When a coworker mentioned that I should consider writing about having a positive mental attitude and finding a balance between your work identity and personal identity, I thought she was crazy.
Keywords that I would use to describe myself:
Type A, high-energy, competitive, do-er.
Keywords for this article:
Work/life balance, positivity, stress management.
I’m completely unqualified. But here’s the good news: I’ve found a healthy work/life balance. I’ve found ways to manage stress. And I’ve even found ways to remain positive.
The even better news? If a Type A, high-energy me can strike a work/life balance, anyone can.
You Can’t Sprint Forever
Before I worked for a startup, I spent four years in the retail management and marketing world. I loved it. I had the opportunity to work alongside and underneath some of the best leadership in the world. These men and women poured their energy and resources into me and made me the hard-working, confident, and determined person I am.
Unfortunately, I was also working 60+ hours a week, I hadn’t taken a vacation day in over 2 years, and I never said no. I thought I would be able to say yes forever, work from 7AM to 9PM every day, and check all of the boxes–all while avoiding burnout. I was wrong. Like clockwork, I got sick. Physically and mentally. A three month case of walking pneumonia and the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder forced me to walk away from the job I thought I loved.
At some point, you will realize that a lifestyle characterized by high energy, stress, always saying yes, and never taking a break is not sustainable. You can’t sprint forever (Re: Arianna Huffington’s book “The Sleep Revolution”). Four months later, and as it turns out, this recovering Type A sprinter has something to say. Following are the few things that worked for me, and by sharing them, I can only hope I’m able to help someone else.
Define what rest is for you.
Creating a work/life balance starts with learning what it means to rest. I prefer to be doing things. My version of rest is taking my dog for a walk, getting coffee, being outside, spending quality time with family and friends, lots of road trips, and every good book I can get my hands on.
Second, it’s not so much about avoiding stress, but instead, learning how to manage it. One of the best ways for me to manage stress is to find outer peace through organization. Having a clean and decluttered home and workspace is integral in building a peaceful environment.
Being able to simplify what you can control is incredibly important. A great place to start is that unruly inbox. Nothing says “stress” more than 1,500 unread emails.
My desk only holds things that make me happy. Fresh flowers, colors that I love, and plenty of pens and notebooks (No, you don’t have to keep your whole life on Google Drive, and I would actually encourage you not to).
Do you have a favorite coffee mug? Find a space for it. Do you need a set of drawers to organize your office supplies? Get one. Are you a list person? They’re a great time management tool. Would you prefer to have a physical planner or calendar? Make it happen. This makes a huge difference when you walk into work on a Monday morning, I promise.
Some great resources for organization:
1.) “The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. (book)
2.) “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” – Gretchen Rubin (podcast)
Find your fit
My new job at Sapper? I get to work for a startup. And yes, it is just as glamorous as it sounds. We have a ping pong table, Mario Kart for our Wii, and enough third wave coffee to feed 50 hipsters for a year. But we also work really hard. Everyone wears different hats and has many different roles and I’d be lying if I said I never worked a little too late into the night.
When you’re at work, managing stress and staying positive requires both time and effort. I schedule out time every day to “breathe;” i.e. Starbucks run, walk outside, guided meditation via Headspace. I also have to schedule out time each week to reflect, because if I don’t, it’s easy for me to just put my head down and work until I’m burned out. And if you are burning out, be honest with yourself and those around you.
Ask for help when you need it. Sapper’s COO once told me that it’s completely acceptable to stop what you’re doing, walk away for a minute, breathe, and collect yourself when it seems like everything is on fire.
This is a profound piece of wisdom, and we need more leaders like this. It’s okay not to have it all together.
Take the personal day, go on the road trip, buy the new book; whatever brings you joy, make time for it.
Taking time for yourself is not a waste of time. You have to BE 100% to GIVE 100%. Know that your time is incredibly valuable, but you can’t sprint forever. Take opportunities to rest, listen, and be honest with yourself. Your quality of life (and your work life) will thank you for it.
Katie Meyers is a Client Strategist for Sapper Consulting and an organizational superhuman. To meet more of our lead generation team, click the button below.