Finding a happy compromise between work and life

My advice for managing the tension between your job and your self

Before I started working for Standard Beagle full-time, I thought I worked all of the time. Now that I actually am completely self-employed, I KNOW I do.

My challenge is to find a happy compromise, so I don’t burn myself out.

All work and no play…

I love working on client projects, business development, marketing…. sometimes Sally and Andy give me a hard time because my go-to topic of conversion is business. As you can see, it’s all too easy to allow it to consume my time. If I’m not careful, work can easily overtake the “life” part of life.

What is life?

I consider life to be family, free-time and myself. In order to make more time for work, I’m the type of person who will start cutting out life. I have been particularly guilty of this lately since the reality of self-employment has set in. Food on the table means I need to be sure to work on projects and not allow myself to be distracted by errands or housework.

I have a pattern. Leisure time tends to be the first thing I cut, followed by sleep, sit-down lunches and exercise. And I know this isn’t healthy. But despite knowing how bad it is, it’s like craving a giant dish of brownies and ice cream. Part of you ignores the sensible side for the unhealthy treat.

I need to pull myself back to reality. Hurting my body does not help me get more things done. I will hurt my efforts and eventually that could hurt my business.

So here’s my advice to myself, and maybe you will take way some tips to integrate into your life.

1) Sleep

When I sleep at least 7 hours I feel like a million bucks. When I sleep less, I’m more dependent on coffee and I feel like I’m dragging. And lack of sleep has a negative effect on many other things, like cognitive function and weight management. Plus, I’m more snappy with my family and clients may wonder if I’m all there.

2) Defend your “me” time

It’s ironic that I’m writing this because I actually skipped this morning’s “me” time. I usually give myself at least a couple of hours in the morning before anyone else is awake. I start out by thinking through how I want the day to go, saying personal affirmations, and exercising. I schedule “me” time on my calendar and set my alarm. I always feel “off” when I miss it.

3) Exercise

I cannot stress enough how important this has been for me. It really doesn’t matter what you do — as long as you do something to raise your heart rate.

Lately I’ve been training for the Cap10K and I’ve been doing a lot of running on the treadmill. I find running can get boring after a few miles, which can make it hard to look forward to it. But I found a solution that works for me. I listen to books! I now look forward to my run because I want to know what happens next in the book.

4) Read

When I was in journalism school, one of my teachers told me to read regularly and critically. But reading can also be relaxing – a way to exercise your brain that leaves you feeling more fulfilled than TV. Having kids and working a lot can make it hard to do this, so here’s my solution:

  • Listen to books
    I can listen while I run — that’s two birds with one stone! Lately I’ve read “The Firebird”, “The Lady Elizabeth”, “Splendor Falls”, and now I’m listening to a non-fiction book, “Lean In.”
  • Read outloud and share the joy
    I read to my kids nightly. It’s a standing date and my kids get upset if I don’t read. We read a shorter picture book for Madeline and part of a chapter book for Luke. Right now we’re reading “Sign of the Beaver.” We have read dozens of chapter books over the years and my kids will often choose the next selection.
    And when I read, it feels so good that I’m spending time with them.

5) Schedule breaks

I have found that I tend to over-schedule myself, often without lunch. But when I put breaks into my schedule I am more relaxed and less freaked out.

6) Make time for forced relaxation

Yesterday I took my kids to the playground for a playdate. I didn’t really want to go — I had a lot of work I wanted to do — but I also did not want to disappoint my kids.

The playdate forced me to relax and be outside. By the time we headed home, I felt refreshed and more productive.

7) Laugh and love

I feel so disconnected from life when I feel stress. Laughter releases stress.

So I try to laugh. I joke with my friends, I get silly in the kitchen and I hug and kiss my family members frequently.

I don’t believe in a work-life balance. There will always be tension between the two. But I do believe in a work-life compromise. In my case, it’s making sure I don’t sacrifice life for work.

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