In fifteen years of working, I can tell you one of the most important things I have learned in my career: make work-life balance a priority. With the proper balance, studies show we perform better at work and are more present at home. We have energy and motivation to tackle the tough projects and still have enough left over to play with our rambunctious toddlers or go out for that special night with our significant other.
When I started Austin Software, the thing I set out to do was support the well-being of the developer. I observed how employers were treating developers like cogs in a machine, a line item on a P&L and that really hurt my soul. My mother was a computer programmer and it killed me how she’d come home drained and exhausted from the constant demands of workaholic America.
The great news is more and more companies are recognizing the importance of mental health and placing a focus on it in their HR policies. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it's that no HR department knows how to support your own well-being better than yourself.
Because while some people need daily balance to ensure positive mental health and harmony in their life, others appreciate working non-stop and then shutting off completely for several days. No one knows better how to fill your proverbial cup than you.
But, not everyone has figured out the magic potion for their own well-being and luckily for us, there’s lots of studies that show what helps! Here are 5 easy ways to help create harmony and well-being in your life:
Find your magic sleep number and make this a priority daily.
For me, my magic sleep number is 8.5 hours. Yes, I know how impossible this can be and yes, I too, love going to bed at 2am and also have a toddler who loves to get up at the crack of dawn. However, I have learned that if I don’t get the appropriate amount of sleep, no amount of coffee would get my day off to a good start and the next few days would be crap as well since my sleep bank would be drained.
But I had a serious problem - my toddler refused to sleep-in past 630am and I refused to change my habits to go to bed earlier. This was a very rough, very unproductive few months. During this stubborn stand-off, I finally conceded and for the first time in my 35 years of die-hard night-owling, I forced myself to go to bed at 930pm, knowing that would give me 30 mins of reading time to fall asleep by 10pm in order to be up and rested by 630am. It was a rough transition, but honestly, this eternal night-owl might finally understand the value of the early worm. The key to a good night's rest is ensuring you actually get it.
I know, I’m telling us tech geeks to unplug. And while technology has made our lives so much easier in so many ways, our constant availability is catastrophic for our well-being. When it’s your time, it’s important it’s your time. That means, no notifications, no alerts, and if you can, no phones.
Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life” says that phone notifications interrupt your off-time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So identify if you’re a daily turn-off your notifications kind of person or a weekend turn-off your notifications kind of person, or whatever is your special combo and make sure when you unplug in those moments, you really unplug. There’s no need for unnecessary injected stress when you’re in the moments of giving back to yourself.
Learn the art of saying “no.”
The most freeing thing that ever occurred to me was when I let myself start saying no to the things I didn’t enjoy or fill my cup. Here’s a fun example, as an entrepreneur every book and mentor says that networking is the most important thing you can do for your business. The problem is I absolutely hate networking. It’s completely inauthentic and everyone there just wants to know who you know and how you can help them. And I fucking hate it and I hated all these leeches.
So I said no more. No more networking events, no more business events, just no. And guess what, our business is booming, and you know why, because we believe in treating people right and doing a good job. People talk, people introduce, no fake vibes or inauthentic networking here. So find that thing that kills your soul and just say no. It will allow you more time to spend with the high-priority people and activities in your life. And it might not be one major thing, it might be several little things like happy hours or other social obligations. If you don’t leave the thing feeling better than you did before you arrived, just say no next time. Here is your permission.
I know, blah, everyone says to do this and I, as mom to a toddler, and busy CEO of this company, there’s no shortage of excuses for how I can’t make time to exercise. However, I learned something that really set in with the way I think about working out and well-being. The more one exercises, it is scientifically proven that your body will actually calm itself when presented with a new stressor.
According to Psychotherapist Bryan Robertson and author of “Chained to the Desk,” our autonomic nervous system is broken down into two groups: the sympathetic nervous system (stress response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest response) and the more we exercise or do grounding exercises like meditation our parasympathetic nervous systems (the one that calms us) starts to trump the sympathetic nervous system (the one that adds stress) in stressful situations -- and not just in the moment too, but will start to be the main response over time. We are never too busy to eat or sleep. We should also never be too busy to exercise.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our well-being is to start small. Crash diets don’t work and neither does “crash well-being.” I totally just made that up. #trademark. Let me use another way too personal example, I started this business a year after I got divorced. I was still picking up the pieces to my life and trying to hold it all together. Well-being was not the focus, creating an income stream so I could eat was. I had a lot on my plate and was taking a big risk. I didn’t sleep enough, I drank too much, and I surely wasn’t exercising enough.
However, I did set one personal goal, “make my bed everyday.” I heard a speech where the presenter said the best thing you can do for yourself is make your bed because if all else fails, you’ve at least accomplished one thing that day. I liked how simple it was and how easy it was to follow. So I set out to start this company and make my bed everyday. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I did that year. Coming home to a made bed every day was sometimes the only successful thing I accomplished that day when everything else went to shit. It was so monumental, that still to this day, I don’t leave a bed unmade. But now I have the mental time and energy to add in everything else.
So there you go! Five easy ways to jump start your well-being and balance with work and life. I hope this helps and if you find it valuable, we’d love to hear.