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6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #2

2. Establish a productive inner “state of work.”

If you’re lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it’s the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.

Most of my clients, however, are work Nazis. They think they should force themselves to do things they loathe. If this is your mental “state of work,” it’s also the way you’ll feel about your job, and it will follow you home—likely in the form of depression or rage. You absolutely must create a mental work state more like what psychologists call flow, the total absorption that comes from doing something that interests you at the upper edge of your ability level.

Even if your current job feels more like imprisonment than flow, you can still create a productive mental work state. Start by remembering any kind of effort that absorbed you enough to make time disappear. If after racking your brain nothing comes to mind, periods of interested problem solving will do nearly as well, and moments of productive effort will suffice in a pinch. Tedious repetition is as low as you want to go here (if your job is so awful that it doesn’t yield even an hour of tolerable slog, it’s time to hire a life coach). Now focus on the three best work activities you can remember, smoosh them together in your head, and silently repeat, “Work. Work. Work.”

By Martha Beck

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