Full and Joyful Not Hectic and Stressful. Repeat as Often as Needed.

Full and Joyful Not Hectic and Stressful. Repeat as Often as Needed.

It is fairly late at night and I am writing this from the lab. I came in a couple of hours ago to finish up an experiment that has been taking place all week. It is not particularly thrilling to be spending my evening among test tubes and cells, but it is also not terrible either. I could choose to view it in a less favorable way; life after all is all about the inner narrative that we make up as we go through our days. For example, my parents for are always surprised when I mention I am going to be going into work on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, sometimes staying there until late in the evening. To them, work-life has often been segregated into discrete weekday 9 AM-5 PM blocks of times, but that is just not as common anymore. Nor would I want it to be that way. While the idea of work-life balance is something I take very seriously, the reality is that for many of us who want to get ahead, an integration of the two concepts can actually be more satisfying if you leave in ample room for self-care in the process. The idea behind work-life balance is that work should be a part of your life, not your sole reason for existing. There is nothing wrong with that, but there are times when it is going to be necessary if you want to get ahead that work is going to invade what has been considered traditional leisure time. This trade off of leisure time for hours of work should not be taken lightly though. Mental and physical breaks are necessary. Period. Many people hold themselves to an unrealistic ideal as if they are made of circuit boards and microchips instead of flesh and bone. Research shows that leisure time is not only restorative but aids in creativity, creating new mental inroads when we’re not so bogged down by the litany of things each of us is tasked with doing on a daily basis. Each person needs are going to be different, but it is possible to perform at a high level at work, even with taking time each and every day to engage in rest and relaxation. One of the best ways I know to do this is to take a tech Sabbath. In fact, it is really the only way that I know how to consistently recharge my mind that doesn’t rely on my willpower alone. It is a commitment I have made with myself; so much so that it is actually scheduled in my calendar (I get reminders for it on my phone which is somewhat ironic). I have to set reminders because it can be incredibly difficult to resist checking email at 11 PM. My highest priority is ensuring that I’m healthy and happy, so if that is at the forefront of what I do, it becomes easier to decrease or eliminate the low value work that takes up so much time and energy, freeing up more time for self-care. As a knowledge worker and someone who is truly passionate about my research, I may never be able to fully leave work at the office, but that doesn’t mean I won’t strive most days to achieve a harmonious balance.

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