Saturday, May 30, 2015

Work-Life Imbalance


Balancing in 10 steps: Living life and leaving work

the work wall adjacent to my desk at acorn training

This Saturday, I'm stuck at home nursing an annoying cold that refuses to go away. Deadlines at work are creeping up on me but I seriously can't think straight with all this fog clouding my judgement. So I've decided to edit a draft blog post that I did long ago, which has become relevant again since I've gone back to work.

One thing's for sure - I love my job. I loved my work as a teacher in the past. But I also love my current job no less. Some people tell me it's because I'm lucky or that it's only because of my overly optimistic personality, perhaps, but I've also been very careful about maintaining a clear line between work and life. That's what I wanted to share in this post -

1. Get an early headstart

The office starts buzzing at around 9-ish, colleagues file in one after the other with chirpy morning greetings and sometimes even with breakfast to share. It takes a good half an hour before anyone settles down to actual work.

So I come in an hour before every morning. When the office is all quiet, leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee and almost immediately attend to emails that filed in the night before. When I'm done with that, I take some time to plan what has to be done for that day and what can be done another time.

The quiet makes for better productivity and the planning gives me a better grasp of how time ought to be managed for the day. This ensures clarity even when last minute changes happen, that leads me to point #2.

2. Always expect diversions

When we don't and they happen anyway, we often find ourselves frustrated and annoyed. This just slows us down even further. Instead, we can expect to be disturbed in the course of every work day. New projects come in. Or the boss wants something done immediately. A colleague needs help urgently etc.

This might be unconventional, but whilst planning my work day I also include buffer times for diversions. On good days when there are none, I simply get more work done earlier!

3. Change your environment

Working at the desk all day not only slows your productivity, it's even bad for your general health! Stiff neck and sore back? That must be due to long hours in the same position day in day out.

As mentioned earlier, I usually plan my work day. This I do in blocks of tasks. Perhaps preparing proposals, followed by making some phone calls and then writing up curriculum etc. After a block is completed, I intentionally move. If the desk of another colleague is vacant, I migrate there for the next block or sit myself by the window for a bit with some cushions to prop up my laptop. If it's a crowded day at the office, I simply turn over an empty paper box and create a standing desk. Very effective for food coma attacks after lunch.

4. Take a nap

I'm not quite sure why no one else does. The internet raves about it, books and professionals affirm the practice. Many other Southeast Asian countries have a set time for siesta every afternoon... Yet we don't do it, even though it's meant to increase our productivity.

In the past, I used to sleep immediately after lunch. But that often made it impossible to wake up. Now, I discipline myself to work for another two hours before taking that nap. This I do for half and hour, obviously with the help of an alarm.

The point is, forcing yourself to work when you're extremely sleepy is really counter-productive. So if you want to increase your efficiency at work, take a nap!

5. (If possible) Don't bring work home

Yes there will be days you will have to work until the building security asks you to leave. But on other days, if you can help it, avoid bringing work home. That's the biggest cause of the imbalance. The moment work is brought home, you lose the solace and the peace that home brings you. Home is where your mindset can shift to family, to rest and to generally more relaxing things. While I do love my work, I also treasure the work-less hours we can enjoy reading, doing sports or simply having conversation with friends.

Even if you work from home, like I did awhile back, there's still a need for the discipline to keep work to one space and time. Yes! It takes a lot of discipline to actually stop working.

And a host of other things like
6. Keep those social media tabs closed
7. Set realistic targets 
8. Maintain an organised desk 
9. Sleep early

so on and so forth.

Most importantly

10. Enjoy your job

No matter what it might be. Even if you're about to move on to another job soon, try and enjoy your job now. After all it's where we spend more than half our waking hours at it. If you were to hate your job for whatever reason at all, you're only making yourself miserable. Find something, anything at all to love about your job and perhaps that will change every thing about this work-life imbalance.

Are they parts of my job that I hate? Certainly. I absolutely hate admin tasks. My solution is to slip them into blocks of bigger tasks, so while they get done, I don't spend hours at the end of each month dealing with them.

What I do love about my job though is plenty. Meeting teachers and training students. Brainstorming with like-minded colleagues. Creating new curriculum, designing and testing out new games and activities. That helps me look forward to work, even when we're in a crazy busy period, keeping my mind on the tasks that I love makes work so much easier.


Grateful as always,

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