Finding a Guaranteed Work-Life Balance in 2022

Exploring a new, more personal, work-life balance.

Me looking very deep in thought but there’s actually tumbleweeds blowing through.

Holy cow, can you believe it’s really 2022? Almost 2 years into COVID, we should all prob realize there is no such thing as going back to normal. Instead, it’s all about defining that NEW normal and making it personal.

Wait, you might be thinking, isn’t that concept of defining a new normal… already been covered? For almost 2 years people (including me) have been talking about how life can’t be on pause, get used to WFH (and get a proper home office setup), wear a mask all the time, get the vaccine and the booster and then more boosters, etc.

But… a new year brings new possibilities. It’s a good time to throw away old routine that don’t work for us anymore and add in new ideas.

Specifically, I want to discuss step-by-step ways to achieve a Guaranteed Work-Life Balance.

“If there was a word that has defined the year 2021, it would be “overwhelmed.” After a year and a half into the pandemic, with overflowing inboxes and back-to-back meetings, people are tired. People are also searching for an answer to this digital exhaustion…” — Dawn Kleinman Klinghoffer head of people analytics at Microsoft.

Finding a Guaranteed Work-Life Balance became urgent for me after conducting my year-end assessment, when I had an ah-ha moment that I was getting low on patience, more stressed, and generally not doing well. Ergo, the takeaway is if the system I have in place (i.e. morning routine, workout routine, how I spend my down time, etc.) aren’t producing the results I want, it’s time to SPICE it up!

“The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

1. Your Physical Needs

First up, our physical needs. And no, I’m not talking about those physical needs. I’m talking about how we stay physically fit. But what I actually want is not just physically fit ‘enough.’ I want to be at peak performance for my age, gender, background, etc. Personalize the workout and invest in my future physical self.

So, here are two articles I pulled from, here and here, to arrive at these guidelines:

In your 20’s — Make exercise a lifelong habit now, and better yet, experiment with different sports/activities to find one you can get great at over time. (For example, I’ve played tennis since I was young and it’s good to have a sport that I’m relatively decent at.) “Women need to build muscle and strengthen bone density to prevent osteoporosis later in life.” [7] Men need to get flexible, so do yoga and mind your farts.

In your 30’s — Here comes the gradual decline in muscle and strength, so keep up the strength training. Women metabolism slows down, so time for interval based and high-intensity cardio… plus keep pumping the muscles. Men tend to focus on upper body chests only, but don’t skip leg days and all your other muscles… plus keep getting flexible. Bonus tip: Hire a coach to perfect your form, which’ll pay off in dividends.

In your 40’s — In our 30’s we were isolating muscles and feeling the speed, but now it’s time for full-body workouts, especially since we’re doing more sitting. Women keep up & take seriously your cardio and strength, cause metabolism and bone loss only gets worse. Men, you’re not a spring chicken anymore so take time for those boring warm-ups and after workout stretches. (This has been my specific problem in 2021, injuring my shoulder from tennis with zero warmup nor stretching.)

In your 50’s — Gravity comes for us all, which means things sag, our posture and hunching over gets worse, and, well, falling down. So, for both women and men, resistance training (i.e. bands), greater emphasis on legs (for stability), and increase exercise frequency while decreasing intensity.

In your 60’s & beyond — Simply put, one injury at this age could severely impact you for the rest of your life. So, for both women and men, continue the resistance training, but remember quality over quantity (i.e. focus on precise form), and incorporate/substitute with low-impact exercises (less pounding the pavement, more splish-splash in the pool). Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to strength train since you need your muscle mass, specifically your core muscles which are crucial for stabilizing and posture.

So what’s your takeaway? For me, I’m definitely incorporating into my workout time the before and after of warming up and stretching. Also less heavy lifting and more yoga movements.

2. Your Mental Health

Next, let’s address our mental health. When I look back on 2021, the Delta and Omicron variants dealt some mental blows to all of us. We thought we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, people were starting to emerge from their isolation, but then the variants came. For some of us that started traveling and venturing out, we were faced with new norms of wearing masks everywhere and yelling through them to be heard. Add to that the WFH…

“… struggle is the realization that the lack of separation between the work and not-work parts of our lives is very challenging in ways no one anticipated. There’s almost no such thing as work-life balance when it all happens in the same place. Unless you’re intentional about creating boundaries.” [4]

Boundaries. I bet back in 2020 and into 2021, we tried our damndest to hold our ground and set those boundaries. “I will stopping working by 5PM and not check emails or chats at night.” Or, “I will definitely work out today and not let the day get away from me.”

That’s why this tweet from Andy Puddecombe, Buddhist monk turned Headspace meditation app co-founder, particularly relevant:

Whoa, nice try Puddecombe, I’m not falling for that Yoda reverse statement mumbo-jumbo! Haha, but seriously, I think his point is not to be so rigid, such that when it doesn’t work out, we’re more stressed than before. Instead, after setting those boundaries, be flexible enough to be ok when they’re not met. The takeaway is that real balance comes from being flexible with our boundaries.

Here’s what I’m thinking for myself: I’ve got a gameplan of what my morning routine consists of (i.e. exercise, stretching, meditation, journaling), and I know what time in the morning I’ll do it. But when the morning comes and I hit snooze one too many times and now I don’t have as much time as I planned… I’m ok with it. When I do the morning exercise and it doesn’t feel as good as I wanted… I’m ok with it. When I meditate and my mind is all over the place and I feel rushed… I’m ok with it. The only thing I’m NOT ok with is if I didn’t try at all.

3. Your Relationships

Rewind the clocks back…

The pandemic just hit us hard in March 2019 and we hunkered down at home. We found online games to play with friends and did group Zooms. At work, we were diligent checking in with coworkers and had afterwork social drinks on the camera.

In 2020, we stopped caring as much about those relationships. We were exhausted, they’re exhausted, work is busy, and we never liked the idea of having drinks on camera in front of our coworkers to begin with.

So, what are we going to do about it in 2022?

For me, after doing some year end assessments, one big takeaway was that I love hanging out with those close to me, personally and professionally. I need more of that.

Conversely, big triggers for me that resulted in low patience and increased anxiety are other people’s idiosyncrasies. The way others kept talking. The way they were inconsiderate with my time. And the way they’d have different ideas from my great ideas! Hmm, wait a sec… the problem is me.

In discovering a new Guaranteed Work-Life Balance for myself, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I need more social interaction in order to combat the triggers resulting in stress for me and others. Part of the strategy includes what Tim Ferriss promotes in his Past Year Assessment cutting out, “the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.”

The takeaway is, independent of COVID or anything else in our life, take an honest look at your relationships and your interactions with them. Then embrace or let go.

4. Your Priorities

Let’s focus on the word, ‘Balance’ for a bit. First off, there is no correct answer to what the ‘right’ balance is, since we are each different. I need 7 hours of sleep while someone else needs 9 hours. I need social interaction with my loved ones or I’ll feel wonky. I need to watch the latest Netflix movie or else it’ll just feel weird, haha. So let’s agree there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ work-life balance. There is only finding the right personal balance for each of us.

Next, let’s define a ‘good’ balance as enough quality time pursuing goals AND chilling.

“Prioritization is how we create stability even in the face of chaos. It is the fundamental platform of work-life balance because it empowers your team to take control, to speak up, to say “no” to things that aren’t mission critical — which in the end means fewer meetings, more focus time, and most importantly, the freedom to take time off.” [1]

The struggle with a satisfying work-life balance is that we want it all — family time, professional achievements, exercising, eating right, enough sleep, and, of course, Netflix time. We’re also smart enough to know we can’t have it all within 24 hours, and yet… every day, every year we keep trying. And we keep stressing.

For 2022, in pursuit of our Guaranteed Work-Life Balance, we’re going to make a promise to ourselves on (1) priorities and then (2) saying no.

1. Prioritization. Consider, “research suggests that this is not a one-time fix, but rather, a cycle that we must engage in continuously as our circumstances and priorities evolve.” [2] That means you promise to update your priorities as often as you need to.

2. Saying No. Haha, I bet you thought of saying no to others. Nope, I mean you have to say no to yourself. You’re the one trying to do too much and then getting all stressed out. You have to tell yourself no, that you won’t get to exercise today because you’d rather spend time with your family. Or no, you can’t watch Netflix tonight because you need to work on your goal. Or say no to checking your work emails so that you can go do some yoga in the middle of the day.

5 Easy Ways to Achieve Better Work-Life Balance

Let’s go real practical and list a bunch of little things we can do right now to help assist that balance.

  • Delayed email send. Don’t be that person who sends work emails over the weekend, either ruining other people’s time off or to prove you’re devoted. Here’s how to in Gmail, Outlook, and AOL. Haha, just kidding about AOL.
  • Turn off notifications. I’m talking app and badge notifications on your phone. Turn off desktop notifications of new emails or new chat messages. Lastly, turn off your phone ring and permanently leave it on vibrate only. The more you can turn off, the better. Wasn’t it more peaceful back in ancient times? (Except for the constant wars, plagues, and general instability.)
  • Time block your calendar. Wait, did you already try blocking off an hour on your calendar for lunch but meetings still crept into it. Then try blocking off 2 hours. I’m not joking, block off more time. And when you start getting accustomed to not holding firm to it, then block off 2 hours in the morning or in the afternoon. Keep blocking.
  • Take walks (or exercise) during the day. Find those meetings where you don’t have to talk much, connect some bluetooth earbuds, and go for that walk. Personally, I find that I focus better on the conversation, so it’s a win-win.
  • Laugh more. “An essential part of well-being is play. I feel as we get older we often lose touch with a sense of playfulness.” We drop off the “humor cliff,” where we’re afraid to crack jokes, be vulnerable in front of others, and feel like we need to fit into the image of being an ‘adult.’ BORING.

The takeaway is get the little things right and it’ll help set yourself up for success. Like I said before, “In deep work, it’s never one distraction that causes a lack of productivity, it’s a series of bad decisions.”

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