Work-Life Balance

Here’s a topic a lot of people I know may be struggling with (myself included, lmao). In the age of working from home (WFH) and everything being done virtually, we seemed to have lost touch of boundaries that are typically associated with work-life balance (WLB).

Most of us are expected to be online till way past our ‘working hours’, just because we can be. The amount of work that we are required to achieve in a single day has increased for some reason, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily easier being at home.

In today’s post, I’d like to deal with quite a difficult concept: how to improve on our work-life balance. I’ll talk about the boundaries that we need to set, the objectives that we need to have on a daily basis, spending enough time with our family and friends, looking at the spiritual side of things, as well as making time to get adequate sleep.

My experience of this topic comes from the fact that I’m part-time studying and working full-time – mostly from home. So there’s a lot of effort that I need to put in place to ensure that I get enough downtime and rest.

Boundaries and rituals

The reason why I talk about boundaries being blurred is because many of us no longer drive to the office, we don’t pack up our laptops when we’re done and go back home, we don’t feel how late it can get compared to when we’re at the office.

Nowadays, we wake up and the first thing we check is our work emails, we jump straight into meeting (often while we’re still in bed), we stay up till way later to meet deadlines, and we struggle to meet our other obligations – all while we’re at home.

First thing’s first, we need to identify that not having boundaries is a problem. A lot of us get used to the intensity and almost accept it. But if we don’t look at it for what it is, we may not appreciate a healthy balance. Once you understand the need for boundaries, you need to find ways to specify and implement them.

This can be done by understanding your objectives, which I’ll touch on briefly after this. For example, you may want to exercise before/after the work day. Block off an hour in the morning/evening at a specific time and try to let your team know that this is necessary for you to be effective (ensure it doesn’t clash with meetings etc.).

Another way to try and improve your WLB is by setting a cutoff time for you to respond to emails/attend meetings. I know it’s not always possible when projects get intense, but it’s worth a try. The point is to look at what you need to stay efficient, and build rituals around that.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Quote: “Your personal boundaries ...

Daily objectives

Your daily objectives should basically be aligned to your boundaries. Understanding what you need on a day-to-day basis will enable you to make time for those requirements. We all need to prepare for meals, get administrative tasks done, work on hobbies/side projects, maintain social relationships and get some exercise done.

By setting these objectives down at specific times during the day (with some flexibility), we can then incorporate those boundaries. The aim is to ensure that you sustain a healthy balance and attend to your personal matters too. That’s the whole point of understanding work-life balance.

Family/friends and alone time

This is an incredibly important component to me personally. I find that I need a recovery period with the people I love and cherish. There’s something about quality time that just recharges me. Without it, the balance starts to tip over.

I live away from most of family in Joburg, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. But I still try to video call them often and then make plans with people that I’m close to here.

I also found that I need quite a decent dose of alone time to let my thoughts settle and to make sense of everything that goes on around me. I need time to meditate, to walk in nature, to read, to reflect and to contemplate. It’s a different way for me to clean out my energy and bring more positivity into my work.

Spiritual Aspect

Another fundamental part of my life revolves around Islam and my daily prayers. This can mean different things to different people, but having a spiritual grounding is truly something I can’t do without.

It is the essence of my purpose in life and I find that I’m always calmer and more collected after I’ve prayed. What I love about the Islamic approach, is that you’re required to pray 5 times a day. That means you get 5 chances every single day, to reconnect to your spiritual side and stay in check.

Find what works best for you and ensure that you incorporate it on a daily basis; even if it’s just being grateful before you start the day.

Sleeping beauty

Another critical aspect of a healthy WLB is getting enough consistent sleep. This is easily a challenge, especially when there’s so much that needs to get done. Setup a cutoff time for when you go to sleep and for when to wake up. The consistency makes it easier for your mind to settle.

The benefits of getting enough sleep should be really clear by now, I’ve written a post about it already. The takeaway from this post is to make sure you respect your body’s requirement. If you sacrifice a healthy amount of sleep for too long, the harmful effects can last a lifetime.

If you can, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. 6 if you’re pushing it. Anything below that (depending on your sleep cycle) would be detrimental. Calm down on the coffee too, especially past 3/4 pm.

The Awkward Yeti » Comics

So, we’ve given quite a bit of thought to the concept of WLB. There are a lot of considerations to factor in, especially given how we’re all WFH. Make sure you understand your daily objectives so that you can set boundaries, figure out how much time you need to spend with family/friends or alone to recharge, find time to pray, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

There’s always going to be a lot to do. That’s the nature of life. But just as the birds and animals know when it’s time to rest, so should you. Follow your nature and keep doing your best. You got this.

The Covid Chronicles

So I tested positive for the Vid! 3rd wave definitely came in with a bang. Made me feel a little less invincible, which is humbling I suppose. Incredibly grateful for my body’s ability to manage the symptoms and keep it under control.

I actually wanted to use this post to run through some of the thoughts that I had while I was recovering. Can I also just say that I’ve been having peculiar dreams over the past few weeks, that I’m still desperately trying to make sense of. Anyway, back to the Covid Chronicles.

God bless the antibodies.

COVID-19 antibodies last as long as 8 months
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Contact

The first thing that triggered the whole situation for me was getting into direct contact with someone who tested positive. Grateful that they called me to tell me about it. I was still very convinced that I had escaped getting infected. I eat a lot of naartjies and apples, btw.

Coronavirus: The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard joins ...
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Symptoms

A few days after that call, I started feeling sluggish and a little under the weather. There was no doubt at that point that it was probably Covid. Yet, my inflated ego somehow managed to find a way to believe that it wasn’t. To be fair though, it was relatively mild; just a sore throat and fatigue.

After a few more days of that intense fatigue, I decided it was time to get tested (3 days after experiencing symptoms).

Getting tested

So I try to get myself booked for a Covid test, but because of how wild 3rd wave is in Joburg, most centres are pumping. I had to wait till the next day. Woke up fresh and early on a Sunday morning and got myself geared up for a Covid test. Up the nose and away we went.

Why Use Tests - Dilbert Comic Strip on 2020-05-30 : dilbert

Got home, took a nap, and eagerly watched Verstappen and Red Bull thrash Mercedes at the French Grand Prix.

Results

Because of the fatigue, I’ve been taking naps at random times throughout the day. On that Sunday, after going for a snooze at 6 pm, I ended up waking up at like 11 pm. It was quite disorienting, but I decided to watch some Peaky Blinders. 1 episode in, and I get an sms from the labs – Covid hypothesis confirmed; I was positive.

Quickly stocked up on Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and Panado – oh and ofc more apples and naartjies. Managed to get some Ivermectin as well, which may or may not have helped.

10 days later

The tragic thing is that during this period, I also infected my flatmate, who is vaccinated. Tbh, it definitely made me question how effective those injections are. Thanks capitalism.

Took off from work and basically spent the day: sleeping, eating, watching Netflix, watching Euros, reading books – repeat. Sounds like a dream, but it got boring rather quickly.

An interesting coincidence was the fact that I had a dream of a friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to since like 2017. When I reached out to her, it turned out that she had Covid too! So we bonded (virtually) over the whole struggle to recover. I think she had a lot worse than I did, but it was still relatable content.

Ordered some plants to keep me company

A week after testing positive, I started feeling a lot better. The only thing that was really lingering was the fatigue. Could definitely get used to the lifestyle of taking 3 naps a day. One thing I’m incredibly grateful for is not losing my sense of smell or taste.

Did you know that 80% of our taste comes from smelling?

Now that we’ve fought this bundle of protein, I’m hoping the antibodies will keep me sorted for the rest of the year. Thankful to everyone who supported me in this swift recovery. I’m also here if anyone who is infected needs some virtual help.

There’s a lot that I’ve reflected on over this experience and I’ll dive deeper into that in the next blog post. I wish you all the best and try to stay safe! This too shall pass.

Automation or Mindfulness?

We’re bringing back another episode of Mindful Monday! The reason I thought about this topic was because I’ve been personally been feeling a little disconnected lately. Sure, my habits are still in check. Still waking up before dawn, meditating, praying and journalling. But there’s an aspect of being robotic that I’m still struggling with, specifically when I’m eating, driving or speaking to someone.

I’d like to use today’s post to discuss aspects of our nature that we need to be a little more mindful of, striking a balance between automation and conscious thinking, breathing more deeply and ways of working from home.

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When we should focus being mindful of
Things are that are closest to nature.

When we’re praying, when we’re cooking food, when we’re eating the food, when we’re watching the sunrise, when we’re in the shower, when we’re brushing our teeth, when we’re working out, when we’re spending time with family, when we’re out with friends, when we’re about to fall asleep or just after we wake up.

It’s incredible how often we tend to be on our devices when we’re doing any of those things. It seems like we are starting to lose the essence of our senses. We no longer pay attention to what we look at with our eyes, what we listen to through our ears, what we eat in order to taste, the way we look after our body, and what we talk about with other people.

When we aren’t being mindful of those aspects of our nature, we stop living in the present moment. We forget to be grateful. We forget to be thoughtful or appreciative.

What we need to do is be stricter with ourselves when it comes to our focus. We should start making the most of the time we have right now. We need a balance between doing things on auto-pilot and consciously living.

The balance between manual thinking and automation

It’s something I’ve thought about and discussed here before… How do we find the right balance between doing things on auto-pilot vs. using conscious energy. There’s definitely an efficiency trade-off to think about, specifically looking at what actions are worth putting in genuine effort.

We’re lazy beings. We always try to find the shortest way to get something done, which typically makes sense. That’s why our brains do the same when it comes to consistently repeated habits. We eventually end up training our subconscious to ignore being present.

We should probably look for what we find valuable and spend more of our energy being attentive to it. The last thing we want to do is allow ourselves to get complacent.

How Robotic Process Automation Can Help Businesses Success ...
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Breathing deeply

I know I know, I talk a lot about breathing. But you need to understand how fundamentally important it is. It affects every aspect of your life. From your ability to deal with anxiety, stress, fear, joy, happiness, to when you’re preparing for an interview, working out, walking up the stairs, and even having a cold shower.

All these activities require us to have a consistent influx and outflux of air. Well tbh, you need it all the time. But your ability to manage your breathing in those situations will allow you to perform much better than uncontrolled breath. It’s interesting how we often ‘run out of breath’ not because we need to inhale oxygen, but because we need to exhale carbon dioxide.

That’s besides the point. My point is, focus on your breathing more often. It’s easy to forget this little habit, because the body does it automatically. But it will truly make an impact on your health and ability to deal with challenges. I’m not saying that you should consciously breathe every second of the day, but when it’s necessary and when you can remember to.

Another consideration is how to stay mindful when we’re (working) chilling at home all day.

Working mindfully from home

Whether it’s studying, working or anything else that relates to being at home for most of the day, we tend to lose our touch with the present moment. In a way, we are less exposed to usual array of stimuli from being outside. That being said, we can often ‘forget’ to be as mindful when we’re working from home. Not that being in an office/classroom all day is any better, but the moving around is what makes all the difference.

When go outside for a quick walk, stare out the window for a bit or just decide to chill in the garden, it allows us to get some exposure to the natural world. I repeatedly talk about the benefits of spending time in nature, and it’s because of the way it forces you to be mindful. Even if you can’t go outside, find ways to focus on nature within your home (this could even include being more attentive when you eat or speak to friends).

Authors share their mindfulness tips for working from home
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What we should try and do if we can leave the house, is focus more on the leaves of trees and how their colours change, the clouds and the way they dance across the sky, the birds and how they sing to each other, the lil insects and bugs that are always flying around, or even the way the earth feels on our feet.

Giving our senses that stimulation will snap us back into the present moment; which will make us feel grounded, grateful and more energetic. If we take short 10 min breaks from our work and do this regularly, it will have such a significant impact on our ability to push forward. Go outside right now and try it out if you can. The world is yours for the taking.

A Toolbox For Studying Online

How does working from home make you feel? Perhaps you thought it would be over by now. Maybe you were trying to form some kind of schedule but thought you wouldn’t be spending the entire year studying virtually.

For those of us at UCT, we’ve recently received the news that the second semester will be completed virtually. This is not really a surprise, given that we’re in the peak of the pandemic and that RSA has secured a top 5 spot for Covid cases. How can we move forward with this, given how overwhelming it truly is?

Today I’d like to share some of my life lessons and what has been working for me through this turbulent period. I’ll talk a little about scheduling and time management, how to make stress your friend, being supportive to others, understanding mental health, keeping your goals in check and remaining mindful.

Since I’ve spoken in depth about most of these topics before, I’ll provide links to the full posts under each heading.

Time Management

In order to successfully manage our time, we need to keep 3 things in check:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

This is forming a skeleton of your ideal day. Think of it as the foundation of your empire. How do we form structure? By setting out goals and objectives, each and every day.

When you’re consistent with the structure you’ve formed, it opens up time for you to do more. You gain confidence from consistency because you know what to expect from yourself.

Your structure should include time for you to rest, recover and reload. Make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night. Make sure that you’re putting in exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Make sure that you’re spending some time in nature too. Important here is to also monitor your social media usage and the amount of time you spend online.

Time management

I’ve been requested to talk a little about time management, so let’s give it a go. I’d like to first try and define time, or at least come to an understanding of what it is. Then we can dive into how to maneuver through the time we have. I aim to make you feel more … Continue reading Time management

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first … Continue reading Make Stress Your Friend #2

Make stress your friend

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

Keep in mind that stress is a beneficial part of your nature, it’s meant to help you adapt and react swiftly to changes in your environment. Manage stress by focusing on your breath and finding cues to the present moment.

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Support structures and mental health

This is especially important now that we’re unable to physically meet each other on a regular basis. It’s really helpful to try and form a support structure with your peers, even if it’s just on group chat. Knowing that there are others who are going through a similar experience will make you feel a lot better.

This adds to the issue of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health is something that you need to take care of regularly. You can’t wait for things to go south and feel overwhelmed before you put in any effort.

Regularly taking care of your mental health can be as simple as journalling, meditating, praying, going for a walk or speaking to a friend. When it gets a little more hectic, speaking to a therapist or seeking professional help may be a better option.

Many universities offer virtual therapy sessions to their students for free. Be sure to utilize those resources if you need to.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health? We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are. … Continue reading Mental health

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment? I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought … Continue reading Mindful Monday #1

Mindfulness

This has been a recurring topic in my blog since I started. I’ve done a presentation on mindfulness a few weeks ago on 20 Life Learners that I’d like to share here.

It’s essentially about finding cues to stay in the present moment. Using grounding techniques such as focusing on your breath, you can control your physiology to condition your mind. There’s quite a bit of neuroscience behind it, you can read more in my Mindful Monday posts.

Goals

I’m not sure about you, but this year has forced me to reevaluate many of my goals. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it means that we need to be realistic and adapt.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool to help you move forward in life and to reach peaks you never could’ve imagined climbing. Find a place to write down some of your objectives for the rest of the year and review them constantly. It will make a difference in how motivated you feel.

Don’t give up when things don’t go according to plan. Find ways to improvise and keep looking at the bigger picture. You’re worthy. You’re capable. You will achieve greatness.