Learn to Relax

So this March, I have decided to complete a set of habits daily in order to ensure that I am able to achieve work-life balance, and essentially avoid burn out. My cornerstone habit being leaving work at 6pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and at 6.30pm on Thursday afternoons.

These last two weeks I have done exactly that, left work at exactly 6pm regardless of how much stuff I had left to do, gone home and started to attend to home things. One thing I’ve realised after doing this is how much time I actually have when I get home. I get home at 7, cook, eat, wash the dishes and am usually all done by 9pm at which time I’m wondering… hmm… what do I do now? I check the work bank account – which is still the same number as it was just before I left work at 5pm, I take out my  kindle and do some reading, even look at some ideas for a holiday in July, one time I decided to do some stretching.

It’s was nice – then the weekend came. Jeremy was tired and preparing to work the night-shift so I was given some much coveted alone time. I finished with my chores by 10.30am and began to feel the urge to do so me work-work; which I am proud to say, I did not give into. Determined, I started thinking about all the LIFE STUFF I could do, which became quite the overwhelming experience. The diatribe in my head pretty much went:

Do I go shopping? What do I shop for? Should I be doing something else? reading a book maybe? What should I read? Should I read one of those self improvement books or is that not relaxing enough? Should I meal-plan? Are there any meal planning apps? Which one should I get? What time is it? Do I have time to spend time on this? Should I ask a friend to come shopping with me?

Needless to say, I exhausted myself thinking. I found myself sitting on the couch for at least an hour paralysed by the never ending choices of what I could do with my free time as well as pondering the irony of having so much free time and so many ideas of what to do yet, choosing to do none. In the end, I left the house to go shopping.

When I got home and put away the shopping (I chose to buy only groceries). I felt the temptation to pick up work again so I sat down and painted my nails purple then sat on the couch next to Jeremy and stared at the ceiling until it was time for dinner; after which thankfully, Jeremy decided to put on a movie and stop me from having to think too hard about what else I could do before going to bed.

It’s only just occurred to me, now that I am making time for non-work stuff, how few ideas I have about what to do with all that time I’m setting aside (and it’s not even that much!). I’ve noticed how averse I am to planning holidays; I’ve noticed that I judge rest and relaxation as “trivial” and “wasteful”; that I often think to myself, “if you have time; you should be working”. I think that is why I started this blog. Because it’s kinda like work in a way.

That being said, I’m glad that I’ve resisted the urge to do work. It’s made me more mindful about my thoughts about work and rest. I’m learning that its ok to relax and I’m also learning that there are different ways to relax too!


Strategies are Not the Same as Goals

Today I drove to work; got a bit caught up in some morning convo with my little sister via whats app so was running a little late. Listened to “Crappy to Happy” podcast in the car… interesting topic on goals. I liked what Cass Dunn said about strategies not being goals; made me reflect on the strategies I put into place for this month. My goal was to just tick all the boxes essentially; but Cass mentioned that this can be ineffective as often you need to be working towards something. I think what I’m working towards is feeling in control of my work-life and my personal-life. I know that a lot of my time will be spent at work, so I want to get the most out of my personal time.

Lately I’ve been allowing work to bleed into my personal life; which is actually unfair because I have so little time outside of work! I think my goals around leaving work on time and getting out of work during my lunch hour have had a positive effect on my focus at work. It has also had a positive effect on my personal life. I’ve started to challenge myself to think of FUN things to do in my personal time not just “work” things to do (e.g. cleaning and cooking and grocery shopping). I think that this in turn is helping me to be much better at work.

I had a set back today where I forgot to return the keys at the school I work at and managed not to let it ruin my day, Usually when I feel slightly stressed out at work I go for something sweet and eat bad stuff. Today I told myself “no”. But that probably had something to do with the fact I had preprepared snacks already (courtesy of me being super prepared this week because I’m not stuffing my life full of work).

Overall I’m feeling really happy and I’ve really zoned in on my goal. To have a clear boundary between work and life. And if I can stop checking my business bank account before and after work hours I’ll consider this experiment a raving success.

March Towards Balance – Week 1: Making Things Achievable

Change is always a challenge, so when I moved to Canterbury with Jeremy in August last year I found that it was incredibly difficult to keep to a routine. I had to find new ways to get to work, a new schedule for meal prepping, and a new schedule for exercising. Lots of things fell by the wayside as the holiday season came upon us; not to mention all the new responsibilities that came with becoming  my own boss at the beginning of this year.

So now that the holidays are well and truly over and my new business responsibilities have become less new. I’ve decided to use March to do the following things:

  • Boxing once a week at 6.30pm on Thursday afternoon,
  • Leave work by 6pm (6:30pm on Thursdays)
  • Eat my lunch outside of work
  • A day of going to work using public transport and incidental exercise
  • 2 x 15 mins of light to moderate cardiovascular exercise a week
  • 2 x 15 mins of strength exercise a week
  • 1 x 10 min meditation a week.

I am aware of how small each of these steps are, but I think combined they have made the first week of March feel like a success!

So how did I go this week?

I am pleased to report that I managed to complete all but one of these activities (I did not complete a second set of strength exercise this week). Here are a few things I’ve learned:

Setting clear boundaries is a good for focus

I have found that setting a time for leaving work and leaving work during my lunch hour has made me focus more during my set work hours. I find that I am more mindful about how I spend my time during work.

Be flexible with how you achieve your goals

Rather than spending my train ride playing Candy Crush on my phone, I completed my 10 minute meditation on the train this week. It was the first time I have ever meditated outside of the house and I found it equally effective and a good way to start the day, Also, rather than completing my second  strengthening exercises (just because I have to tick a box) I decided to do some stretching instead. I have added one lot stretching to my list of things to do next week instead of two lots of strength based exercise.

When I completed my routine experiment last year, I found that making small changes to improve the activity as you go can make the habit last longer. This week the main change I’m implementing is upping my protein intake, particularly after a strength exercise.


March Towards Balance

A few days ago my little sister – who is currently in London, sent me a picture of herself doing aerial yoga. The moment I saw this I thought, “Gee, I really need to have a better work-life balance going on”.

Now don’t get me wrong, my work-life balance isn’t horrendous. I try hard to switch off during the weekends and I do absolutely no work stuff at home. None. But I do notice I’ve already got some bad habits that need to get kicked out.

Bad Habit Number 1: I stay too late at work.

On several occasions I leave work at 7pm. That is WAY too late to stay at work. By the time I get home I barely have the energy to eat, let alone cook. When I lived only a 10minute train ride away going home at 7pm meant that I was home at the latest 7:30pm depending on the train schedule. Now that I live a 70 minute commute away I get home around 8:30pm if I’m lucky and all the buses line up! I’ve decided that moving into March that no matter where I’m up to in my work, I’m going to start packing up at 5:45 and leave work at 6pm (6:15 and 6:30 on Thursdays)

Doing your best and working hard does not mean running yourself into the ground.

Bad Habit Number 2: Not taking my lunch break away from work

My workmates don’t like to leave the workplace during their lunch hour – partially because we work next to a mall and they do NOT want to spend any money, As a result, I’ve also stopped leaving my office during my lunch hour. Moving into March, I’ve decided that I’m going to start spending my lunch break outside of the office, even if it just means heating up my food and sitting down on a step outside my work.

Bad Habit Number 3: Not doing enough exercise.

Ever since I’ve moved further from work, completing exercise has become something I no longer have as part of my routine. Moving into March I’ve decided I will commit to:

  • Boxing once a week at 6.30pm on Thursday afternoon,
  • A day of going to work using public transport and incidental exercise
  • 2 x 15 mins of light to moderate cardiovascular exercise a week
  • 2 x 15 mins of strength exercise a week
  • 1 x 10 min meditation a week.

I’ve decided to track all this using my Habit Tracker on my iPhone. Wish me luck!