I've definitely had my share of stress at work, and over the last 7 years, have found effective tools I'd like to share. Hopefully some of these pointers will allow you to find a better balance in your life.
Myth #1 – Work life balance is a right. Contrary to what is outlined in your HR brochure, flexibility and work life is a privilege that must be earned with results. This was a mistake I made while in my first job out of school, seeing others enjoy work life benefits and doing the same without fully earning said privileges through performance.
Tip – Excel in what you do when you’re at work. Doing more than what you’re paid to do and having results that are noticeable will give you leverage.
Myth #2 – Exercising before work will leave one tired and drained at the office. Ironically, waking up at 5 am to do something active actually helps improve most people’s performance while at work. Your 5:30-7 am surf session, yoga class, crossfit workout, bike ride, or runwill jump start your body, purge your brain of stress, and enable you to have a successful day at the office. When everyone else is crawling in, moving towards the coffee machine, you’ll already be going 100 miles per hour and getting things done. Not only will your coworkers think you’re some kind of superhero, they likely will respect your dedication to fun & fitness and the mental balance that comes with it.
Tip – If people criticize your newfound energy and productivity, ignore it. Being called a go-getter or “turbo” is a compliment, and you’ll be rewarded for your results over time. If there are too many negative people in your office, this may be an opportunity for coaching.
Myth #3 - Constantly checking your email and voicemail are key to productivity. This could not be further from the truth.
Tip – Follow the advice given in The 4 Hour Workweek(1). Tim Ferriss, the book’s author, recommends checking email twice a day, once at 11 am and again at 4 pm. Following this program, or something similar, will free you from distracting emails and allow you to focus on your goals. On Microsoft Outlook, I click on the bottom right of the program to switch it to “Work Offline”. This allows me to view my calendar, plan future events, etc, without being inundated with “High Priority” emails such as a colleague letting you know he/she is going to the dentist.
Myth #4- You don’t have enough time to exercise during the day.
Tip – If other obligations don’t allow you to exercise before or after work, carve some stress free time in your day by marking an hour each day as "out of the office" in Outlook. For example, I choose 12-1pm everyday as my workout time and this prevents others from booking meetings with me over lunch. Prepping food on the weekends will also free up time for workouts. Do this and watch your physical and mental health improve.
Myth #5 - Putting in crazy hours will make you more productive.
Tip – Depending on the person, some may be at the office for 14 hours a day and get less done than another person who is there for only 6 hours. Look hard at what activities add value to your customers and eliminate waste. Find someone who is successful and ask them to mentor you. They don't necessarily need to become your life coach, but can train you on making the best use of your time (among other things).
1. Ferriss, Timothy (2007). The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-35313-9.
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