When You Get Home, Are You Still “At Work”?
Many people still have their jobs “wrapped around their heads” when they get home from work. And many men and women use alcohol and other substances in an effort to quell the noises in their head carried over from their work environment. And quite a few just have a hard time balancing all the demands between work and personal life. This manifests in many ways: Working a 9-6 job (minus a lunch hour) that just doesn’t pay all the bills, working two or more jobs, running a business and having no time for family, and other stressful combinations. As someone who’s had my fair share of this, here are some recommendations born of experience, study, and more than a little trial and error:
Separate the Parts of Your Life
“Life” can look like total chaos, a massive “generality” with no boundaries, no rules, no beginning and no end. And in some ways, that is true. But it is much easier to understand and deal with life by breaking it down into its parts. Within what we call LIFE, there is YOU as an individual, your family, your job, your neighborhood, your community, your country, the human race, and so on and so forth.
By breaking down your life into parts or components, it becomes less a formless “thing” and more something you can control and align. People that run their own business are always running into the situation wherein the lines between their work and personal life are so blurred as to be entirely non-existent. But it is possible to delineate between what one does for a living and the other parts of one’s existence.
When Work Isn’t Work Anymore
A vital question to ask is whether or not you are doing what you truly love and want to do. Admittedly, that is a bit of a loaded question – what you “love” and what is paying your bills could be quite different indeed. But at least ask the question. When you are doing what you’re truly passionate about, it tends to cease being “work” and becomes a labor of love, a mission and a quest. When that happens, you may not even mind your work and personal life spilling over into one another.
There are many practicalities associated with striking a balance. When you’re doing something, do THAT, not something ELSE. When you’re working, WORK, When you’re playing, PLAY. Our digitally-enhanced culture offers infinite paths for you to not do whatever it is you’re trying to do. So it takes disciplined action and a determined mindset. Like anything, it may take some practice and edging out your old patterns. Making a clear schedule and routine, one in which you allot time for work, “me” time, and family time, is one practical tool to utilize. And when you are working, or doing anything for that matter, work on doing it rapidly and efficiently while not compromising quality.
The Quality of Your Time
“Quality time” is a valid phrase. I have a friend who bicycles several miles to and from work every day. Then he takes his two small kids for an early morning hike in the bitter cold on New Year’s Day, and the kids are thrilled. While that may not be you, it’s healthy to look at the ways in which you spend your time.
What times are most memorable to you? The times you spent watching television or the times you spent doing something? Even if you spent ten times longer watching TV than doing something adventurous and creative, what you remember fondly and vividly are those times you were proactive. You are just more ALIVE during those times.
When you have carved out some personal time, why not do those types of things? Nothing wrong with sitting at home being entertained, but to attain BALANCE, make an effort to make your free time QUALITY time. You may find QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY when it comes to your leisure time.
Accentuate Your Positives
We all have limitations. But instead of concentrating on them, try focusing on your strong suits. If you’re a good multitasker, go forth and multitask. But if you get scatterbrained at the very idea of doing more than one thing at the same time, then make a point to complete each task before going on to the next. If you’re a creative and artistic person, excel at that. If you’re a pragmatic problem-solver, become known for that.
Even your “limitations” can end up serving you in surprising ways. A singer-songwriter with a limited vocal range may yet be immortalized due to the superior quality of his songs. Bob Dylan. Leonard Cohen. A bodybuilder with a limited emotional range can yet become an action hero and…a governor? Schwarzenegger.
What are your strong suits? What do you excel at? Getting a clear picture of this will help you work out the balance that you seek.
Discipline and Consistency
I saw a short video of one of my favorite actors, Denzel Washington, talking to what appeared to be a group of acting students. The man is a brilliant communicator and an inspiration. He makes a number of points in just a few minutes time – points applicable not just to actors and artists but to anyone. Amongst these are:
There is a difference between DREAMS and GOALS. A dream that never becomes a goal becomes a disappointment. That really hit home. If all you’re going to do is DREAM and never set a GOAL and never achieve anything, you’ll wind up disappointed. He also makes a point that goals cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency. Between goals and achievement are discipline and consistency. He makes several other points and they’re all revelatory.
When you set goals and seek their achievement through hard work, ingenuity, discipline and consistency, there is a certain amount of sacrifice necessary. I’m not talking about extreme self-denial or anything overly-dramatic, but if you really want to achieve something, you’ll have to put in the time and effort. There is a quote from Muhammad Ali that I have used several times to illustrate the point. He said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” Amen to that.
Combine Work and Play
Another thing you can do is combine work and play. If you’ve always wanted to be a photographer and even think you could sell your photos, why not plan a family outing while taking a bunch of pictures? Mix work and play. Enjoy fishing? Start a fishing blog. Like restoring cars or houses? Make a how-to video series on those subjects. The possibilities are limitless.
Clever entrepreneurs and inventors get into a line of action or even a hobby and in the process encounter some kind of barrier or frustration. But what they do then is have an epiphany and come up with a solution – a service or product. And they run with that. The outcomes are varied but these men and women have turned their folly into a fighting chance, and with the right elements a howling success.
Take a Walk
Are you exhausted by the time you knock off work? At the end of your work day, TAKE A WALK. It’s that simple. Walk around the block or around the neighborhood and look around at your surroundings. Notice things you didn’t notice before. Keep walking until you no longer feel exhausted and are refreshed. It’s a great way to sweep the dust and debris out of your head, end the workday and begin the next part of your day. Whatever you do, don’t immediately sit down in front of the television after work. Ever do that and not get up the whole evening? We all have. Not a great habit. Take a walk instead.
You Can Always Improve the Situation
When you feel snowed in and plowed under, realize that no matter what, you can always make things better. That’s an important thing to know. On your job and in your life, there’s always something you can do to improve the situation.
Every day, do something to improve your workspace, your house, your relationships, your lot in life. Remove extraneous things in your space that you don’t need. Organize your space for maximum productivity.
Do you wear many “hats”? Instead of having piles of papers on your desk related to general “stuff”, set up trays or stations that represent each of your various hats. Papers that relate to current work are placed in specific trays or at specific stations respectively depending on the subject matter. This helps to isolate and delineate your various projects and responsibilities.
Also, get your emails under control. Unless you get hundreds daily like some people (who need to filter them, opt out, or get an assistant), it’s not too difficult to answer them daily and have them categorized and under control.
Coordinate and Cooperate
Small details count, but always look at the big picture and into the future. Some extra work now could be a boon in the future. If you can look ahead and see that, don’t waste your energy moping about your current situation. Just plow ahead into the future you have planned. Enlist the support of your associates, and even your spouse or partner and your family.
Planning and coordination is not a one-man show. To coordinate means: to bring the disparate elements of an activity or organization into a relationship that will ensure efficiency or harmony.
Right alongside coordination is cooperation. You will find that when your work life and personal life are aligned and coordinated in a spirit of mutual cooperation, you get more work done while raising quantity and quality.
But you have to work on it and be diligent and determined. Stay positive. Attend to the details while thinking BIG and doing BIG. And balance the parts of your life as you go along. Over to you!