Everyone’s talking about work-life balance—and for a good reason. We live in a go-go-go world, where sometimes it feels impossible to slow down or shut off. I was one of those people who wasn’t just too busy, but proud it. As if it told people something about good about me, that it automatically meant that I was successful, for example.
The crazy thing was that this busy lifestyle was driving my anxiety through the roof. I was waking up every morning with my heart pounding in my chest, worried about finding time to get everything done. Slowly but surely, however, I started creating more work-life balance for myself. After a year and a half of making tweaks here and there, I feel better than ever, and ready to share my tips with you.More: My 5 Favorite Mantras to Fight Self-Doubt
The first step in creating better work-life balance happened organically with taking my mornings back. It was something I knew in my heart I needed, and had even said as much to my therapist.
Unfortunately, working an office job and still wanting to time find to work out (I am NOT an after-work gym person, I just won’t do it), make it hard for me to find stillness in my mornings. I’d wake up at 6am, kiss my sleepy husband goodbye, run to the gym, shower and change there, then head straight to work where I’d make breakfast and get started with my day.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it now.
When I got my main gig working from home in May of 2016, I was finally able to settle into a relaxing morning routine. I honestly don’t know how I enjoyed life before this. Now, I wake up without an alarm, start the day with coffee or tea while watching the Today Show, and get started with work between 8am and 9am.
I often use this time for meditation (I’ll talk more about that in a minute) and sometimes even drive up to my favorite overlook in town to take in the morning air.
While slowing my mornings was a great first step in creating better work-life balance, things started going off the rails again. When I met with my career coach for the first time, my main issue was being overloaded with work. Her suggestion was simple: If you take something on, you need to drop something else. Rather than piling another project onto my already-overflowing schedule, I needed to make space for it.
Putting this into practice sometimes means asking for a deadline extension and other times it means saying not to something else that’s in limbo.
This lead me to the next important step.
Knowing My Worth
As a freelance writer and contract worker, I can get a new gig at any given moment—both big and small. When you rely on jobs here and there, it’s hard to say no to something, even when you aren’t getting paid what you should be. This was the next big step: Know my worth and trust that if I say no to a job, something better will come along and take its place.
This allows me to stay open to big projects, gigs that I really want, and opportunities that pay what my 10 years of experience calls for. When I turn a job down, I say to myself:
I am now open to receive something bigger and better in its place. Then I wait.
I swear to you, something almost always comes along.More: How I Stopped Being a Yes Girl
Meditation: The Mental Work-Life Balance
Meditation is something that’s new in my life, as of the last few months. In that time, it’s become critical to the mental aspect of managing work-life balance. I’ve used meditation, not just as a way to center myself in the morning, but to develop a more positive outlook on my schedule. I’ve become better at changing my thinking from:
- “I have to get all this stuff done today…”
- “I get to do this work that fulfills me and makes me happy.”
In terms of anxiety, this is everything for me. It doesn’t mean I pile more on and pretend like I’m happy. Rather, it empowers me to enjoy the workload I do have. I truly love what I do, but that’s easy to forget sometimes.
No More Weekend Work
Finally, I took back my weekends. I fueled of the “proud of being too busy” mindset with my weekend work. I would proclaim, “Oh yeah, I work every day but Saturday. Sundays are working days for me.” But I hated working the weekends. I’d wake up to my heart pounding with anxiety on Sunday, knowing I had an entire day of work ahead of me. Weekends are for relaxing, wine, football and friends.
I was able to take my weekends back when I overhauled my schedule and stopped saying yes to things I don’t want to do, or that weren’t worth my time.
I also started front-loading my weeks so I could enjoy Thursday-Sunday even more. I’m of the mindset that you get the hard stuff out of the way first, and scheduling my time this way has been extremely helpful. Mentally, I’m more productive at the beginning of the week, and a long Monday and Tuesday just means I’ll have a more relaxing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. For me, that’s a work-life balance win.
I’m going to share tips for how you can replicate the work-life balance I’ve been able to achieve, sharing my top tips for everyone—whether you work from your living room or drive 60-minutes in both directions.
Slow mornings: Not everyone is lucky enough to work from home. If you literally can’t find more time in the morning, find a way to make a routine morning activity more enjoyable. For example: meditate before you get out of bed, enjoy your first few sips of coffee on the front porch, or take an extra long shower. When you start the morning happy, you’re less stressed and anxious all day long.
Schedule overhaul: If you pride yourself on being busy—stop. Then ask yourself: Why do I “like” (or tolerate) being this busy? Is it the amount of money I’m making? Do I genuinely love what I’m doing? Then ask yourself: How can I achieve the same result in less time, with less stress?
Know your worth: If you’re stressed out of your mind, and not getting paid what you deserve, it’s time to take a hard look at your job. Everything feels more overwhelming when you aren’t happy with what you’re doing. Take charge of your life instead of sitting in the backseat. Start actively looking for something new and choose something that’s either: worth enduring a hectic schedule or allows for greater work-life balance. Many companies pride themselves on their work-life balance perks as something that’s more and more important to employees.
Meditation: Change your mindset with meditation. Even just 3 minutes will alter the way you see the world around you, including your work. For example, spend 3 minutes meditating in your car before walking into the office to find that mental work-life balance.
“No more weekend work”: For you, this means setting work boundaries. Stop answering emails at 9:30pm—that sets a precedent that you will do so in the future. Leave the office when it’s time to leave. Say no to extra projects that don’t serve your career path or heart.