I talk with a lot of worn-out people. Most of these people are overworked and on the verge of burnout. They say they want more work-life balance in their lives but this goal seems to elude them. Most of these folks typically work an average 40-50 hours a week, in addition to their commute. That is manageable for most people. What puts them into the overworked category and primed for burnout is the "second shift."
This second shift begins when you leave your full-time job and start the endless list of activities that leave you little or no discretionary time to replenish your physical and emotional reserves. These second-shift activities include: running errands, picking up kids at various locations and buying dinner before arriving home. This is followed by a hurried meal, more chauffeuring, a meeting, helping with homework, putting kids to bed, phone calls, dishes and paying bills. There may be even more that you try to squeeze in before you fall into bed exhausted. The overworked or burned out person typically tries to make up for a lack of time by "stealing" from their sleep. They wake up tired the next morning to start another day of the double shift. Do you know anyone who keeps a schedule like that?
This describes my life on certain days. In fact, many people I know live life as if they had two full-time jobs. Perhaps this describes you. If so, you are among the majority of Americans who feel they are always working, even when they are at home. The values of productivity usually found in the workplace have seeped into our "free time." And it is wearing us out.
But does life need to be this exhausting and frenetic? Is it possible to create a work/life balance in this stressed-filled world we live in? I think it is. But it requires that we make changes in the way we approach our work lives.
Slow your pace and intensity
The idea of slowing down is scary to some people. They are so accustomed to moving in perpetual motion they never give serious thought to using their time in any other way. Multi-tasking is viewed as a necessity to get through the day. But living continually at this pace is very stressful and diminishes the quality of your life.
When we deliberately slow down, we are forced to make decisions about how we will use our limited time. We have to because we are choosing to do less. Instead of spouting energy in all directions simultaneously, we focus that energy in one direction at a time. This enables us to do what we do more thoroughly, deliver better quality and enhances our engagement and satisfaction with the work.
It also forces us to be mindful of our values. The truly important activities or people will get the energy they deserve and those items lower on our list must wait or perhaps even be put off until much later.
Here are some simple but effective ways to begin slowing down:
- Slow the pace at which you walk. Look around you, especially when you are outside. Glance up at the sky and notice the shape of the clouds; feel the breeze on your face, etc.
- When eating, take smaller bites, chew your food more slowly, taste the flavors. Too often food is simply "refueling" and not the enjoyable experience it can be.
- Choose your words more carefully in conversation. This will force you to talk more slowly and become more aware of what's being said. Search for words that clearly communicate what you want to say.
- When driving, lighten up on the accelerator. Leave a few extra minutes so that you don't have to weave in and out of traffic, tailgate, or get yourself worked up over slow drivers.
Other ideas of how to slow down will become evident to you as you develop a new life rhythm. Those who are willing to choose slower ways of living often find they enjoy life more, feel less stressed and, believe it or not, get more done. They are also more satisfied with their work because they are attending the things in their life that are most important.