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Are you working to live or living to work?
Having been described as an out-and-out entrepreneur, I like to think that one of my strongest traits is my ability to get stuff done.
The utter belief that, no matter what, I will succeed at whatever I do and will not stop until I reach the outcome I want.
It feels masculine when I think about it and my urge to ensure I make things happen. Sometimes it even becomes this energy within me that I can’t seem to switch off easily, and it boils within me—like an urge to move, to grow, to do something, anything. More recently, it has become uncomfortable and unwanted.
I often wonder where this desire to do more, be more, have more, and create more came from (if it has been instilled within me from a young age). I watched my mother work so hard and never really stop; in fact, she still is always “doing.” Or perhaps it has been projected onto me through the media I consume, the entrepreneurs I watch and follow, or my own version of who I should be and my identity as a person.
I recently cleared my work schedule, delegated most of my tasks and roles to my team members, and created so much space within my diary to be with my kids and spend more time just living instead of working. I decided the specific roles I wanted to keep doing within my business and gave the rest of my workload to my team.
In the run up to doing this, I was so excited to have all of this space and time in my diary, but as soon as it came, I found myself overflowing with these ideas and opportunities.
Brimming at the seams, I have found myself thinking up three or four new business ideas that I feel urged to take action on as soon as physically possible. I notice this recurring pattern of behaviour that has been on a loop for the last few years, and I am now able to notice it and break it.
We often tell ourselves about who we are and what we do as people, and then we live by this, often without questioning where it ever came from and if it really is what we want or our belief of what we should do and who we should be. It can lead us to burning out, trying to do too much, trying to be something we are not, and forgetting to really tap into ourselves because we are constantly trying to please others around us and do it all.
We’ve been fed this ideal of success and what it takes to be successful, often thinking that we have to work really hard in order to be a success.
The problem is, though, that we can end up in this spiral of work, no rest, no play, because we are constantly filling our minds with the things we have to do, and sometimes we tell ourselves that we “have to do things” and we “have to be busy.”
Technology is so brilliant that we are at the end of a constant pinging of notifications that push us into action. This can leave us feeling that we are “on demand” and lead to burnout or little work-life balance because it is all work and no balance.
It is so important to have a really stable work-life balance; it is essential for our well-being and mental health. Many of my students I work with within my neuro-linguistic programming certification course are, like myself, working from home and have their kids at home, while some who don’t have children just struggle to switch off.
So when do all of these seemingly inspiring ideas that come into our minds become unhealthy and at what point do we say “no” to ourselves, to others, to the constant stream of notifications, or to the workload?
As a mum to two girls, I have found that the work-life balance can be forever changing as things change in our lives, like hours changing around the school run. However, there are ways in which we can create boundaries and behaviours to make finding that work-life balance easier.
Here are some simple ways we can make the changes needed to have the work-life balance:
1. Create cutoff points and boundaries.
What time do you stop working? Are you actually stopping, or are you constantly finding yourself dipping in and out of work all day? It can be so easy to lose ourselves in work and not realise the time or notice an email on our phones and get dragged back into work when doing things with family. Instead, set yourself a cutoff point. Times when you will stop working and focus purely on the family, or even on housework, and so on.
2. Leave electronics alone.
It is so easy to get absorbed in our phones. Even while watching TV in the evening, we find ourselves checking messages and social media. It is an ingrained behaviour because we have done it so much now. So when you cut off, leave your phone in the office, or switch it off so you are not tempted to check out notifications that may be about work.
3. Silence those apps.
If you use your phone to read a book or to communicate with family on an evening, silence your notification apps—such as emails, social media, and work-related apps. Even better, you can delete the apps altogether, and while you are still tempted to pick up your phone, you won’t have work notifications or apps to look through.
If possible, separate work and personal phones so that when you are working, you use your work phone, and when you are not working or away on holiday, you can leave it in the office and use your personal phone.
4. Ask yourself who you really are.
When you find yourself getting inspiring ideas that you feel compelled to take action on, ask yourself who you are. Who are you, really? Sometimes we get ideas that we feel compelled to take action on because we are excited about it and it will help us reach a goal or give us an outcome we are looking for. However, in some cases, it could also be our minds playing tricks on us, trying to force us to “work harder” because this is how we are programmed to think.
Really ask yourself, “Who am I?” “Is this something that will help me overall with my life or is it just a distraction?”
These simple changes in our daily actions can make a huge difference to our work-life balance. So next time we reach for our phones and begin getting excited about a new idea that will consume us, we need to stop and think how much that will take away from our ultimate life and home and be curious about if this will really help us live more or just become a spiral of working to live—and not living to work.