*I orignally wrote this for a Graduate Discussion assignment about Work/Life Balance and got carried away…*
My approach to Work/Life balance is simple: Take a systems perspective. By this I mean people should design a system in which balance in built into your schedule so that it not something that needs to be consciously performed. My primary strategies for maintaining balance fall into the following categories: scheduling, routines, rewards, boundaries. I like to think of this approach as the “Triple Redundancy” because if scheduling fails you can always rely on the other pieces of the system.
Recently I’ve begun preparing a weekly schedule in which I assign time slots in hour-long increments to all of my activities. The rigid items typically get inputted first so things like class, office hours, internship hours, morning routine. Secondly I look for spaces with the gaps to fill with miscellaneous activities I enjoy: Creative writing time, laundry, podcast, going for a walk. I find that adding fun things onto my schedule helps me treat them as a priority.
About nine months ago I began experimenting with a daily morning routine. A morning routine is a deliberate and habitual set of activities that an individual performs everyday. Creating and sticking to a morning routine has been beneficial for me because it gives me a sense of stability in a otherwise chaotic day. For those interested my routine looks like this:
Wake up 6am
Gym 1 hour
Shower 12 minutes
Meditation 10-20 minutes
Breakfast 25 minutes
Experience shows that my routine typically lasts around 2 hours so I never schedule anything to interfere with the first 2 hours of my day.
Another tactic I exploit to maintain work life balance is a personal Rewards system. I have a mental contract with myself that if I perform certain activities I am allowed a very specific reward. One that has helped me get healthier is very straight forward: If I exercise during my morning routine, I am allowed to shower that day. Otherwise I am not allowed to shower. I LOVE taking showers so if I get lazy and miss the gym the punishment is I am not allowed to shower that day. I find the technique to be powerful, I typically do not go longer than 2 days without showering/exercising. Another experiment I’ve been running involves using visual rewards to reinforce behavior. For those interested look up “The Paper-Clip Strategy” and the “The Seinfeld Strategy”. These strategies are good for creating long term habit formation.
Lastly to maintain work life balance I have refined a clear set of boundaries around how I use my technology. Essentially a list of rules of engagement for my smartphone here are some for example:
- No smartphone allowed in bedroom during bedtime
- No checking email before my morning routine
- No checking phone while I am driving
- No distracting social media apps allowed on my smartphone
I have also disabled most of the notification noises and alerts on my phone (with the exception of the default text message app).
Until next time – Barry