By: Airiz Casta

There used to be a time when clocking in over 60 working hours a week seemed like something to wear like a badge of honor for. I used to laugh heartily when water-cooler-conversations wouldn’t be complete without older colleagues teasing me about being “married to my job.” They’d add sarcastic remarks on how I rarely caught sunlight ever since I started working with them.

It was not even for the money. Working hard has been ingrained in my system as far as I can remember. 

There wasn’t a single “eureka! moment” that made me realize I had this work-life equation terribly wrong—there were just tiny, quiet epiphanies that involved looking at the big picture.

How many summers have I spent in the city to work when I could have taken a breather in the province? How many dinners have I said no to because I had to render overtime? How many moments have I missed because I was too engrossed in my job? How big a slice of my life do I dedicate to hustling? 

Gradually, I began noticing how my world had orbited around Point A (home) and Point B (office) only, limiting my horizons and growth as a person. With the advent of digitization and the expectation that such technology could virtually make

everyone available 24/7, pursuit for work-life balance has almost become a pipe-dream to most of us. But this makes the effort to not let work take over our lives more important than ever.

If you’re finding yourself to be under the same circumstances, here are a handful of tips to tip the scales equal.

“I’m not here to just pay bills and die.”

Set boundaries.

Make a conscious decision to set boundaries and actually respect them. While this hard for someone whose life has always been about workplace hustle, one has to acknowledge that this is an important step. 

Be at peace with the fact that work is never-ending. Emails will continue to come, items on to-do lists will remain unchecked, but that does not mean you have to perpetually function and attend to them. 

Leave work-related things at the office. Unplug when you are at home. 

You are not a machine.

Take breaks.

Once you have drawn your boundaries, one of the first things you will naturally set as a goal is to go home on time. Setting a hard-stop on your tasks does not equate to being complacent. It doesn’t mean you hustle less to reach your goal. 

Powering through your tasks without a single break does not necessarily mean you are being productive.  Taking regular brain breaks has been scientifically proven to be beneficial—while it does not necessarily boost a person’s productivity, it allows one to decompress and recharge. You can get through your piles at work more efficiently by not pushing yourself when you are exhausted.

Know what matters.

There is an art installation that went viral a while ago, a painting that portrays two farmers bending to plant rice under a scorching sun. One of the figures was “cut off” from the painting and was placed at the corner to sit at the ledge of the frame. With her legs crossed and a cigarette dangling between her fingers, she was made to scowl at the onlooker. 

A speech balloon flitted out of her lips with the words, “I’m not here to just pay bills and die.”

Work is important, but there are many other things outside your cubicle that matters, too. Spend quality time with your family and friends; binge-watch that k- drama you’ve downloaded from months ago; book that summer vacation; take up that hobby.

Take that online course you have been eyeing for a while now. Embracing this step will help broaden your perspective about the world.

Take care of yourself.

People who have high-pressure jobs may feel guilty when they give themselves some “me time,” but self-care is significant if you want to tip the work-life scales just right. 

You have to be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. Take adequate rest and sleep, eat nutritious food, and stay active. Read a book. Spend time outdoors. Learn to say no when someone asks for your time or energy when you think you would rather spend it on yourself. 

When you are overwhelmed by stress and feel like you need a hand, do not hesitate to reach out to a friend, a loved one, or a mental health professional.

We all have different ways of coping with stress, hustling for our dreams, and tipping the scales equal. Take the time to know what works for you and what doesn’t. Write a list of things you can do to take short, medium, and long breaks. Understand the bandwidth of your mind, body, and soul. Knowing how far you can stretch yourself is the first step to understanding then implementing your personal boundaries. Your personal boundaries will guide you to upholding what keeps you sane, what keeps you respected, and what keeps you moving forward – whether at work or in life.

One denominator that remains constant though is this: there’s nothing wrong with keeping your nose to the grindstone, but at the end of the day, you should treat yourself as your biggest investment.

Balancing the work-life scales is not a one-time deal, as we have to shift the formula time and again depending on our personal circumstances. While the current work-from-home situation may be a curveball in every professional’s peripheral, there is a way to keep the scales at par with each other, and survive this change.

Airiz Casta
Airiz Casta Media Production Specialist
Airiz has been working in the public sector for seven years now.
When away from her desk, she teeters between being a tireless adventure-seeker
and a socially inept bookworm. Aside from churning out poems and short stories,
she dabbles in traditional and graphic arts in her free time.