We live in an era in which work, for many, is all-pervasive to the extent that can almost be seen as a part of an individual’s lifestyle. If you’ve succumbed to the allure of modern hustle culture – refusing to get tired, never taking your foot off the gas, always upbeat and full of energy – how do you keep some form of zen in a world obsessed with work?

COVID has raised the intensity on the workplace front.

Your attitude may be top-notch and the approach you have to your workload exemplary, but this has been quite an anomaly of a year. It’s hard to feel like you can take the tempo down a notch when business is uncertain and redundancies widespread.

You’re supposed to take time off work for every cough and sniffle. Working remotely means a whole new day to day setup, and 2020’s goings-on has left many mentally exhausted.

Former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer generated plenty of publicity in a 2016 interview when she declared of her history of working 130 hours a week: “Could you work 130 hours in a week?’ The answer is yes if you’re strategic about when you sleep when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom.”

While most panned Mayer and her meticulous planning of pooing on schedule, some commentators argued her workload was completely manageable and survivable, even possibly inhuman.

Is working harder an aspirational lifestyle choice, or is the need to hustle harder just a fact of life and something we should all be aiming for? Like most things, it’s all about balance.

Having goals is commendable, of course. Ditto high expectations. But balancing these with time to rest, recharge and enjoy life is where the tricky bit lies (Marissa Mayer slept just four hours a night). Doing little but working constantly can lead to fatigue, stress, pressure, dissatisfaction, and depression. When your goal is long term success in business and pleasure you don’t want your default setting to be burnout.

Think of yourself like a child’s toy.

If said toy has no off switch, the batteries run and run and run and run until they can run no more. The toy starts sounding all warped and weird and it makes the kid cry; likely someone ends up drop kicking it into the rubbish. Nobody wants to be that toy.

It’s okay to not be into work every single waking minute of your life. It’s also great to enjoy your job. It’s great to fuse it into your lifestyle – but not at the expense of lifestyle itself. All roads don’t have to lead back to work.

So how does a modern day workaholic go about striking a work-life balance?

Fortunately, there are ways to future proof yourself before you get swept away on the tide.

– If you have the option of waking and getting into work early, you may earn yourself the guilt-free option of getting out early or taking that elusive midday break. 

– Try and fight the urge to constantly multitask, something a lot of us are guilty of. You end up doing 1,000 little bits of not very much and that constant switching between tasks is a massive brain drain.

– Don’t say yes to everything. Granted, sometimes we don’t get a choice whether we accept additional work or not. If that’s the case, ensure you communicate with your team and your management the time you’ll require to do the job and if you need additional help or resources. The more you say yes to, the more you’ll get given. Know your limits, and what you need to complete tasks to the best of your ability. 

– It sounds tedious but rumour has it that a clear desk really does equate to a clear mind. (I wouldn’t know – I have a messy desk and my brain is like a bowl of mashed potato.) If your workspace is organized you know where things are kept, keeping things streamlined, and saving precious time looking for things. Dust that thing every once in a while too – you won’t regret it. 

– You must not feel guilty about spending time on yourself. Self-care is not necessarily a luxury, and whether you spend your time on a massage table, working up a sweat, hanging out with family, or out on the town, time away from work is always well spent. Returning to the office relaxed and recharged is a boost to productivity which money can’t buy. 

– Treat your body and mind with the respect they deserve. Yes, I sound like your ma, but she’s entirely correct. If you want to get the most out of that brain and body of yours you need to eat lots of nutritious, fresh food, take time to exercise, and get enough sleep. You’re not capable of anything if you burn out. 

Interestingly, recent studies have shown workers who dislike their jobs are more at risk for health problems than those who love their work, put in longer hours, but are capable of detaching from work and switching off when they need to. If you’re a workaholic, but a content one, you may well have it made. 

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