Over the years, I have been plagued by work-life woes as I try to balance the demands of work, family, training, volunteer work, etc. But I am happy that for more than a year now, I have come to accept that there is really no such thing as work-life balance and that I will just get tired trying to seek this state. It is just like waiting for Godot.
What I have been striving for instead is a work-life flow where all aspects of my life flows seamlessly into each other, where everything is just LIFE. There is no distinction but each component is given the time and the focus that it deserves. There is no struggle because you only make time for those things that matter. So work matters, give it its much deserved attention. Family is important, carve out its own time. Training fuels your passion for life, make time for it. This just means that yes you can have it all, but not at the same time.
So let me just share some of the things I have been practicing to try to make this work:
I think this is my most powerful learning. If you want to get better at something or if you want to grow a specific aspect of your life, rigour is very important. You keep at it even if at the start you seem to not be going anywhere. The act of doing something repeatedly is progress by itself. The goal is not perfection but practice. If something is important, it is worth doing at least 3x a week.
Have a schedule, have a routine and you will have more freedom to use your time. This may seem like two opposing thoughts but you actually can be more flexible with the use of your remaining time if you know that you have eked out precious time for your must-dos.
For instance, the only reason I was able to train for triathlon is by weaving it into a schedule that works for me. I am a morning person so I wake up at 5am every day to train at a gym that is accessible from where I work. I know that nothing beats outdoor training but I wouldn’t be able to work this out into a routine so I have mustered all my willpower to swim in a 4ft pool, bike on the trainers and run on a treadmill. Since I do my trainings first thing in the morning, I have the entire day to focus on work and the evenings are free for family and some socials.
I am no longer a believer of multitasking. Having too many things at the same time leaves you with a lot of half-baked work. The time spent to transition from one task to another is wasted resource and you end up more exhausted. I think it is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who spoke about spending 90 minutes to complete a specific task without any distractions.
Prioritization is key to focus. If it is worth doing, it deserves your focus. It is too easy to get busy with all the little things and we mindlessly wade through all our tasks without assessing what is truly important. That is why we are all over the place and end our days feeling drained of all our energy.
At work, I try to keep my focus on three major tasks a day. I chunk my day so I spend time on each of these tasks. I try not to chat or get distracted by social media, text messages, email, etc when I am fully immersed in an activity and I strive to finish before I move on to the next task. Admittedly I am still a work in progress on this.
Related to focus is always being clear about why we are doing things. Sometimes we charge on with our tasks without thinking of the intent, whether it is even necessary to do these. It does not hurt to pause and ask whether the steps we are taking still make sense in the overall scheme of things. It is easy to just continue doing the things we are used to instead of stopping to check whether these methods still achieve the goals we set out to accomplish.
This may seem like a mundane example but let’s take grocery shopping. I know the grocery lay-out like the back of my hand and I can just be on autopilot mode, buying the same things every single time. But as we try to practice being more mindful with what we eat and consume, I try to shake things up a bit and incorporate into my basket of goods more of the healthy stuff since our overall intent is to nourish our body with good fuel. We super love good food and indulge from time to time but when we do, we know that it is a treat that is enjoyed sparingly.
Work-Life Flow is something that I want to learn more about and I shall share whatever I gather on this topic on this blog.