Stop on your way to work for 30 seconds and look around you. What do you see? The postman is out delivering mail, people are rushing past you on the busy street to get to work, Amazon delivering a midnight order of nappies, construction workers continue to toil on, a child is throwing a tantrum with a frustrated parent, cyclists whooshing by, and impatient drivers blowing their horns in traffic like it would make a difference.
When you stop, the world continues around you. No one has really noticed that you stopped moving. Nothing happens. No crisis at the office as happened because you took 30 seconds to breathe. Look at how insignificant you actually are in the massive world we live in.
Everyone has a purpose, something to do, somewhere to be and someone relying on them to live up to their commitments, at work, at home, in life. We’re not really cogs in a machine because if a single cog stops, the machine stops. We’re all replaceable parts that work independently but contributing to the whole. But when you stop, when you’re ill, when you’re away, everything keeps going.
Everywhere we go, every book we read, every mentor and coach, everyone focuses on the work we have to achieve and the goals we need to meet. We are constantly beating the clock. Time; we never have enough and we’re always behind, always late, always missing something, just building that anxiety and tension, day after day. But how life-altering is missing a self-imposed deadline? Will someone die as a result? Will the business collapse if you took an extra few hours or a day to deliver a better quality rather than rush through it? Will not delivering at that precise moment change the world? Will we go to war? Will zombies rise? No? Okay, then breathe.
Work and respecting deadlines are important and key to keeping your job, but if you ask someone for a deadline extension to deliver a better quality because you’re overworked and likely overwhelmed, the chances are that they might extend it, providing that you have delivered on that quality in the past. Should you not get that time extension for quality simply because it’s “not done” or against some arcane company policy, then you can measure up the type of company you work for. This can help you balance that work/life commitment mentally, so you’re better prepared when a superior asks you for unpaid overtime or to take on more workload for nothing in return.
If your work does not impact a life directly, then you should not take the stress factor that comes with a job as such. If it’s not massively critical, then relax your shoulders and prioritise. No one will die and the world will not collapse into war or chaos because you didn’t read an email five seconds after it hit your inbox, especially if you work in a non-emergency role like admin. If you’re not a part of emergency or medical services, and you have a regular job like most people, then taking two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind will not impact your work.
The work/life balance doesn’t exist unless you find ways to make it happen in your own life. And that’s hard. Balancing work, a social life, kids, bills, debts, running the household, laundry, dishes, family issues, medical issues, and mental health is a massive undertaking, but we do not give ourselves the praise we deserve for getting through half of it. Instead, we push through the pain, and add more to our list, rather than take some time to unwind and put everything down for a moment.
Plan out your day the night before, and be sure to spend a few minutes in the morning quietly appreciating all the good things in your life before you step into the chaos of the day. At the end of the day, grab a mug of your favourite drink, look at your accomplishments of the day, your pending tasks and evaluate your priorities for tomorrow. Then put it down, and breathe for a couple of minutes and relax your body. You’re already prepared for tomorrow, and that impacts sleep positively. Watch something lighthearted or read a book while you unwind before bed.
Why does any of this matter? Because when you’re retired and looking back at your life, you will see all the time you wasted, anxious about things that didn’t matter much; and that stress snowballs from day to day until it becomes your existence. We erroneously assign importance to everything, because we live in a world where everything is critically due now. But the only thing that is consistently important is your inner peace, because without it, you can’t perform well in any capacity, and you will not ever reach that illusive goal of happiness. By maintaining a little peace in your life, you will think clearer, perform your work duties much better and overall be a happier, less stressed, calmer, more focused person. And in the end, isn’t that what we all want to achieve?