A couple of weeks ago, while innocently playing basketball on a cold day, something unprecedented happened; I pulled a muscle in my back. Being the hypochondriac I am, I immediately assumed the worst: lung problems, kidney failure… you know the drill. After lying down for a couple of hours and taking Tylenol, I was confronted with the real issue; I was getting older, my muscles were getting tighter, and I needed to stretch more.
People roll their eyes at me when I say that I feel like I am getting older, but I attribute my rapid aging of the past two years to sitting at a desk for 40 hours each week.
For me, and I’m sure many others, a 40 hour work week can be draining: emotionally, physically, and mentally.
A large theme at any conference or seminar that I attend as part of my work is maintaining a “work/life” balance. Honestly, I hate that phrase. Why do we put work before life? Why should our jobs have any more weight over us than what we do in our non- working hours?
One of my focuses of the new year is to change the narrative on the “work/life” balance, and make it into a “life/ work balance”. Personally, this means that I put more focus and attention into opportunities that I have outside of the workplace, because I know that these activities will ultimately provide me more growth than some work opportunities.
What does prioritizing a life/work balance look like? For me, it boils down to a few key points:
- Marie Kondo your outside of work life. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Netflix sensation, Marie Kondo emphasises cleaning habits in your home on the mantra of “does this spark joy?”. While I’m not referring to physical cleaning, I encourage people to take the mantra into their personal life. What in your life sparks joy, and what doesn’t? Cut the activities that are not sparking joy, and replace them with activities that are.
- Surround yourself with likeminded people. Cutting out activities that don’t spark joy in your life is just one part of it; cutting out toxic people is just as important. I’ve found myself drifting from friendships with people who don’t share the same goals as me, and realizing that that is ok. Instead of wasting time with people who drain me, I surround myself with people that help me and encourage me to reach my goals.
- Don’t be afraid of networking. “Networking” can sound like a daunting task, and often makes you think of standing around in a stuffy room, talking to stuffy older professionals. However, there are plenty of young professional groups out there with different areas of interest that you can easily join, and make new connections to motivate you and help you grow personally and professionally. I personally went to a group happy hour of young professionals interested in global politics, where I knew no one, and came out with 5 new instagram followers and countless new friends. Just remember, no one really knows each other, and it’s not weird to go alone!
- Find your release. Work can be stressful and all consuming. Make sure you find time for and prioritize activities that give you a mental and physical break from all the clutter in your mind. For me, that often includes some form of exercise (primarily yoga) and hunkering down for an episode or two of my favorite tv show. For others, that could include painting, reading, drawing, cooking, and so much more.
- Prioritize your health. All of the stressors that go through our minds manifest themselves physically in our bodies. If you are sick, go to the doctor. If you get a lot of knots in your shoulders, get a massage. If you need to talk out your problems with a professional, see a counselor. If your skin is breaking out, get a facial. To be your best self both at work and home, make sure your body and mind feel their best- you will feel more confident and ready to take on everyday challenges.
- Set goals. It is very easy to get caught up in the monotony of a work schedule. Don’t let this be an excuse from focusing on your future. Writing down goals you have for yourself, be it as small of a goal of cooking more meals at home or a larger goal like shifting careers, will make this goals more tangible and motivate you to work towards them.
Your life is so much more than your work life. Don’t lose sight of who you are outside the work place, and celebrate the things that spark your joy and make you feel young and vibrant.