knitting
  • Karaoke
  • Bowling
  • Going to the cinema
  • Going to a museum or exhibition
  • Going to a concert
  • Going on holiday

 

Ways you can spend some quality alone time include:

 

  • Scenic walks
  • Having a coffee at a cafe and people watching
  • Reading
  • Going to the movies
  • Going to a beautiful restaurant
  • Meditating
  • Listening to music
  • Visualizing
  • Having a long hot bath

 

Creative hobbies and interests include:

 

  • Pottery
  • Sculpting
  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic)
  • Drawing (pencil, pen, pastels, charcoal)
  • Writing non-fiction
  • Creative writing
  • Writing poetry
  • Song writing
  • Singing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Composing music
  • Dancing
  • Acting
  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Card making
  • Calligraphy
  • Scrapbooking
  • Origami and quilling
  • Jewelry making
  • Mosaics (E.g. mirror frames, tables, pots)
  • Cake decorating, baking or cooking

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Finding Your Inner Zen; How to Realize a Work / Life Balance Part Three

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we finished the last five steps in creating greater balance at work, these being:

4. Focus on one thing at a time

5. Delegate where possible

6. Take breaks and eat lunch

7. Avoid procrastinating

8. Don’t define yourself by your job performance or status

 

This week we begin looking at the eleven steps to finding greater balance at home, including not checking work emails and scheduling in one thing to look forward to each day.

 

The Eleven Steps To Find Balance At Home

 

Step One: Don’t check emails after your contracted hours

 

As I mentioned earlier in this series I have ensured that I have not calibrated my phone to receive work emails. I know all too well that if I had this facility on my phone my personal life would suffer. If you can already access work emails out of hours make absolutely sure you no longer look at them out of hours – there is nothing that cannot wait until the next morning!

 

Step Two: Exercise

 

Exercise has not only been proven to improve the health of our hearts and reduce the likelihood of heart disease but it also helps to prevent osteoporosis – a debilitating disease which depletes bone density  and can lead to frequent bone fractures in later life. It has been shown to reduce obesity, reduce the likelihood of diabetes, increase our libido’s, promoting a sexually healthy lifestyle and even and lengthens our life span. Should you need further convincing exercise also helps reduce insomnia, improving our sleep quality, which in turn makes us more emotionally resilient to life’s ups and downs.

 

But the benefits to exercise are more far reaching than just helping to increase our physical health – exercise has been proven to improve our mental and emotional health too! Exercise improves our reasoning ability and memory function and has been shown to reduce the stress hormone Cortisol – proving that through regular exercise we can lower our stress levels. In addition, the endorphin’s exercise releases gives us a considerable positive emotional boost, providing us with an invaluable sense of well being.

 

Step Three: Have your five a day

 

Good nutrition boosts memory, performance and energy, so ensure you are getting enough vegetables and fruit throughout the day – your performance at work and at home will be better and your skin and body will thank you for it!

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Finding Your Inner Zen; How to Realize a Work / Life Balance Part Two

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we looked at the first four steps to creating balance in your work life, these being:

 

  1. Manage expectations and reduce perfectionism
  2. Break up big tasks and set manageable daily goals
  3. Do important and urgent tasks first and prioritize

 

This week we look at the last five steps to finding greater balance at work, including focusing on one thing at a time and tips to avoid procrastinating.

 

Step Four: Focus on one thing at a time

 

Many people believe that multi-tasking is more efficient however this is usually not the case. It can actually take twenty to forty percent longer to finish tasks when we multi-task compared to when we complete these same tasks sequentially. With this in mind it is worth focusing on one thing at a time wherever possible.

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Finding Your Inner Zen; How to Realize a Work / Life Balance Part One

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

As I sit down to write this on my holiday I have just come off of a work call from the girl who is covering me whilst I am away. In all fairness it was my boss who caused her need to call me as he accidentally reprogrammed the door timer which ensures the door automatically locks at the end of the day.

 

I loathe being disturbed in this way on my holiday; immediately I thought of my how I would now have to reprogram it all over again when I returned to work and as a result I was thrust into work mode when I was supposed to be relaxing.

 

Although I work very hard whilst I am at work, I make a point of keeping my work and private life quite separate. Calls like this are quite rare and I have made a point of not syncing my phone with my work emails so I can’t access them when I leave the office.

 

I also have many hobbies and interests which keep my focus elsewhere when I am not working and I always take time to relax if I’ve had a stressful day at work. Despite this though, I recognized that there was room for improvement if I was to ensure I had a better work / life balance.

 

What followed was a great deal of research into how I might better address my work / life balance. Reassuringly I was already doing most of the recommended habits but, rather concerningly, I couldn’t help but feel I was going against the trend towards workaholism that exists in both the UK and US.

 

Indeed, Hamermesh and Stanccanelli cite in ‘Long workweeks and Strange Hours’ (September 2014) that 29.2% of Americans and 25.5% of Britons often work weekends, compared with just 9.6% of the Spanish following suit. The same study revealed that 26.6% of Americans and 18.6% of Britons work evenings, compared to just 6.9% of their Dutch European counterparts. Indeed, Norway was voted by the UN as the happiest place to live in the world with residents typically earning $69,000 ($9,000 more than the average American) and only working thirty five hours a week.

 

In addition, Americans face just ten days paid holiday on average per year, with a further ten public holidays, whilst Britons have a third more time off at twenty days plus eight public holidays, compared with the Spanish having twenty-two days paid leave and a whopping fourteen public holiday days. In light of these statistics is it any wonder that Americans and Britons are finding it increasingly hard to achieve a healthy work / life balance?

 

But beyond the inconvenience there lies a much more sinister side to working longer hours. Stress, anxiety and ultimately burn out can be caused by too much work and no play. Our physical health can be impacted too, with working more causing a higher risk of stroke, type two diabetes and even heart disease in more extreme cases.

 

Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to limit the impact work has on our lives, allowing you to claim back your life outside of work and have more of a healthy equilibrium between work and play. I can testify from personal experience that the steps I share with you throughout this series work and will help you redress the imbalance when your life is burdened by too much emphasis on work.

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