Editor’s note: guest post by Courtney Johnston. If you haven’t seen her site The Rule Breaker’s Club, you have to check it out. Unlike many of our guests who come to me requesting to write a guest post, I sought Courtney out to write for us after reading a guest post she shared at another site. Courtney has a fascinating voice and a fabulous sense of humor when it comes to life, hope you enjoy. – Bryce
“And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love.”
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
After nine months of a transatlantic long distance relationship, I was elated to reunite with my boyfriend for eight months in Paris this past May, where I would live in a shoebox shaped and sized room… with a view of lady Eiffel herself.
It was perfection. That is, except for one thing.
I had brought with me my American work-ethic/entrepreneurial spirit. I started my own tutoring business in order to achieve location independence. Now that I had it, I knew that I would have to work hard to succeed.
So I worked my butt off. All day long.
Not only was I working insanely long hours, I was tutoring French via Skype, writing articles for The Rule Breaker’s Club, and sautéing onions all in one space.
When I peaked out my window to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night I had two realizations:
ONE: I lived in the most beautiful city on earth.
TWO: I was not taking advantage of it because I was working too much.
I realized that it is entirely possible to live in the most beautiful city on earth and miss it because you do not know how to stop working – a sad realization to say the least.
To define proper work-life boundaries while living in the city of light became the ultimate challenge.
Nine months later, I’m happy to say that I survived (and intensely enjoyed) my Parisian experience. I made new friends, had new adventures, and learned how to let some seemingly important work go. Here’s what I learned:
(1) “One day” is today.
Most of us spend our entire lives waiting for that day when we can stop doing all of the pointless crap and start living on a beach somewhere, host dinner parties, or take that art class. Want to do something with your life? Do it today. A happy life is one of balance, not 14 hour days in the office. The only place that habit is leading you is a future of even more work. Don’t die with regrets.
(2) People, daily chores, and fun are just as important as work.
Every human has the same amount of hours in a day—successful and stressed out alike. Now, as mentioned in the opening quotation, a certain amount of work tasks cannot be ignored (and is vital to living a healthy life). But by setting a rigid work schedule (especially if you work from home), you can remain human while making millions.
(3) Environmental boundaries are the dirty little secret.
In psychology, the fundamental attribution error explains that we tend to give our innate personality too much credit for our behavior, and not enough credit to situations.
What does this mean for you?
When you are in “work” mode, you should surround yourself with people, places, and things that remind you of work. The same applies to “play”, “relax” and any other modes that you have. When your subconscious mind learns what to do in these situations, it will become second nature.
Convinced that you could use a change?
Here are some practical tips for squeezing some life into your life:
(1) Define your work hours.
Of course, some mandatory work will inevitably arrive outside of these hours. The most beneficial aspect of defining your hours is that you won’t feel so guilty when you stop working and start playing!
(2) Sign up for a class.
Or something else that begins when work ends. When you know that you have somewhere to be, you work more efficiently. Period.
(3) Create a ruthless schedule.
Sometimes it’s hard to define work-life boundaries, especially if you work from home. I’ve found that by setting a schedule (8am-6pm, and no work after that), makes it easier. Be ware that when enforcing this schedule becomes tough, making social commitments will help you to maintain those boundaries.
(4) Spend time with family and friends.
If research in positive psychology has taught us anything, it’s that other people matter. Set dates to get together with the people who matter most. Get out a piece of paper and write down the names of 10 of the most important people in your life. Send a message to each of them to set up a dinner date or, if they’re far away, a Skype date. This is your precious time with friends and family. Don’t waste it.
Finally, I should probably admit that a perfect equilibrium does not exist, and that’s okay. You’ve probably already realized this yourself. Living a life of perfect balance would be boring anyway.
As my wise doctor once told me, the healthiest people have two things: the ability to recognize when life is off balance, and the tools to put it back on track.
I hope that these shiny new tools will help you to do just that!
Courtney Johnston is the creator of The Rule Breaker’s Club, a corner of the web all about being happy and living a fabulous life. She studies psychology, writes, and daydreams about Paris all from her home in Dexter, Michigan.