7 Steps for Finding Work/Life Balance While You’re Trying to Save the World

You’re deeply committed to your organization and doing whatever it takes to make life just a little bit easier for your members and the community you serve. You love what you do (and you’re good at it) BUT your workaholic and overachiever tendencies are getting in the way of a fulfilling personal life. To top it all off, you’re overwhelmed by the endless emails, social media notifications, and the “fake news” cycle.

If this sounds like you, I want you to know that the emails, projects, and other work will never stop or slow down enough for you to catch up. There will never be a perfect time to take time for you. I also want you to know that you can take time for yourself and the world around won’t come to an end. I promise! And, yes, it’s possible to be committed to your work AND have a fulfilling personal life too.

I know because I used to be like you. In my previous career, I was a non-profit techie and a communications director for a public health association. For a while, I was teetering on the edge of burnout. I cared deeply about doing all I could to realize our vision of a world free of HIV and hepatitis. But no matter how long, hard, or smart I worked, there was never enough time or money to get it all done. At one point, I was depressed, had gained a ton of weight, and wasn’t eating or sleeping right. My personal life was non-existent. But I had a powerful realization that even if I worked myself to death, the emails would keep rolling in and the projects would keep moving ahead. My colleagues might have had a lot of great things to say at my memorial service, but eventually I would have been replaced and the work would have carried on like business as usual. I realized I needed to take to time re-fill regularly because I couldn’t continue to pour into my colleagues and our members from an empty cup. If I wanted to make a positive impact over the long-term, I needed to start investing as much in myself as I was investing in my work.

Over the years, I’ve tried different things to get on back on track and stay there. Here are some steps that have worked for me.

  1. HAVING A CLEAR VISION – I regularly take time to reflect on my vision for my personal and professional life. Right now this vision includes being intentional about making more time for friends and dating and being more involved in my spiritual community. It also means that while I’m committed to my work and the clients I serve, I work no more than 50 hours a week and say no to projects that require work outside of standard business hours. What does this look like for you?
  2. SETTING CLEAR, ACHIEVABLE PRIORITIES – Quarterly, I refine my vision and use it to help identify my personal and professional priorities. If it’s not aligned my with my vision, it’s not a real priority for me.
  3. INVESTING TIME WISELY – Time is an asset we give away and never get back. I use my calendar to stay on track by scheduling activities that align with my vision and priorities before anything else.
  4. SAYING YES – I say YES to activities that align with my vision and priorities. By having a clear vision and priorities, I now have the space to take advantage of opportunities that are aligned because I haven’t overcommitted myself to things that aren’t.
  5. SAYING NO –  I regularly say NO to activities that are inconsistent with my vision and priorities. Learning say no and decline (politely, of course) is one of the most important keys to staying on track.
  6. SEEKING SUPPORT – I seek support from people I trust who can help hold me accountable for realizing my vision.
  7. BEING FLEXIBLE – Life happens. Things don’t always unfold as we expect. Something may pop-up that’s not exactly aligned with my vision. Occasionally, I may choose to work longer hours or realize that something I thought was an important priority for me has changed. I’ve learned to be flexible and make adjustments as needed.

Following these steps, I started leaving work on time. I used my vacation time to take real vacations and invest in my personal development. I created a robust personal life that included training for triathlons, learning Portuguese (I’ve always wanted to travel to Brazil!), and getting more involved in my spiritual community.  I look a month-long work and email-free sabbatical in Brazil and eventually quit my job to work full-time for myself doing what I love: helping people like you!

Meico Marquette Whitlock, Founder and CEO of Mindful Techie, is a speaker and trainer on mindfulness and technology. Meico helps you stop putting your life on hold because of work and start living a more balanced life. He helps you tackle technology distraction and information overload so that you can live life your life with purpose on purpose, free from never-ending emails, social media notifications, and breaking news alerts. His new online course Master the Art of Work/Life Balance in a Digital World launches in September 2017. In his previous career, Meico was a communications director and non-profit techie focused on leveraging information and communications technology to improve the health of underserved communities. Meico holds a Master’s Degree in Information Science from the University of Michigan with a specialization in Community Informatics and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Spanish from Morehouse College.