Work and rest. Two things we must all do, and two things we often struggle with. For some, working comes easily — we’re always on the go, always doing something that makes us feel productive. For others, it’s the rest that comes without struggle — we’re content to lie on the couch all day, ignoring the ever-lengthening to-do list.
Those who fall on the work end of the spectrum often long for rest, but even when they’re offered a day off or try to have a lazy Sunday, they always find themselves restless and work-focused. Those on the other end of the spectrum also struggle; though they might have the benefit of lots of rest and relaxation, they find it challenging to get things done and often feel anxious about the lack of work they’ve accomplished. Many are lucky to fall somewhere in the middle of the work/rest spectrum, but for those who aren’t, every day can be a test of willpower and motivation.
Regardless of whether you’re generally better at working or better at resting (or somewhere in between), you’ve probably found yourself with different strengths at different times in your life. For example, if you’re doing work you love, you might find yourself always wanting to work (and doing very little resting). Or, if you’ve recently suffered emotional or physical pain, you might find it hard to find motivation to work and may be spending more time than you’d like on the couch or in bed. Life is filled with ups and downs, of course, and there is a time for resting and a time for working, but if you find yourself doing one much more than you’d like, here are some tips for creating more work/rest balance…
IF YOU FEEL YOU WORK TOO MUCH…
Ask for help.
One of the best things you can do if yourself overwhelmed with working more than you should is ask for help. If you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person (I can relate!) sometimes it might not even occur to you that someone else could help you out with part of your job. Outsourcing, asking a coworker for assistance, or saying no to new projects when you already have a ton on your plate are just some ways you can ask for help. And pay attention to all the jobs you have, too. Being a parent, a friend, a mentor, etc. — those are also jobs. If you’re struggling to balance them all and aren’t getting enough rest, speak up and ask those around you to lend a hand.
Take a day off.
For hardcore worker bees, the idea of a day off might sound like a disaster — the perfect opportunity for things to pile up on your desk and for emails to overwhelm your inbox. But remember this: the more rested and relaxed you are, the better you’ll be at your job. And often the best way to rest is to take a day off work — and I’m talking about a real day off. No emails. No “just checking in.” And honest-to-god, no-work-whatsoever day off. This also shouldn’t be an actual vacation because those often come with different kinds of travel-related stress. Take a day of just to stay at home and do nothing but relax.
When you find yourself working all of the time, it’s usually because work is all around you. You’re either at the office all the time or in front of your computer or phone. If you want to have a true break, it helps to get yourself out of your working routine and go somewhere different, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Take a walk around your office building or grab a snack in the break room. Try your best to physically change where you are as often as you can during a day, preferably making sure some of those locations involve the outdoors. (It’s much easier to relax when you’re surrounded by nature!)
Put the phone down.
If you really want some quality rest, the most important thing you can do for yourself is put down your phone. It’s one of the strongest ties to work (checking email is such a temptation!) so when you’re really trying to relax, put your phone away. If this is hard for you (I know it is for me!), ask someone else to take it from you for an hour or so, or tuck it on a high shelf that’s really annoying to access to make it harder for you to “just check one thing…” If you’re dedicated to your work, putting the phone down will be challenging, but it’s vital for true and meaningful rest.
IF YOU FEEL YOU REST TOO MUCH…
Get up (and dressed).
Is your environment and lifestyle encouraging you to spend too much time resting? If you spend all day in your sweatpants, lying in bed with the TV on or your phone in your hand, it’s going to be very difficult to get motivated. (As someone who works from home, this is one of my biggest struggles.) Your environment (and your attire) shape how you feel. If you’re dressed for lounging, you’re going to want to lounge. When you’re feeling uninspired and struggling to get in a work mindset, start with your environment and your outfit. Put on something that makes you feel professional and put together and you’ll be a lot less likely to spend all day vegging out.
Break it down.
One of the hardest things about getting to work when you’re in an unmotivated mindset is thinking about how hard it will be get everything done. Instead of aiming to work all day, start out small. Tell yourself you’ll tackle just one thing on your list, or you’ll work on a big project for just 15-20 minutes. Breaking it down in this way makes it much easier to manage (making it more likely you’ll actually attempt it). I’ve also found that once you start working on something (or complete one small task), you want to do more and before you know it, 15 minutes will have turned into an hour!
Find a partner.
We all have times in our lives when we feel less motivated and inspired. One way to perk yourself up (and get your buns in gear!) is by having a buddy that will help you stay on track. Find someone else who is struggling just like you and check in with each other daily (or more frequently) to see how much progress is being made. Or, find someone you really admire for their work ethic and ask him/her to hold you accountable for work tasks. Accountability is a huge element of an effective work environment and if you don’t already have it built in (if you work for yourself or have a disinterested boss), create it for yourself by finding a partner.
Put the phone down.
Just as putting your phone down is vital for getting rest, it’s also vital for getting work done. One of the greatest distractions in the world today is technology. Don’t get me wrong — I love it — but it can be a huge time suck, draining you of attention and energy when you have a lot to accomplish. If you want to get work done, take your phone (or whatever other distraction you have) and put it away where you won’t be tempted to look at it. I’ve found it to be 100% true that the less time I spend with my phone, the more work I get done. If this is a struggle for you, just put it away for 30 minutes at a time, or allow yourself set times of the day when you will check it.
One final tip that works for both “workers” and “resters” is looking at the big picture. Pause for a moment and think about how you want to feel at the end of your life. What do you want to look back and see? There’s no right or wrong answer to this — we all have unique dreams and goals — but, regardless of your individual desires, you probably don’t want to look back on your life and see that you spent all of your time working or lazing about. You’ll probably want to see that you did good work at times, that you relaxed at times, and that you had a nice work/rest balance. So, whenever you find yourself leaning to far toward one side of the spectrum, ask yourself: what will I think of myself when I look back at this moment years from now? That big-picture perspective can be just the reminder you need to take a break or break out of a work-too-much rut.
You know where else you can find balance? In yourself! If you’re looking for some more soul-searching inspiration, check out the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.