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Creating work/life balance, metering/nurturing energy.... how? a kind of “spoons” question

 
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If all goes according to plan, soon I'll take on a worky job to help my husband and I reach our goals. I've worked seasonally several times during our marriage; this time will hopefully be more long-term. I'm excited about that, because I have many non-worky Life Quests! Staying put for longer than usual (years, even?) just might give me the opportunity to start some of those quests.

I know myself: I tend to over-achieve, seek perfection, and people-please. That results in overworking: putting so much into my day that all I have energy for when I come home is recovery, basic self-care (eating, bathing, sleep), and prepping for the next work day. I get results, but the personal cost is high.

Can you help me, in the form of ideas and shared anecdotal experience?
How do you pace yourself while at work? What has your experience been in metering your “spoons” any given day? How do you have energy to come home, fix supper, spend time on whatever else you want, and still take care of yourself, too?
I guess the question is a two-parter. Part A is the abstract mindset/philosophy side, and Part B is the practical tips/tools method side.

For instance, I would love to be able to come home feeling worked but not exhausted, get supper ready*, reconnect with my husband, spend time on one or two projects, have time to relax/take care of myself, then go to sleep satisfied I've made progress (no matter how incremental), and knowing I'll have energy to do it all again tomorrow.
*My husband's an amazing support – I wouldn't actually need to fix supper. But I'd like to have enough energy left over to do that if I wanted to.

Some Permies resources I've already found that mention work-life balance:
This Permies thread is about permie/work balance.
This Permies thread explores how we are at work vs how we are at home.
This All Around Growth podcast episode from this Permies thread (I haven't listened to this yet)
This Very Important Podcast (a milestone?) has an insightful bit from Jocelyn. I'll quote the pertinent bit of Julia Winter's excellent summary:

Jocelyn notes that she and Paul are both still working their full time computer jobs, along with trying to manage things at the lab. Both of them have “workaholic tendencies” and she’s working on getting better work/life balance. Jocelyn is trying to get Paul back to doing more creative things, more soul-fulfilling things. Still, she used to think, in her 20’s, that she could fix all her flaws with enough therapy and enough effort. She’s learning to accept the fact that everyone is flawed.



Some tools already in my off-season life kit, which I use to varying degrees:
  • get daily physical activity, at least 30 minutes 6 days/week (this does amazing things to increase my energy capacity
  • use a modified version of this housecleaning schedule
  • get regular nature/outside time
  • eat the best quality, simplest food available to me
  • use planners/journals to structure schedule and record memories
  • get the best sleep I can (this one needs work)


  • What specific mindset/philosophy helps you balance or nurture your energy (Part A)?
    What other tools/practices do you employ to make sure you have energy for life apart from work (Part B)?

    Vulnerable disclosure: I combat embarrassment in this space. The shame-brain says there are probably millions of parents/people out there, plus many generations before us, who do this without a single thought, because it's just what needs doing. I took a very weird sort of life-path as a young person, which left me behind on some basic adult experiences when I finally “got off the ride”. So I'm glad to be among gentle souls to bravely ask! And who I think understand the whole "my energy doesn't match my workaholism" trait.
    Odds and ends thoughts: this worky job is not about doing what I love, or saving the world, or working somewhere in line with my values, or anything else even slightly noble. It is a foray into the rat race in exchange for coin. IF I can get this energy-metering thing figured out, I think there are opportunities for side-coin from pursuing the more Permie-minded Life Quests. But I have to get the energy-metering thing figured out.
     
    master steward
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    I commend you for knowing your weakness and asking for help. Wow - and thanks for that schedule list, if I wanted to be organised that looks really useful. As I'm sort of the opposite of you and probably suffer more from being rather laid back, I'll just contribute one thing that helped me. One of the things that used to make me less productive at work was wanting to help everyone - a lack of ability to say 'no'. It's not really to do with organisation but to do with self respect and assertiveness, and an assertiveness course really helped me. Give yourself the right to say no to tasks that you really know you don't have the time to do (along with everything else on your plate). You do yourself little favour if you try and bite off too much that is not really in your job province.

    Edit - oh, and good luck with the new job!
     
    Sara Hartwin
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    Nancy Reading wrote:and thanks for that schedule list, if I wanted to be organised that looks really useful.


    It doesn't take much structure for me to feel overwhelmed and pressured, so I used to be very forgiving and permissive as far as scheduling tasks. But things were getting missed or perpetually procrastinated, so I wanted change. That template made sense to me, and it's very easy to personalize. I still don't hold myself to it strictly. Its biggest benefits are that I can now see all the tasks that are important to me in one place, and spreading them out through the week makes it all seem doable, somehow.

    Give yourself the right to say no to tasks that you really know you don't have the time to do (along with everything else on your plate).


    Ooh, boundary setting! That's a good one. I'll have to think about how I might apply that.

    I just remembered advice my husband gave me last year. In that case, there was really enough work for about two more people, and he reminded me, "You have a job to do; not a job to get done."  Steady progress was the realistic goal, not completion.
     
    steward
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    A friend used to say "They'll take what you give".  If you're an overworker and people pleaser, and you do 75% as good a job as you'd normally do, they will still love you.  Just strive to never give 100% so that you don't burn yourself out for your personal time.  That same friend used to imagine her work effort as a stick shift car.  She aimed to stay in third gear.  If things got busy she'd often go into fourth gear but she tried to never go into fifth gear.  She still worked harder than all her coworkers...

    I used to have a corporate salaried job.  My coworkers would often work 50-60 hour weeks to keep up with the Joneses.  I regularly worked 40 hours.  Sometimes I'd flex up to 60 when a project needed.  In the end I got just as many promotions and raises as the other folks.  Probably because I was smart and more efficient and likeable :)
     
    master steward
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    Sara said, this worky job is not about doing what I love, or saving the world, or working somewhere in line with my values, or anything else even slightly noble.



    This statement reminds me of someone just graduating from college.  While these are admirable ambitions to me, once someone has married and/or starting a family most of those ambitions go out the window.

    How do you know that you will not be doing some of those until after you get the job?

    I mean especially the `doing what I love`or `working somewhere in line with my values`

    I worked all my life as soon as I finished high school.

    I loved working. I was `doing something I loved`.  

    I also felt that I was a professional and `my values` were very important to me.

    When we got married dear hubby suggested I not work.  I said there was no reason for me not to work.

    I was doing what I loved.  The profession picked me as I did not seek a job in something that I loved.

    I always felt that I was helping folks.

    When we sold our homestead our goal was to see places we loved.

    It was hard for me not to have a job so I made my life a job.

    We traveled and worked at places along the way.

    Now we bought a place in the boondocks and I still have my life job.

    I sit at a computer 8 hours a day doing what I love.

    I also enjoyed job hunting because I loved meeting new people and learning new things.

    I still remember that in one job interview, I was asked to spell brochure.  I had never even heard that word.

    I didn't feel I was a good fit for that job so I turned it down.

    I wish you the best with your job hunting.
     
    Sara Hartwin
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    Mike Haasl wrote: A friend used to say "They'll take what you give". If you're an overworker and people pleaser, and you do 75% as good a job as you'd normally do, they will still love you.  Just strive to never give 100% so that you don't burn yourself out for your personal time.  That same friend used to imagine her work effort as a stick shift car.  She aimed to stay in third gear.  If things got busy she'd often go into fourth gear but she tried to never go into fifth gear.  She still worked harder than all her coworkers...



    I like this because it doesn't try to ignore or suppress the approval-seeking drive. But it's not giving it mastery, either. It seems the key point in this approach is first awareness (knowing what level of effort I'm giving), then discipline or self-mastery (being able to dial up or down as needed).

    I think energy expenditure often involves speed for me. Literally slowing down - not speedwalking, for instance - can help conserve energy.

    I used to have a corporate salaried job.  My coworkers would often work 50-60 hour weeks to keep up with the Joneses.  I regularly worked 40 hours.  Sometimes I'd flex up to 60 when a project needed.  In the end I got just as many promotions and raises as the other folks.  Probably because I was smart and more efficient and likeable



    This reminds me that I have done similarly in a previous high-demand occupation. I set my bar lower deliberately because I knew I'd burn out (faster) otherwise. Sometimes I had to get pretty adamant with myself that I wasn't going to go full-tilt. Other times I had to get adamant with someone else that my version of full-tilt wasn't the same as theirs, no matter how much they wanted it to be. Boundary setting, again!

    These are good pointers to think about - thank you.
     
    Sara Hartwin
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    Anne, thank you - your reply was an invitation to explore my thoughts/observations more deeply (the quoted part). I got to dig down into both why I think that, and why I felt I needed to express it.

    I'd prefer not to share a lot of detail, so I'll aim for briefly vague (ha).

    To clarify - I don't believe a job is only worthwhile when it is noble or fulfills grand ideals or is in line with a person's passion.

    I  think in my specific case there is some compromise of principle for me personally. Probably I am being overly critical toward myself about that, while also feeling defensive. It feels a bit like working for the enemy, honestly. So I have to frame that for myself in a way that I can accept and live with it, because I see the necessity and no alternative, at least for the time being.

    I do think remembering the ultimate purpose of the work will help me meter my energy there - rather than spend my energy excelling at the workplace at the cost of non-work areas I desire to pour creative energy into.

    Anne Miller wrote:How do you know that you will not be doing some of those until after you get the job?
    I mean especially the `doing what I love`or `working somewhere in line with my values`



    I have a pretty good idea of where I'll be working and the general type of job I'll be working. Of course something completely different could happen; that's not impossible. I do very much expect there to be enjoyable, fascinating aspects of the job, bits that could probably be described as "doing what I love".

    Thanks, Anne - this is helpful introspection!
     
    Yeah, but how did the squirrel get in there? Was it because of the tiny ad?
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