People often think that they need to push harder, work longer, and go faster. And yet time and time again, research shows that this isn’t the key to productivity. Studies show that if you increase your workload to more than 50 hours per week, you may increase your risk of heart disease by 80%. No thank you! Other studies show that the most we can productively work in one day, is six hours – so how does that factor into our 10 hours days at the office? Are we simply spinning our wheels?! (Or cruising Facebook for a break?)
There seems to be some understanding that we cannot keep going and going like over-directed energizer bunnies … but what can we really do about it in a world that holds that expectation so closely? When I write my self-help book on this, I’m sure I’ll have the answer for you. Until then, look at these few ingredients to make your life more manageable within the context of work/life balance expectations and pressure.
- Take time for yourself weekly– Think snippets. This doesn’t mean you have to run off to Cabo and everything will be better after one long relaxing week. Think manageable, timely chunks here and there that break up your week and make it just a little less crazy. Here’s an example: if you like playing basketball – make that a priority for yourself. Skip an hour at the office on a Friday or Monday morning (when everyone is hiding anyway, trying to sort through ten million emails they don’t want to read). You can read through your emails later – take just one hour, schedule the time for yourself, and fit it in. The only we reason we don’t get time for ourselves sometimes, is because we don’t SCHEDULE TIME FOR OURSELVES.
- Meditation. Maybe this isn’t your thing. Maybe you think it’s a religion and that scares you. Maybe you’re afraid your friends will call you tree hugger and cast rose petals at you. But meditation is used by medical big boys, such as Johns Hopkins to help people heal and deal with chronic pain and depression. If you can’t sit still, there are walking meditations. There is also music, headphones, and fifteen minutes of just sitting, trying not to think, and listening to soothing music. Read some Jon Kabat-Zin and discover the joys of responding, not reacting to life’s craziness; it will help you separate the emergencies from the emerging challenges.
- Smile. It takes fewer muscles in your face to smile than frown. So turn it upside down. Smiling at others lowers your cortisol (stress-related hormone) and reduces theirs too. Do yourself this small, itty-bitty favor: smile!
- Take your vacations. We’re all a victim of this, especially living in the valley. How many times do you hear people say, “I’ll check my emails while I’m in Mexico?!” Don’t do it. Stop it. Let it go (yes, like that annoying Frozen song). Making the time for yourself to unplug, be with your friends, family, or simply by yourself resets your brain. To rehash an old metaphor, ‘Cemeteries all over the world are full of people who we couldn’t get the job done without ‘. Don’t be that person that works tirelessly until you can’t move anymore. Take a break. Reset. You’ll be more productive when you get back from the break, and you may even have a new, fresh perspective to go with it.
We’ll always have to work – unless those lottery numbers pan out (fingers crossed!). And most of enjoy what we do, which is a relief. But truly, our bodies are not built on a Silicon Valley model, or made to sit all day in front of a computer, staring vacantly at blinking screens. Improving your self, improves your ability to do your business. We need to move, expand, and contract all of our muscles in order for the circulation to keep the brain working efficiently and with style. We need to interact with one another in a way that keeps our creativity fresh, and our adrenals in check – so get up and get out for a walk; it only takes a few minutes to refresh and re-energize.