There’s a reason that fables endure. They tend to have practical applications that transcend time and space. For example, the classic Aesop’s tale, The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. This particular fable is especially valuable when we look at ourselves as the goose. Each of us is working to attain success, wealth and happiness in life--we want to churn out golden eggs; but our ability to do so is contingent on how well we can manage the demands placed on us. If we push ourselves too hard, we can destroy our ability to produce.
Reducing stress and creating a sustainable lifestyle requires us to be proactive. Here, then, are Ten Lifehacks for the Ultimate Work-Home Life Balance:
1 - Strategic Planning
Most of us are familiar with the process of strategic planning for our businesses, but we assume everything in our personal lives will go along fine without the help of any formal strategy. Strategic planning, which includes forecasting and documenting goals, is what allows you to focus on details as you move forward with confidence. Your personal strategic plan can include everything you want to develop including education, relationships, finances, fitness and creativity. Having your strategy written down also allows you to see everything you are doing in your life in a single ‘big picture’ view, which will help you quickly spot imbalances.
2 - Outsource
The modern nuclear household combined with the increasingly demanding ‘culture of overworking’ has created an enormous burden for individuals who, by the end of the day, can barely find the time for maintaining their home or doing minor chores. These tasks pile up and add to our stress.
Paying for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s about understanding the value of your own time.
Make a list of your priorities; what are the non-negotiable things that must get done every week or month? Which of those things can you easily do, and which are a struggle? Lawn care, mending, cleaning and organising, even shopping and cooking - there are professionals who can take care of these things for you, leaving you free to focus on the stuff that matters most.
3 - Use Your Commute for Self-Improvement
The average commute time is about 30 minutes each way. In many large cities, it can be double or triple that. It adds up to an enormous amount of time we spend each year sitting in our cars or on public transportation. Using that time for personal development (rather than just scheduling business calls during the commute or zoning out while listening to the news) is a great way to invest in yourself. We often feel as though we put ourselves last, so why not listen to audiobooks, learn a new language, practice public speaking or work on that book you’ve been meaning to write?
4 - Leverage Traditions to Maintain Relationships
At the end of a long day it can be difficult to find time and energy to reconnect with your partner and children. Traditions and rituals can make it easier to pick up where you left off with them and maintain a sense of continuous intimacy with your family. Examples of family traditions are: reading together before bed, dinnertime report (where everyone shares something about their day), a weekly TV show everyone watches together, or a weekly game night. Figure out what works for your family and then make it a priority - no phones or computers. Focus on quality time over quantity, and make sure everyone has an equal share in designing and participating in these traditions.
5 - Use Technology...to Simplify
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier but it can actually do the reverse. Things can seem far more complicated now that we have so many “helpful tools” to organise our lives. While it’s tempting to download and commit to every new app or buy each new device that shows up on the market, just adding more technology is not the answer. It’s important to vet the technologies we adopt to make sure they are going to fit seamlessly into our existing processes and help us make things easier. Ask yourself:
- Will there be a learning curve? If so, how long will it take until I see the benefits from using it?
- Will this work with my existing technologies & systems?
- Is this something I will feasibly use, or is this an aspirational purchase?
- Does using this new product or service require an additional commitment of my time and money?
6 - Invest in Community
There’s a reason that humans evolved in tribes and then into societies. Economy of scale applies to families and communities. Sharing resources can make it easier for everyone to get more done. When you invest your time in a community, you suddenly have a network of people who can help you manage things like picking up and dropping off kids and cooperative projects like gardening, planning celebrations, pet care, and other things that can lighten the load for everyone. Whether you’re part of a local group, a neighbourhood association, or have another community based on some other common theme, you’ll find that the more involved you become the less you have resting on your own shoulders.
7 - Batch Your Health Care
Check-ups with GPs, specialists, dentists, orthodontists -- the list doesn’t end, and the more people in your family, the more you’re running to the doctor. One practical solution is to batch your health care and plan several routine visits for the same day. Most doctor’s offices love to schedule in advance and if you let them know ahead of time you are almost certain to be able to get a date and time you want. Plan to take a single day off each quarter and just go for routine visits the entire day with your family; then rest easy knowing that you don’t have to worry about another appointment for months.
8 - Exercise
Our ancestors spent most of their waking hours engaged in some form of physical activity. Then, around a hundred years ago all of that came to a screeching halt and our bodies, which evolved to move, suddenly found themselves sitting in chairs for most of the day.
The single most valuable way to maintain a work-life balance and sustain personal power is to participate in some sort of physical exercise every single day. Exercise is directly tied to physical and mental health; it helps reduce stress, build willpower, keep our minds alert and helps us sweat out toxins. It also helps us sleep better at night. Making time for exercise in a busy schedule is not easy, but even 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your quality of life.
9 - Do Nothing
Our experiences are only valuable when we have time to process them. The virtues of being still, meditating, or simply having time to take a walk and clear your mind have been extolled by great thinkers throughout history. It is vital that we regularly take time to let our minds rest. Doctors and scientists may not fully understand why things like meditation reduce stress, lower blood-pressure and help concentration; but they are among the first to recommend these as safe, effective ways to maintain your mental and physical health. We are not purely cerebral creatures, and we have to let ourselves ‘clear the cache’ on a regular basis if we want to keep operating at full capacity.
10 - Learn How to Say No
For some, this is not easy. Saying No, especially when you want to say Yes, takes discipline. Using your personal strategic plan, and knowing your priorities will help you with this, but it still takes courage to decline invitations, defer clients, or delegate responsibilities to others even when you’re overwhelmed. This is particularly challenging for people with ambition and drive. You may want to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, but picking and choosing will ensure you have the energy left to support all of the things you think are important in your life.
Maintaining a work-life balance, and taking care of ourselves will only happen if we are proactive about setting goals and placing boundaries. Thoughtful, conscious, efficient choices are needed. While it may take some sacrifice and self- discipline, when we keep our eye on the big picture, we will adopt the kinds of habits that can keep our personal and professional lives sustainable now and in the years to come.
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