Faster is not Necessarily Better
When it comes to being productive, we like to think of ourselves as sprinters – the faster we go, the better it is. But sprinters can only go for a few hundred meters before they burn out. Marathoners, on the other hand, run considerably slower, but they can go on for ages! It’s obvious who covers more ground. Marathoners are experts at managing their energy, sometimes slowing to a walk, because they know that taking rests every now and again, will mean a more successful race overall. Marathoners understand that the winner is decided at the end of the race – in the last few meters – not at the beginning. They conserve and maintain their energy to use right at the very end when it counts the most. Successful marathon runners are the ones who get the balance right – energy output is matched with energy input!
In the same way, the biggest constraint on our productivity, is not the amount of time we have, but how we manage our energy levels. If we want to be successful we need to get our work-life balance right.
Not as easy as it sounds… ever since technology enabled us to work around the clock if we choose to, more and more of us have been doing exactly that – working longer and longer hours. Separating work and personal life has become really difficult for a lot of us.
The concept of balancing your work and personal life seems simple, but can it really be done? Can we have it all, all of the time? The short answer is no!
What is Balance?
The word ‘balance’ means “equal distribution of weight or amount”. It’s unrealistic for most of us to think we can give equal amounts of time to the various areas of our lives. For example, it’s unrealistic to think that an entrepreneur, who is passionate about the new company he has just started, which requires his every attention, will have work-life balance. It’s also unrealistic to think that a mother of a new born baby, requiring her constant care, will have work-life balance.
But does that mean we just give up on work-life balance? Of course not. It’s about reframing and rethinking the concept and making choices.
Rather than thinking of balance as matching the number of work hours with personal time hours, perhaps think of it like the successful marathon runner…. balance is matching energy output with energy input. How do we do that? Here are a few tips…
10 Ways to Bring More Energy into Your Life
Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking is out – focus is in! Your ability to focus and block out distractions is directly related to your level of energy. Every time you switch from one task to another it takes energy to refocus, just as every time you have to suppress the impulse to check your email and refocus on writing your report, you expend valuable energy reserves.
Reframe the idea of ‘downtime’
It’s not ‘wasting time’ if it helps you get the work done! Remember that you have to do the things that feed your energy. If you don’t, you will end up burning out.
Officially schedule ‘me time’ into your calendar
When organizing your day, week or month do not just focus on your ‘to do’ list – but focus on your overall calendar. Schedule, in advance, time alone for reading, meditation, prayer etc. as well as time with your personal trainer, spouse/partner, family and friends. It’s part of ensuring you re-energise yourself.
When prioritizing, focus on overall goals rather than tasks and deadlines
Focusing on tasks and deadlines is stressful and can be overwhelming. Remember to focus on the bigger picture. Why are you doing this? Focusing on your overall purpose helps to eliminate stress and can be motivating.
Knowing your values (link to values poster), vison and purpose will assist you to be aware of your bigger picture.
Clearly define an end to your work day
Set clear boundaries regarding your working hours and then don’t let yourself down. When at work, work, but when you get to the end of your day, disconnect from work so as to ensure you have time for your personal activities.
Never sacrifice sleep
Humans cannot be productive when they are sleep deprived. Studies have clearly shown that the less sleep we have, the more clumsy and irrational we become.
The performance of someone who has been awake for 24 hours is equivalent to that associated with a blood alcohol level 25% more than the current legal UK limit (0.8% / 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood). This makes them seven times more likely to have an accident.
The only way to maintain your energy levels is to ensure enough sleep on a daily basis.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
It goes without saying that if you want to have energy and be at your most productive then you need to be fit and healthy…. you know what to do!
Realize That you Can't do it all
Like the marathon runner who chooses to walk from time to time (even when they are feeling great), work-life balance means making decisions around what you are going to sacrifice, because you can't do it all. If you try to, you will just burn out.
When it comes to work-life balance, understand that ‘having it all’ doesn’t mean having it all, all at once!
Realise there is no ‘right way’ to work-life balance
There is no formula for work-life balance. Everyone has different challenges and responsibilities depending on the phase of life they are in. Recognise that we all need to find our own balance. Sometimes it is more about work-life integration than balance.
Make your choices and let go of the guilt
If you choose not to have balance in your life that’s fine. Understand the consequences, make your choices and let go of the guilt!
Work-life balance should mean that you generally feel healthy, happy, and balanced enough to spend time on the areas that fulfil and energise you. It shouldn’t make you feel bad that you’re not balanced enough every day. Perhaps you can only have it all once you learn how to integrate your work and personal life.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”