You could say that the Dalai Lama is an exceptionally interesting person. After all, he’s a far more open-minded than you’d expect from a religious figure. Nevertheless, it’s the Dalai Lama’s views on the meaning and consequences of maintaining optimal work-life balance which I find to be profound.
When asked what surprises him the most in a recent interview, the Dalai Lama offered this insightful response: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes workers accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss incentivize longer hours. In fact, a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but here health and career experts share tips to help you find the balance that’s right for you.
1. Let go of perfectionism
Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive, says executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, who wrote The Office Survival Guide.
“There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life.
Brooks says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So, don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family, Brooks advises. Make quality time true quality time. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will develop a stronger habit of resilience. “Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives,” says Brooks, while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress
3. Exercise and meditate
Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body. It helps lift your mood and can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Puder-York recommends dedicating a few chunks of time each week to self-care, whether it’s exercise, yoga or meditation. And if you’re really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute, a quick five-minute meditation session morning and night, or replacing drinking alcohol with a healthier form of stress reduction.
4. Limit time-wasting activities and people
First, identify what’s most important in your life. This list will differ for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else’s. Next, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority people and activities.
5. Change the structure of your life
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume our habits are set in stone. Take a birds-eye view of your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier?
Instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you specialize in and value most. Delegate or outsource everything else. Delegating can be a win-win situation!