During the pandemic we moved on to working remotely: our living rooms became our offices, face to face meetings were replaced with virtual ones, all of us who previously had no work e-mail on personal devices now do. We are celebrating the flexibility we now have in this forever-changed world, however, the line between work and personal life is completely blurred. It seems as if we are cheated into thinking that now we have more work-life balance where, to most of us, quite opposite is the truth.
In the past months the question I’ve been asked most frequently was “How can I be more productive?”. The right question to ask is “How can I relax/how can I reset my brain?”. The reason why many of us were not able to be as productive is because we couldn’t maintain our focus and energy levels. In order to do so we need to have a good quality rest – to reset our brain. There has to be a balance – we have to become more well-rounded. Our mornings are scatty because we check our e-mail whilst we are still in pyjamas. This “innocent” little act effectively determines the quality of the rest of our day. Our sleep at night is disturbed because we are scrolling through our phone right before going to bed and worrying about things we’ll have to deal with the next day.
We are desperate to control things from our living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, however, who or what is really in control? Our lizard brain – oldest part of the brain responsible for our survival is behind the steering wheel. We live in a chronic state of stress, in “fight-or-flight” mode. In response to stress, our sympathetic nervous system is activated and starts stimulating the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Our body deploys all the energy in the muscles – heartbeat goes up, breathing intensifies and we are ready to either fight the tiger or run away from it. The energy we need for healing and repair, for digesting our food, for replenishing the body with nutrients is used to prepare for the encounter with the tiger. Effectively, the tiger that is in our head. Our body doesn’t make a distinction between perceived threat (i.e. nasty e-mail from the client, criticising comment on social media) and a real threat (i.e. an encounter with a stranger on a dark alleyway) – both are seen as equally threatening tigers.
Unless we find the balance, we will burn out, become overweight, develop chronic disease, age much faster and simply live a very unfulfilling life. We are here to enjoy, to be well-rounded human beings, not the shadows of our actual potential selves.
The answer to this is discipline. We have to start living intentionally. We have to realise the importance of play and enjoyment, the importance of balance in life. It is the only way to be productive, creative, healthy and fulfilled.
- Schedule activities that activate parasympathetic nervous system: playing with children or animals, going for a walk in the nature, yoga, martial arts, deep breathing, meditation, massage, exercise, playing music, arts etc.
- Have a screen-free time 2 hours before bed. Use this time to read, to socialise or to play board games with your kids.
- Practice being present – leave your mobile off the dinner table, actively listen to somebody talking, engage in conversations. Most of us put some effort in when spending evening with friends, however, not when we are eating dinner with our spouse and/or children. Being physically present in the room is not the same as actually being engaged. Bring your mind to the table with you. It will not only improve your relationship with others, it will give you a break – you will feel replenished when you go back to your business. Furthermore, you will digest your food so much better!
- Establish a morning routine that works for you, so your e-mail is not the first thing you do when you open your eyes. Whether it is a cup of coffee on the terrace, going for a jog, meditation, yoga, chapter of a book or ice-cold shower, it is up to you.
- Set intention for the day, i.e. “I choose to take it easy today”, “I choose to focus on what gives me joy today” etc.
Remember, nobody had epiphanies when intensely thinking to the point of exhaustion. Insights come when our mind wanders (in the shower, when exercising, during/after meditation etc.). The best thing we can do, especially if we need to make an important decision or to be more productive, is to make time to relax – to fine-tune ourselves.