I must confess, I am a workaholic. Is it a family trait or is it something I have learned? As a sociologist, I would probably say it is a little bit of both, but my home environment growing up definitely had an impact on my work ethic. The culture I grew up in (American) probably did too. However, I have lived more than 10 years outside of the U.S. (in a place where the work culture is totally different). And despite the fact that the world of work has changed with the Coronavirus situation, I still cannot seem to shake my need to be doing or learning something all of the time.
Now, I want to be clear about this, even though I am working from home, it doesn’t mean that I am working on work stuff for 12 hours a day. Quite the contrary, in fact, as I make an effort to shut my work computer down after my 8 hour day. It is then that I turn on my personal computer (my kitchen table is full of stuff these days) and start working on other things. What I am ‘working’ on currently? Well, I am taking an online course called the science of well being, I am studying Finnish daily, I am working on this blog and social media elements such as Pintrest or Instagram, and I am trying to maintain a social life.
However, I would say that I am naturally quite an introverted person and need to have time for myself. That means, despite the fact that I am technically alone all the time these days, I find myself perhaps even more connected than I was before. This is slightly problematic because I also enjoy creating space where I am not connecting to other people. It is all a process, but I have been trying to create balance between working on projects (or being social) and really spending time alone.
1.) I take time for myself first thing every day
Every morning I make sure to wake up around 2 hours before I am meant to be at my desk (whether this is in my physical office or my at home office). During this two hours, I do a little bit of yoga with Adriene, eat a good breakfast, and go for a short walk*. Sure, I could wake up later and rush into work (or to my table) after having just a quick coffee, but that doesn’t allow me to wake up properly or even have a good start to my morning. It is definitely a strange concept for others, but I find that I am more effective at my job and happier in general if I manage to start my morning off right.
My morning routine is something that I now try to do even on weekends and holidays, even if I don’t always follow through with each of the elements in the same way as on a workday. That is because, after fine-tuning my process for a while now, I feel like I deserve this time for myself. I also feel that when I take some time for myself before the day starts, I am more likely to show up for others in my life in a way that is better for them.
2.) I try to combine things that give me peace with being productive
If I have a day where I don’t do anything productive, I can feel frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, some weekends, my list of things to do only includes watching certain movies, doing my self-imposed Finnish homework, and making food for the week. At the same time, I feel better when I know I have completed the things that I set out to do on a certain day. In order to make sure I can get the best of both worlds, I make sure that things like doing daily yoga and eating a good breakfast are included on my to-do list. I also include things like going for a walk—where I can be productive by getting a second daily dose of movement and listen to podcasts—or cooking. In this way, I try to create a positive cycle for myself. I allow myself to think about this time I spend for myself as productive time and even put it on my list of things to do so I don’t forget.
3.) I make sure to get some exercise
If you haven’t been able to tell, moving every day is something important to me. While many people say that movement is key to physical health (and I don’t disagree), I would say I need to move to be mentally healthy as well. Normally, in addition to my morning yoga, I walk everywhere and play team sports. Obviously, due to the current situation, I don’t have anywhere to walk to and team gatherings are not allowed. That means that I am trying to find other ways to make sure that I move every single day. One way I do this is taking an extra 15 minutes at lunch to get in a quick stretch or doing an extra yoga practice before bed. Other ways to get movement in include putting on music and dancing or, a personal favorite of Dani’s, using virtual reality to move.
When I move, in addition to the happy hormones that are released, I disconnect from whatever I am working on, at least a little bit. I personally feel that by disconnecting, I am better able to focus when I sit down to work. That is, by taking a break to move my body during the day, I think I do a better job, with whatever I am working on. Doing exercise allows me to focus better and enjoy what I am doing more.
4.) I eat right (for me)
I feel like this is especially important right now when we have more time than ever to think about what we are putting into our bodies and to cook healthy food. One of the things I have learned about myself over the years is that if I don’t eat well, I don’t function well. And, as a workaholic who wants to be productive daily, I need to function well for my mental well being. Again, this is a positive cycle thing—if I eat well, I preform better and am more willing to ensure I am eating well. It is all too easy for me to forget this in times of stress but my work suffers and I am soon back on the wagon.
At the same time, while I believe that eating right might have broad generalizations for all people, I think we should all eat correctly for our own needs. What does eating right look like for me? I know I have a high metabolism and that my blood sugar can drop if I am not careful. Therefore, I make sure to try to eat full meals, as well as having snacks around as necessary (usually with high calories and healthy fats or sugar or both). Dani and I both love the Mediterranean diet, and I personally go through about a liter of Spanish olive oil every month. However, with tapas and fried food it isn’t always easy to create balance, something necessary for me to feel good. Read more about Spanish food balance here.
5.) I am still understanding how to find my balance
As someone who needs to feel productive and is constantly adding new courses or projects to my plate, I recognize that I am not the perfect example of balance. I know I am still (and might always be) on a journey to figuring out where I am and where I want to be.
Especially during the current time, where it feels like everyone is either doing 100 things at once or binge watching Netflix, I feel like knowing yourself and being able to find balance in how you work is important. I will probably always be a workaholic. However, I recognize that and also work towards making my tendency to work too much as healthy as I can for myself.
I would like to hear how you are doing! Are you a workaholic or the opposite? And how are you finding your balance during this time?
*Please note that where I am we are still allowed to go out for walks as long as we aim to social distance at the same time.