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Maintaining Balance

June 9, 2015

Despite realizing how important it is to maintain balance in one’s life it has always been something that is a challenge for me to maintain. I find it way too easy to let work dominate my time and my life. After all I spend at a minimum 8 hours a day working and often times much longer.

If you look back at my past blog posts you can see that every so often I seem to come back to this topic. Like here or here. The reason for this is because it is so important not only from a personal perspective but also for your career. I have found that by maintaining balance I am happier, the people around me are happier, and this directly leads to me being more productive at work, enjoying my work more, and doing a better job at work. I think the key, at least for me, is in minimizing and managing stress levels in both work and life.

I am generally a very easy going person but I put a lot of effort and pride into my work and no matter how easy going I am that will lead to stress. Because of this I am always thinking about better ways to find balance and reduce the stress of work in my life.

A couple of years ago I tried an experiment. Rather than taking 1 or 2 longer vacations in a year I would instead take multiple smaller trips. I wanted to take 1-2 days off each month for a year and take a short trip somewhere. I was skeptical that this approach would work because in the past it seemed to take me 4-5 days to really fully unwind and let go of the day to day stresses of work.

At first that still seemed to be the case but as the year went on and I continued to take these short trips I noticed that it was taking me less time to unwind. I found that it became much easier for me to walk away from the projects, support, email, and the stress that went with it all.  It seemed that I was onto something here. There were a few things I quickly learned:

  1. With these shorting vacations I didn’t have any of the normal work related stress that went with taking a longer vacation. When I take a week or two off at one time I have to make sure that all of my projects were 100% wrapped up. I needed to make sure that months worth of information and background on clients was handed off to the right people. And no matter how diligent and detailed i was there would always be something that came up that I had some specific knowledge on. The client couldn’t wait a week or two for me to come back from vacation so either someone else would have to struggle through the issue or reach out to me on my vacation. And regardless I would always feel terrible about it. However , being away for a day or two at a time rarely these types of situations come up and when they do waiting a day or two to have them resolved in usually very reasonable.
  2. Just knowing that I had some vacation time coming up would help keep all of my stress levels down. By taking one trip a month I always had an upcoming trip to look forward to.
  3. My productivity at work increased. In general I was happier and more relaxed. I had less on my mind and was able to focus on what i was doing better. Especially as a trip would get closer and I would push to get through my work.
  4. I would start to unwind before I even left on the trip. As a trip would get closer I would work to wrap up my projects and hand them off for testing and review. The result of this was that often times the day before my vacation was much less busy than a normal day allowing me to begin the unwinding process early.

All in all I feel that for me the experiment was a great success. and while I don’t rigidly take one short trip each month as I did that year I now incorporate several shorter trips into my vacation planing each year.

Because we are talking about taking vacations I figure I should share some pictures of the places I have gone on these mini trips:

In closing, find what works for you in maintaining a balanced live and then live it.


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