My friends and colleagues would describe me as a “happy workaholic”. I view myself this way as well. Driven by a passion to succeed and fueled by a desire to always go beyond past accomplishments is a highly addictive life pattern. Surrounded by colleagues and friends free of personal entanglements and completely focussed on work means we encourage each other to keep an unrelenting pace.
Our personality type makes the concept of work/life balance a very hard one to implement. We love what we do, often we find ourselves hoping for more hours in the day to get more work done. We thrive on challenges and eagerly meet them head-on. There is always more work to do- an exciting new project to launch, a brand-new challenge to meet head-on, a new mountain to climb and on and on and on.
Having ridden this roller-coaster of projects really hard for years on end one day I found myself staring at my laptop screen absolutely incapable of understanding or processing the email before me.
Going full throttle for over two decades from one gargantuan project to another, one successful event to another, one blockbuster campaign to another had suddenly caught up with me at 3 pm on a sunny winter afternoon mid-December.
I remember standing up, packing my laptop and walking out of the office. Somehow, I managed to get home on auto-pilot and collapsed in bed. In the days that followed, I recall not wanting to make the smallest decisions because it was too much for me. It was as if I had lost my ability to reason, organize or problem solve. Fortunately, having scheduled my annual vacation at the end of December meant within 3 days of this experience I was flying to a beautiful sunny beach.
For the next seven days, I spent hours gazing at the ocean on a white sandy beach. The turquoise ocean held a hypnotic sway upon my soul. Every morning I would walk along the edge of the ocean on a stretch of the 12-mile beach. The waves would excitedly rush towards me sometimes humongous and breath-taking, at other times silently soothing my being as the cool waters kissed my feet.
Time slowed down. Swimming in the ocean, sitting on the beach, walking through the fishing village, eating and sleeping became my new daily routine. For the first time ever, I didn’t once think of checking email.
When I came back to work, I realized I was still tired. I would find myself yawning continuously and recognized this was my body’s way of telling me to sleep.
So that’s what I did for the next few weeks. Leave work on time, go home, cook simple nourishing meals with my sister and then just go to bed. When my body had paid its sleep-debt automatically I began waking up early. Waking up before sun-rise and feeling happy, content and full of creative ideas brought a sense of peace and tremendous good energy into my being.
I began organizing my life around the things I wanted to integrate as a part of everyday living.
I went back to being vegetarian and dairy-free, eating luscious fresh fruits and nutrient-rich vegetables. Eating healthy dramatically impacted my energy levels so I found myself wanting to stretch and do some yoga. Soon I brought meditation back, then I challenged myself to write 500 words a day for 31 days and am still working on reading a little bit every day.
In order to continue doing all of the above I organically began creating temporal boundaries, designating exclusive time for these pursuits. This wasn’t about creating a balance, it was preserving undisturbed time sometimes in small varying quantities for the things I wanted in my life.
Creating and maintaining functional boundaries around the sacred things in my life helped me naturally create physical boundaries.
There is no way to check work emails when you are meditating or involved in creative pursuits like cooking, journaling or engaged in creative writing or, for that matter, reading something new for personal growth and development. This automatically creates regulated breaks or downtime just like elite athletes take regimented rest periods to perform at their best when it counts the most.
Journaling took me on a contemplative inner journey helping me debunk my own limiting beliefs and assumptions. Careful introspection brought up some deep-seated beliefs that if I did not work so intensely, I would not be successful. Knowing this enabled me to recalibrate life. Focusing my attention on different activities apart from work served me immensely in creating cognitive boundaries. Work no longer held my attention hostage. Yet when I was separated from work some of the most out of the box ideas and creative solutions come to me.
Taking time to bring back some joy into my life hasn’t taken away from my performance at work, in fact, it has made me a better manager, certainly, a happier person, enhanced my creativity and increased efficiency and productivity within projects.