4 Easy Steps to Help Balance Work with Life

I’ve been on a quest for the past several years to find a peaceful balance between work and life. Through some wrong turns, I really think I’ve found it.

I used to live in Chicago, and I had a stressful job at an investment firm where I would help put together stock-market performance reports for rich people. I couldn’t have been more out of my element. I would stare out the window of the 29th floor at the beautiful skyline and wish I could be anywhere but there.

Sunday afternoons would roll around and I’d start to feel physically sick about having to go back to work the next day.

Then one day on the train to work, I had a moment of clarity: When you get there, it’s time to say goodbye and come back home.

I walked around the office and said goodbye to the friends I had there, telling them it was turning my soul too black, and I simply left and felt a weight lift off my chest.

One friend gave me a standing ovation and sent me a card with a tiara soon after.

I thank God for that soul-sucking horrible job because it’s armed me with a lens to see what is not acceptable. What is not acceptable is a job that gets its grimy little fingers on my life and starts choking the joy from it.

If you’re struggling to balance life with work, ask yourself: Do I even like my work? Is there anything I’m getting out of this aside from money? For me, if it’s just money, it’s a deal breaker.

I know I won’t be on my death bed saying I’m glad I made so much money. I’ll be talking about family, friends and ridiculously awesome adventures, just like you.

If you hate every aspect of your job, of course that’s going to bleed into your life because you feel unfulfilled and miserable with how you’re spending most of your waking hours. That’s huge, right?

This post is like a choose-your-own-adventure book 〈remember those?〉. If you don’t like your job, time to stop reading this and go make yourself a list of things you’re interested in and figuring out how to get closer to those things with your work.

I knew I wasn’t cut out for work in investments. I now work for my city’s parks since nature is my favorite thing in the world next to my kids’ scrumptious little faces.

And to be honest, my move actually DOWN the corporate ladder has been the best decision for me.

Everyone hates parts of their jobs, right? If you, for the most part, really like your job, read on. Here are some things that help me deal with the fact that I have to be at work all day instead of writing away all day at a dreamy coffee shop listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

Tackle the Crud First

We are all good at putting things off, right? To make my days feel better, I tackle the tasks I like the least first. I make that phone call to the grump. I run the boring report that makes me sleepy. I get the parts of my job out of the way that I like the least, so they don’t hang over my head the whole day.

Use a Timer

Please say I’m not the only one with a short attention span here. I cannot focus for the life of me at times, so I’ve turned to a timer. I’ll set the timer for 45 minutes and make a game to see how much work I can plow through while having steely focus. I do this at least 3 times a day to keep me on track.

Be Active

Not everyone can do this, but I have a stand-up desk at work, and I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in my life. I stand up nearly all day, and my energy is a million times better than it used to be. I’m in a good mood, and I’m more motivated to do my best.

I’m about to get super dorky on you, but I have weights I keep at work, and when I’m feeling stagnant, I go do some squats with the weights. Is there any way you can involve more activity at your job? If you’re already active, think about how you can schedule in 3 10-minute sanity breaks where you just breathe.

Exceed Expectations

I fail miserably all the time in life, so please don’t think I’m calling myself amazing here, but I do think the best way to tackle a job is to give yourself the challenge to always do more than what is asked of you.

If you do the bare minimum, that’s fine, but if you set your self-imposed bar higher and you keep reaching for that bar, your mood will be better because you will feel like the work you are doing matters, whether you’re digging ditches or teaching children.

If you phone it in, you will find your work to be drudgery.

If you are excited to connect with others, you will connect with others and see why you–only you–can do your job the way you do it.

Now how does all this help solve the age-old work/life balance mystery? It doesn’t magically make it go away, but if you tackle the hard things at work first, stay focused and energized all while aiming to do your best, you will find that when you leave work at the end of the day, you have LEFT WORK.

If you put in 100% at work, and you’re proud of who you are, then you can go home and put in 100% there.

Now go tackle your work day, and get a slice of your life back because you’re not getting another one.

YOUR Jagged Journey: Is it hard to juggle work with life right now? What steps can you make to change that?






About Rebecca Rine

Rebecca Rine is a nonfiction writer living in Dayton, Ohio, transplanted from Chicago. She contributes to the Dayton Daily News as well as public radio. Her first book of essays is called "Sunbathing in a Body Cast" and is currently working on a book about surviving divorce called "Face Your Divorce Poo." Yay!

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