In the cold of the winter, I took a work-life break at the beach. With my Mac Book Pro at arms length, I made the time to take some deep breaths and embody a few yoga poses. Just one episode in my daily quest for work-life balance toward reducing stress.
I was writing on deadline for my Forbes blog post, and the fresh air even at 40 degrees, beat being cooped up in an office. Even those few minutes created a sense of calm and reminded me of my commitment to at least strive for a little serenity in the work-life merge.
We have to make the time – to take the break. For our own sanity, we need to schedule the white space in our calendar, even if it’s just 5 minutes twice a day to stop in our overloaded world where the “attention crash” is the daily scenario. Over the years I’ve developed some tools that help me remember; the work-life merge is a journey – not a destination.
I just shared more on these tools in my e-book 7 Tools to Reduce Stress in the Work-Life Merge, but here’s a summary of some steps you can take to grab a taste of work-life bliss in your day.
1. Redefining Success
What is your personal mandate for success? How do you define it? A change in perspective by redefining success, can help reduce stress. What does success feel like in your gut? Not just on paper, but in terms of morality, mission, personal values and for some people -commitment to community; to be a part of something much bigger than themselves.
Thriving in business or our careers has taken on new meaning, in a culture of change. Thriving is no longer just associated with the pinnacle of financial success, it’s the ability to progress or evolve in other ways. For example, a better work life fit, more family time, more down time, more passionate work, creating the work you love while making a profit and making a difference. We might reflect on past failures and on what didn’t work; but most importantly we try to remember what truly brings us joy in the moment.
2. Mastering the Art of Choice
We’re on “overwhelm” and battling “The Attention Crash.” I get it. But we still have one trump card. Choice. Your work-life fit is unique. You are the person who determines it. The lesson here is that while you can’t control everything – you CAN change the things you do control like your daily intake of technology. At the end of the day your choices will have a ripple effect that can impact the rest of your week at work and with your family.
Make a to-do list of immediate career needs and personal needs. Think about the choices you make around time and how they impact career and your family life. Instead of always beating yourself up to get things done by the end of the week, give yourself different time periods for completion depending on the task. Some items on your to-do list can actually wait. No one’s gonna die. Where do you need to make progress at this time? What can you change to reduce stress in your work-life merge?
3. Volume Vigilance
We’re bombarded by many mediums of information. Which voice are you listening to? Don’t get caught up in how others say you should navigate your info-overload. There’s a voice inside of you that’s far more important. When the volume of information is coming at you at an exponential rate, you’re the only one who can be your own Volume Vigilante.
Too much information can trigger stress. Sometimes we get caught in the loop of surfing the Internet or having to answer every email the moment it comes in. The e-mails count can be overwhelming and cause stress because we’re now living in a real time climate of instant gratification. If you commit to checking and responding to e-mail that are not time sensitive – just a few times a day – be sure to let your clients and colleagues know of your patterns if you make a radical departure from the way you used to do things. You have to create your own plan of monitoring your feeds, aggregating information, scheduling the timing of your intake no matter the form. And along with that, setting boundaries for connecting with colleagues, friends and even family.
4. Work-Life Flexibility
Faced with a daunting task of completing new projects, spending time with your family and preparing for a business meeting, we must be in a flexible state of mind to reduce stress. But flexibility in our personal lives and work lives takes planning. How you determine your work-life flex strategy will be completely unique from any one else. You have to determine what is important to you, where you are in your life and career.
You might work for a company that offers flexible workplace policies. But if you don’t, that strategy falls upon you to create. It might mean having a conversation with your manager or human resources. So have some suggestions for your unique situation that will mutually benefit you and your employer.
5. Meaningful & Efficient Communication
Poor communication creates frustration and makes for inefficient interactions and inevitably can lead to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda. Strive for the 3 C’s: Co-creation of a Conscious Conversation. The trick is to be more mindful of your communication whether with colleagues or family.
Communication comes in the form of meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchange, social media etc. How often do you communicate and with whom? What is your priority on any given day? While managing those lines of communication is challenging, it’s probably the most important factor in creating a less stressful work-life merge.
6. Managing Time
It is often our own minds that clutter the playing field with confusion, rather than taking the time to prioritize and get organized. We have to regulate our personal style of time management whether we work for ourselves or a company. And how we manage our time is a huge part of the puzzle to reduce stress.
Management guru Peter Drucker, author of The Essential Drucker was masterful on the topic of time and organization. Simply, time must be well managed. In an essay from his book, he said that while a knowledge worker’s task generally starts in the planning of one’s work, while “eminently plausible,” it rarely works. You really have spend time, to make time says Drucker, “One has to record time, before one can know where it goes. ”
Where is your time going? Do a daily inventory. A weekly observation might be more appropriate. I suspect family time, surfing the web, watching TV and catching up on the career or workload will rank high. Identify the unproductive demands on your time.
7. Cultivate Resilience
Our invincible nature as human beings allows us to not only survive burnout in our 24/7 work-life merge, but also to evolve and thrive. By cultivating resilience, we can spark our own unique restorative skills, navigate info-overload and foster innovation to consciously evolve in the workplace.
The idea of “serenity at work” would make most laugh. While company perks like a gym, healthier food, flexible working arrangements or employee assistance programs are a good start, essentially creating a better work-life fit is up to us as individuals. One has to design their own program toward well-being.
Cultivating serenity is not just about calming the mind. It’s also about getting quiet enough to listen to what is important. Meditation, breath work, prayer and contemplation are wonderful tools. And they are accessible through your individual lens. You get to choose what works for you. A creative thought process can always emerge from chaos, I’m not knocking it, innovation can also be born of a deep awareness of who you are and your true purpose.