Richard Branson always makes time for breakfast with his wife, daily sport and a book before sleep. And Elon Musk skips the morning meal, works 85-100 hours per week and keeps working, even when he spends time with his five sons. Can we determine which mode of life is better or worse? Obviously we can’t, because both of these entrepreneurs are successful and globally renowned businessmen with great achievements under their belts. It’s just that they have chosen routines that work best in terms of their individual skills and productivity – and that’s the most important aspect of the work-life balance.
If you want to be successful, your ultimate purpose shouldn’t be copying someone else’s habits and regimes. It must be understanding yourself and identifying the most suitable living mode specifically for you. There are dozens of books and hundreds of blog posts expanding on how to harmoniously combine your job with your personal life, but they are supplemental resources. In fact, only you can find that perfect balance. And here are 3 approaches that can help you with that by presenting this balance in the context of personal needs.
Approach #1 – There Is No Work-Life Balance, Just Life Balance
Joshua Lee, the founder of LF Media, Inc., was the first to give a clear name to this approach. It implies that a person has only one life, and work is just a part of it. So, your main mission is not to juggle between urgent tasks and, say, the responsibility of walking your dog. You should aim at integrating the job into your daily routine so you won’t have to choose. “I don’t believe you have work-life balance: You have a life balance, where everything you do complements your life’s work,” states Joshua in his article for Fast Company.
If he plans to spend time with this family, no business meeting of any urgency can interfere and change his intentions. When work comes into the picture and threatens to disturb Joshua’s life balance, there can’t be any compromises.
There is truth to his words and ideas, because trying to give the same priority to your business and to quality time for yourself is the same thing as standing on one leg. It means you get tired much more quickly and, eventually, lose your balance. The thing is that the modern perception of work as the main part of your living is imposed by societal stereotypes. If you can change this in your mind and set the right priorities, the rest will work out just as you want it to.
Approach #2 – Happy at Work: Be Realistic and Choose the Job that Fits Your Desires
Another work-life balance enthusiast, Nigel Marsh, spent 7 years looking for answers that would help him redesign his own life for the better. He discovered some useful facts that he widely shares with public. He argues that the most important step in rethinking your routines is admitting that you have a problem. It’s not that easy – with all the technologies that allow you to constantly stay in touch and work from anywhere you want, it is fully accepted and welcomed that you can spend most of your time at your job.
However, to step aside from these stereotypes and concentrate on your desires, you need to:
- Take the quality of your life into your own hands. Don’t rely on corporations or government, because they won’t make your living better. In fact, nobody will do it apart from you. If you don’t like working late, go home precisely at the time your business hours end. If you hate answering corporate emails on weekends while your friends are out watching a movie, quit doing it. Basically, it’s all up to you.
- Be realistic. It’s already an achievement when you realize that you have an issue and decide to put matters into your own hands. But when you start considering what kind of activities you wish to include in your life apart from work, you may get a 10-point list of things you’d like to do in one day – and if you manage to squeeze in just 2 or 3 activities, you get disappointed and give up. That’s why it’s important to be realistic about your abilities and rationally distribute your desired occupations throughout the whole week.
- Tend to all aspects of your life equally. Don’t go to extremes – working for 10 hours a day and engaging in daily sport doesn’t make your living better, it just makes you a fit workaholic. Pay attention to your spiritual, emotional and intellectual apects as well.
- Start from the small things. Maintaining balance in your life doesn’t mean making dramatic changes. If you just start pursuing small things – like watching a movie with your spouse once a week, reading for half an hour before sleep or working out for 15 minutes after waking up – you will introduce harmony into your routine.
The most important goals you need to set to get closer to work-life balance involve understanding what you want and taking everything under your own control. Many people take up freelancing because it allows them to figure out what kind of job they’d like to do and to pursue all the activities they’ve wanted to pursue. Let’s take Alice Judge-Talbot, for example. She left her marketing director position and went for a portfolio career. This way she could pay enough attention to her kids (which was her prime objective and desire), and still make enough money to support the family. So she determined what the problem was, and solved it. Can you do that?
Approach #3 – Work Hard, Play Hard
What do you think – why does Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most famous investors, play ukulele and, moreover, teach others how to do it? And what about Tony Tovar, the founder of Local Reach Pros, who rides a Harley Davidson at least 1 hour a week? They claim that those activities clear their heads and boost their productivity – but let’s find out how, exactly.
If you work a lot, but still want to improve your work-life balance, you need to find a certain hobby or just an activity you enjoy doing. It can be anything from cooking to kitesurfing – but the most crucial criterion for such an occupation is that it can fully immerse you and distract you from your work. This way you have an opportunity to reboot your mind and understand just where you stand.
3 Activity Ideas for a Good Reboot
As we stated before, you can pick any activity you like. But if you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas you can try:
- Meditation. This practice helps you relax your mind and get things under control. It also develops discipline and put some distance between you and your views and observations. While gathering materials for a new book, Tools of Titans, and questioning 140 successful businessmen, Tim Ferris, a writer and investor, discovered that 90% of them actively engage in meditation. What’s more, according to NBGH research, 22% of US companies offered meditation sessions to their employees in 2016. Clearly, it is a trend right now – and it’s the best time to try it, as you’ll find enough information to get started.
- Non-dominant hand writing/drawing. Joshua Lee, the author of the 1st approach to handling work-life balance, says in a podcast interview with Jeff Agostinelli that he practices writing with his non-dominant hand in the morning and in the evening. This activity helps him to fire up his brain, but, at the same time, makes him switch off from business matters. During these sessions, he gets creative ideas that just wander into his mind by themselves.
- Sport. According to the research, exercising reduces the number of stress hormones in your body and causes endorphins to be produced in large quantities. That’s why a great many successful businessmen regularly play tennis, basketball and other sports or actively work out in the gym.
Even when you can balance work and personal life and sustain this condition perfectly, you’re not immune to stress, pressure and anxiety, especially when your job requires a lot of responsibility and concentration. That’s why appropriating one of the activities as your “restart” mode can help you keep things together.
Work-Life Balance Tips: Apps and Books
Apart from introducing some balance into your life using the approaches discussed above, it is also effective to include other tools that will help you achieve your goals and plans. Apps and books are fundamental instruments in such matters – the former help to make all things clear and organized, while the latter give you more food for thought and a deeper understanding of the harmony you wish to achieve. In the light of this, we’ve prepared a list of the most useful applications and books that will help you drive the work-life balance home.
3 Apps to Keep Your Equilibrium Working
There is an abundance of software that assists with planning, productivity and organizing yourself, but we’ve chosen the core ones to support the baseline.
- Big Days (Event Countdown App)
This application is designed to track events and send reminders before important occasions so that the user can prepare and see statistics on how the user spends his/her life. By planning different business meetings, encounters with friends, trips, and quality time with your family, you won’t miss anything and won’t allow different activities to interfere with others. And by reviewing your history, you’ll be able to determine which events you need to balance in your life.
- Schemes (Scheduled Networking App)
Do you remember the “small things” approach? Well, this is exactly the tool that will help you implement it. The app allows you to schedule messages for Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and simple SMS. But if you look deeper, it lets you make small investments like congratulating friends and colleagues on their birthdays, saying hi to your parents, and sending occasional “How are you?” messages to your spouse. These so called “deposits” help balance your communication with the people who mean a lot to you and prevent work from shutting down this important part of your life.
- Space (Digital Behavior Tracking App)
This tracker shows how much time you spend in different apps and makes it easy to analyze your digital behavior. For instance, if you don’t know how many hours you browse Twitter and Facebook, Space monitors the time and even sends you notifications when you’ve been in those apps for too long. This tool will help you avoid going to extremes with distraction, procrastination and work and instead dedicate precious time to much more important activities.
- Headspace (Meditation App)
If you think you’re too busy to start meditating, try this app. It contains short and simple lectures on what meditation is and how to integrate it into your daily life. You can choose what part (health, relationships, sport, etc.) you want to improve using this mental tool, and Headspace will lead you in the right direction.
- Fabulous (Building Better Habits App)
Being busy at work makes it hard to keep up with your health and encourages habits that can make it better or worse. But this app helps organize your routine so that you never forget to drink a glass of water after waking up, eat a healthy breakfast or reward yourself for achieved successes. Fabulous builds a program starting from one small task for a day and develops it into a fully featured routine.
- 7 Minute Workout (Sport App)
This is an app developed on the basis of research on high-intensity training. The 7-minute workouts replace hours of sport due to their smart organization – short breaks between exercises increase the effect and speed up the metabolism. If you struggle with your work-life balance, this is a good app to introduce some sport into your daily routine. We’re sure you can spare 7 minutes for working out if you want to.
- Asana Rebel (Yoga App)
This app contains short sessions for days when you have a busy schedule, and full programs for when you want to dive into real yoga. The exercises are also created according to what you want to achieve with them (become leaner, build strength, feel harmony & balance). The choice is up to you.
5 Books That Will Help You Better Understand Yourself and Work-Life Balance
It’s not enough to just embrace one approach and expect that balance will work itself out for you. You have to understand the concept better to figure out your true needs and preferences, and high-quality literature on the topic will help you do that.
- Balance Is Bullshit: How to Successfully Integrate Work & Life by Joshua B. Lee
Get to know more about the first approach we discussed in our guide and figure out how to plug work into your life balance. The book contains many important insights formed by the trial-and-error method, and discoveries explained with the help of examples and comparisons.
- Fit, Fifty and Fired Up by Nigel Marsh
This good read, written by the author of our second approach, is easy to read and full of humor. But that’s only the surface. It touches upon serious issues of work-life balance and ways of helping yourself. It is clearly worth reading, as it lets you dig deeper into your own mode of living to identify the problem.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
The book doesn’t delve deeply into business, but rather into matters that are really important in our lives. It suggests that work can’t occupy such a large part of your daily routine because it leaves hardly any time for you to engage with other crucial aspects of your life.
- Off Balance by Matthew Kelly
This is a fresh view on the topic, as the book suggests that there is no such thing as balance – there is only satisfaction that we crave for. It also provides hints and practical tips on how to achieve this “satisfied” state.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
There’s no point in postponing everything for later because, eventually, you’ll find yourself retired, unhealthy and unwilling to make your dreams come true. That’s why you need to optimize your skills so you can earn more and work less and have time for the things you really want to do in your life.
Whether you have a family, spouse, friends, dog, or just want to spend more time on yourself, work is a great obstacle in your way to achieving that goal. To solve this problem, you should turn this obstacle into a strength or additional support that nourishes all the other parts of your life.