According to Maslow’s hierarchy, your needs should be satisfied sequentially. First come the survival needs of food, water and shelter, followed by emotional needs of safety, love, belonging to a group and self-esteem. Going to work earns you money for basic needs and surrounds you with people, thus partially providing for emotional needs.
The next category constitutes mental and creative needs for knowledge, beauty and achieving one’s full potential. Only a well-planned lifestyle with adequate personal time can fulfil these. Working round the clock causes stress, poor health and burnout. Instead, try to achieve a better work-life balance. Here’s how.
Randi Zuckerberg – the sibling of Facebook’s founder – says that one can pick only three things out of work, sleep, family, friends and fitness. It is important to know what really matters to you and to prioritise it. Define the parameters of success in each area you choose and consciously distribute time among multiple goals. Learn to say ‘no’ to people and activities that distract you from your priorities
Draw your clock
Use a diary to track how you spend the hours of your workday as well as on a holiday. Put those hours in different buckets – work, family, chores, fun – and categorise each task into urgent/not urgent and important/not important. Draw a circle with different segments representing each bucket. This is your current life. Now draw new circles to represent your ideal workday and holiday and mark out your desired segments. Work on moving from your current to your ideal clock. Focus on eliminating unimportant tasks and completing important tasks on time.
Look for change
Do not assume that your lifestyle has no scope for improvement. Ask yourself what changes to your routine would improve your balance. Can you schedule client meetings in off-peak hours, so you spend less time in traffic? Can you order groceries online instead of spending an hour in the market? Create habits that ensure good nutrition, sleep and exercise. Build support systems within your family and team that help you out when you need it and enable better time utilisation.
Do not make more than two small changes a week and give yourself time to settle into new routines. Sudden major changes die out quickly. Start with baby steps. Keep at it consistently for three weeks and you have formed a new habit.
Mind and body
If you are constantly stressed, your worklife balance needs fixing. The best way to de-stress is to focus on your body and mind. Daily physical exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which relieve stress. Similarly, meditation, music, a hobby or enjoyable companionship can enable your mind to disengage from stressful thoughts, at least temporarily.
Designate a certain amount of time to ‘unplug’ yourself from your mobile phone and the Internet. These two either keep you hooked to work or to useless activities that prevent you from important activities like getting enough rest, spending quality time with people you connect with, and engaging in things that make you happy and help you relax.
To maximise productivity, add both short and long breaks to your routine. Take five-minute breaks every couple of hours at work or while switching from one task to another. This helps you shift focus and increases your output. Every few months, take a vacation of at least five working days, clubbed with weekends, to rejuvenate yourself.
Face-time at work means the time you spend in direct interactions with or in sight of your manager. As a junior person, schedule daily or weekly interactions with your manager. Use this to give an update on your work and receive instructions. This allows you greater freedom for the rest of the week. If you are the boss, minimise the requirement of face-time for your team members to improve their work-life balance and productivity.
Say ‘no’ to multi-tasking. This can dramatically reduce stress and improve outcomes at work and in your personal life. Draw a rigid boundary around anything that you are currently doing. If you are having dinner with your family switch off all distractions and be there for them. If you are in a team meeting do not look at your cell phone to read e-mails. If your mind is constantly wandering, maybe you should not be on the current task.
One hour a day
Finally, respect yourself. Set aside an hour every day for yourself and respect that time as much as you would respect your manager’s time. Use that hour to build a habit of your choice. This is your daily down time which is sacrosanct, except during emergencies. This time will help you recharge and restore balance.
5 causes of imbalance
- Societal expectations
Society sets unrealistic targets for us, which causes unnecessary stress. As a result, you might experience distress on getting average marks in an exam, not earning enough or failing to fulfi l family obligations. To avoid this, learn to distinguish between social conditioning and your priorities.
- Extreme ambition
Single-minded ambition regarding work comes from internal triggers or from a need for social recognition and success. However, it inevitably leads to hiding failures, avoiding people and ultimately becoming cynical and unhappy. Substitute it with moderated ambition aimed at achieving multiple parallel work and life goals.
- Desperate for perfection
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook show us a false image of the glamorous lives that other people lead. Their lives seem full of impeccable fashion, family, friends, food and fun. If you are seeking total perfection in any area of life, know that it takes time away from other things, leading to greater imbalance and unhappiness.
- Denied depression
Depression and burnout are socially unacceptable weaknesses. As a result of this taboo, these issues are ignored and rarely shared with others. This leads to rapid deterioration without any attempt to address the causes. Recognise them as mental ailments in both yourself and loved ones, and seek therapy or make lifestyle changes as needed.
- One size fits all
In a crowded and competitive world, uniform rules are applied to everyone for the sake of ‘fairness’. In schools everyone studies all subjects at the same pace. Fixed policies at work leave little room for you to control your life. Try to choose a career and employers that fi t your life, not someone else’s.