Finding Work-Life Balance

Photo Courtesy Fabio Bruna
Photo Courtesy Fabio Bruna

It’s a Sunday morning and I sitting in our home office. Earlier this morning I found an article on LinkedIn talking about the things you should do on Sunday to get ahead at work. The article made me think: why do we work so much and why would we work when we don’t need to?

I shared the article on Google+ and got some interesting feedback from people there. Some of them were remarking that work gives you purpose and you should do whatever it takes to be more productive so you can live a more meaningful life. Others recalled stories of workaholics that saved away for lavish retirements only to be stricken with cancer before they could enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Just like everything else, I think people need to seek balance with their work and life. Often times we talk about the “work life balance” but how many of us actually try to practice such a thing? We speak of it from a tangent as a way to justify an extra day off or with spite when talking about our mobile phones that alert us even during our times away from the office. How many of us actually work towards achieving a work-life balance though?

In my workplace I see people that leave consistently at 5 PM every day while others toil until the wee hours of the night, sometimes not leaving the office until midnight. Generally, these people share the same workload, so why does it take some so much longer than others?

Not everyone has the same proficiency with computers. Not everyone has stellar time management skills. Not everyone double or triple checks their work when they get done. We all have different ways of approaching our workload, regardless of how much work we have. Some of us are gifted with shortcuts while others have the take the long way to getting certain things done.

Because most of our work involves technology, those of us from the millennial generation have the upper hand. From a young age we were given a better understanding of the ins and outs of personal computing. A lot of us took computer programming before we even left high school which gave us the concepts of computing more efficiently. From just that grasp of a concept we can quickly create complicated spreadsheets, e-mail filters, rules and macros to help us streamline our workflow and spend less time doing redundant or menial tasks.

Older generations, or less technically-inclined co-workers don’t have those advantages and are usually left to take the “long way” to getting things done. Sure, we could share these tools, concepts and shortcuts, but without the core concepts that we were taught at such a young age, others won’t be able to formulate their own solutions to time-consuming tasks.

Instead of working harder, we should all focus on working smarter. Some of us have advantages that others don’t, but we should recognize those advantages and share what we can with others to improve their efficiency. The smarter we work, the more we can move forward.

For all of those things that take so much time, there is probably an easier way to do them. Perhaps if we all worked together we could find, implement and share solutions to make all of our work a little more easier. Then, with that extra time, we could do what we were put here to do: live.

Now that’s what I call work-life balance.

 

 

How often do you unplug?

Chromebook in my kitchen

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen counter and enjoying a cup of coffee. For the first time in almost two weeks I was catching up on social media notifications and some of the people that I enjoy following on the web.

During the time that I was in Hamilton, Massachusetts, Brittani and I didn’t have much access to the Internet. Cellphone service was fine, but we were so busy and engaged with my family and each other that we didn’t have the time (or urge) to whip out our smartphones and keep up with the other going-ons of the world.

In a sense, it was kind of liberating. We live in a world right now where we are addicted to the satisfaction of “Likes” retweets and comments. Our brains are hooked on the positive emotion of seeing interaction on the content that we share, as trivial as some of it might be. For one long weekend, Brittani and I put all of that to the wayside and just enjoyed our time with the family.

After coming back home I was so tied up with work that I didn’t really do much social media. In fact, it’s been a couple of weeks since I have sat down at a computer outside of work to do anything other than pay bills.

What I have found in my abstinence of social media is that it really doesn’t help me enjoy life. Sure, it’s an easy way to see who is up to what, who is having a baby and who won the big game, but some of that news is delivered so impersonally.

As technology improves and we start to better appreciate focused and curated information I think we will see mainstream social media playing a much different part in our lives. Posting “status updates” and photos of culinary adventures will still have its place in the world, but I think in a much different context.

Yesterday while I was enjoying a Labor Day celebration with friends and family I was speaking to a local web developer that limits his “online” activity to his workplace. He’s deleted his Facebook account after spending years as a social media marketing manager. He said it was one of the most liberating feelings in his life. To top it off, he doesn’t even carry a smartphone.

Listening to him tell me that he was a web developer that was totally unplugged from the grid outside of his 9-5 was totally foreign to me. I didn’t even think it made sense, but then it struck me. Our vocations have been so centered around computers that “personal computing” is a lost idea. We spend so much time in our jobs focusing on a 20″ screen that we are losing the urge to do anything (even creative) once we leave the office.

The last two weeks have been great for me. I feel refreshed, accomplished, relaxed and ready for my next adventure. Maybe I should unplug more often?

What is the longest you have ever been unplugged? Have you stopped using social media recently? Do you think the way we use social media is starting to change?

What Happens When You Lose Focus

Blurry Image by Steve Snodgrass shared under Creative Commons 3.0
Image by Steve Snodgrass shared under Creative Commons 3.0

It has happened to all of us.

At one point or another, we made a promise to improve ourselves and we failed. Whether it was at work, with losing weight or spending more time on our hobbies, we can’t seem to do everything we want to accomplish all of the time.

For me, I made a promise to write a blog post every day for 30 days. Sounds simple enough, right? I did too.

It turns out, it wasn’t. In fact, it was really hard. So hard–in fact–that I actually failed.

Failure is okay though. It’s not something to be afraid of. Each time we fail we teach ourselves what we need to improve and what we need to avoid in order to be successful.

You’re never going to be able to lose 20-lbs, write Thank You notes to everyone that did something nice, make your bed every morning and start a new Yoga class every Tuesday for a month. Somewhere, something is going to have to give.

As I tackle on new projects, new responsibilities and promises to myself, I am learning to realize that we as humans can’t do everything at once.

In order to be successful, we need to try one thing at a time.

You can watch all of the “motivational speeches” you want about how you should never sleep, you should never give up and you should spend every living and breathing second focusing on being successful. You can try to replicate what worked for someone else, but in the end, you will fail. We all need to learn to be okay with that.

By failing, we learn. By learning, we become smarter.

The smarter we are, the more realistic our goals become.

Remember: every time you lose focus, pay attention to what caused you to become distracted. Steer away from the distractions and allow yourself to find the best way to accomplish your goals.

Be realistic. You can’t eat the elephant all at once. Take small bites, and chew slowly.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Sure, it’s challenging, but take advantage of its learning moments and use them to set you up for success.

Every time you lose focus, if you pay attention, you can put yourself a step closer to getting where you want to be.

And once you get there? Well, you’ll be grateful for taking the time to pay attention along the way.

Losing focus is okay. After all, you might learn something from it.

Do You Want to Make an Impact?

Do You Want to Make an Impact?
Do You Want to Make an Impact?

It seems as the global population grows, more and more people feel the need to “make an impact.” This philosophy of making a difference with your life has really got me thinking a lot about how the way we think is changing. As future generations become more and more “mainstream” there seems to be less diversity in our occupations and less time away from work.

America (and other Western countries) are shifting more and more towards service and away from industry. Not too long ago it was common to have coal miners and factory workers as your neighbors. They were good people, working hard for an honest living. Now, in the suburbs of America, it seems that most of us work in cube farms providing services for other individuals and businesses.

There is nothing terribly wrong with a shift from blue collar to white collar work, but it seems as though we are finding our jobs more and more mundane and they are taking up more and more of our time. No longer do we have 40-hour work weeks with worry-free weekends. Instead, we drag ourselves into the office each morning and try to pry ourselves out sometime in the evening. The work doesn’t stop there, though. Usually there is a Blackberry or other device constantly reminding us of our occupational duties.

I think that our increasing passion to make a difference comes from the separation of ourselves from our vocation. No one wants to be known as a “project contributor” and they probably don’t want to define their life by that. I, for one, want to die being “the person that…” and I don’t think I am alone.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

It doesn’t matter what your passion is, but I bet you it probably isn’t related to your work. If you love doing what you do, then consider yourself lucky. But, if you are like so many other people, what drives you to be independent, to succeed at something? Is it money? Is it happiness, fame? Why do you want to make an impact?

If one thing is for certain (well two, if you count taxes) we have a limited amount of time to enrich our lives and the lives of others. So putting your nose to the grind and finding something that will benefit not only yourself, but others—and possibly society—is a huge desire.

“I like my job because it involves learning. I like being around smart people who are trying to figure out new things. I like the fact that if people really try they can figure out how to invent things that actually have an impact.” – Bill Gates

I would love to make an impact on the world, but I don’t think that is going to happen, so I’ll settle on making an impact to my audience. I have been working hard to create content, engage my audience and build a tribe. Hopefully when I move on to do other things, create other products and services, I might have a few members of that tribe standing behind me. But, as I am doing all of this I need to keep focused on what pays the bills and keeps the lights on at home.

Perhaps in a few years I will hit a breakthrough and finally find myself loving what I’m doing. Until then, I’m going to keep trying to put a dent in a few people’s trains of thought. The universe comes later.