Meaningful Work: Lessons from Eat, Pray, Love
Most of us who jump the corporate ship to be our own boss are looking for some kind of meaningful work and balance in our lives. We want to share our lives with our families, find our passions, and do what we love doing without all of the endless meetings, bureaucratic hoop jumping, and coworkers who grate every last nerve. It all sounds so perfect while plan our sojourn into solo bliss while we are walking along the endless line of cubicles.
What happens often though is not unlike Liz Glibert’s experience in Eat, Pray, Love, we may be doing what we love, but we certainly aren’t experiencing the passion that we crave and we don’t have the balance in our lives that we were searching for. Most of us can’t chuck it all and travel for a year exploring our inner guru, but we can take some steps to finding the peace of mind we are searching for in our work and personal lives.
- Be present. “If it’s a work day, work smart, work hard and work toward completion,” shares Monica Cost of Evidently Assured, a communications strategy and brand firm. “It is frustrating to leave work and not feel accomplished. When you’ve crossed important things off your to do list and done them well, it makes it easier to move on and be present in the next phase of your life; which may be time with your children or significant other.”
- Care Deeply. You are doing this work because you have a passion for it, if you don’t have that anymore do the best you can to care deeply about the quality and your clients and that passion will guide you back.
- Manage Client Expectations. “Keep work hours and don’t let your clients know that you are working later.” Deb Walker, of Contemporary-VA, a virtual assistant firm says, “Our clients will IM us if they think we are working at 2:00AM and then start to expect those kind of hours on a regular basis. We don’t need that kind of stress in our lives and it is up to us to manage those expectations.” By setting regular hours we are not only giving clear communication to our clients, but we are opening up time for ourselves.
- Respect the Home Office. “I was fortunate that, when we bought our current house, I was able to build an actual office onto the house, rather than converting a bedroom,” says Daniel Knapp of RedHot Media Productions. “The kids know that the office is, while physically part of the house, not “part” of the house. It is off limits to friends, hide and seek, or just playing around. And when daddy is there he’s working and should be left in peace. Of course I’m there a lot, so it’s not possible to never bother me, but that is the beauty of working from home. You are there if you’re absolutely needed.”
- Unplug. A recent story in the New York Times recounted the experience of five neuroscientists studying the effects of getting off their computers and mobile devices and sitting quietly in contemplation by going on a retreat in the Utah landscape. One participant in the experiment states that “too much digital stimulation can take people who would be functioning O.K. and put them in a range where they’re not psychologically healthy.” The scientists who are completely plugged into the digital world in their everyday life aren’t sure exactly how the experiment affected them, but they realized after that perhaps setting a few moments aside to unplug might be the right thing to create a little space “for uncluttered thinking.”This may be surprising to some of us that are so technologically wired, but the idea that a little “digital sabbatical” might just be what we need. You don’t have to go to great lengths or sacrifice your business, just schedule a little time each week where you are not checking email, Google analytics, or your Twitter feed compulsively. Really watch the movie with your girlfriend, go on a hike with your phone turned off, or dive deep into your garden for the weekend.
- Make Time. Freelancers and solo-entrepreneurs are our worst enemies for doing too much, working too long, and becoming unfocused. If we went into this to gain a sense of balance then we need to make time for ourselves. Schedule that time just like you would anything else.
If we are looking for the perfect balance in our workday we may need to take some radical steps to find it or it might be as simple as setting boundaries. We may need to decide on how much client work you will accept, keeping that gym date, and making sure that you don’t eat every meal in front of the computer. Whatever it takes, do it. You are your own well of inspiration and finding the inner balance of work and pleasure will serve you long into your career.