My arrival to San Francisco was bumpy, to say the least. I had been working in Venice, Italy, where my job was to take coffee with local officials while I learned about stakeholders’ interests in new city hostels. After that job wrapped up, I took a road trip through Ireland with my best friend, and then spent two weeks hiking through the Icelandic highlands. But San Francisco was an end to my well-balanced, picture-perfect digital nomad lifestyle.
I knew things were headed in the wrong direction when my coworker started showing me Vaynerchuk videos, and he was inspired to start a 4:30 am running club to compete with peers we followed on Instagram. I was asked countless times how many side projects had. I was judged on how fast I listened to my podcasts (1.5x is not fast enough apparently). My bosses never hesitated to text me at 1 a.m. I had to use SurveyMonkey to schedule a happy hour with friends a month in advance.
Then came the Business Insider article that highlighted the life of a young HSBC employee who would meditate, Skype friends worldwide, make green juice, and play tennis all before work (not to mention her continuing education at Stanford and her nonprofit in Papua New Guinea after work).
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to make a change.
The tides turn.
I bought a one-way ticket to Iceland, in a huge gamble. And it wasn’t just the geothermal baths and Game of Thrones scenery that inspired me. Their startup ecosystem is much smaller but growing, and because of its size, tends to be more empathetic and down-to-earth. Everyone I spoke with was happy to take a coffee with me and introduce me to someone else.
Around the same time I moved to Iceland to rebalance my life, the multi-talented, well-spoken Alexis Ohanian began a media blitz on the toxicity of what he deemed ‘hustle porn’: the glorification of constant over-working and one-upmanship that pervades the Bay Area, and many tech ecosystems around the globe.
In Tech Bro© lingo, that would be the fetishization of “crushing it 24/7.”
This discussion went hand-in-hand with recent studies that show work-stress related death is now in the top five causes of death in the U.S. and that vacations can do more to prolong life than a healthy lifestyle. People are beginning to take these conversations seriously.
Another major player speaking out about maintaining healthy balance is VC superwoman Arlan, who spoke at this past year’s Slush in Helsinki, Finland about the power of napping, wearing sweatpants, crying, and drinking tea. There aren’t many successful people taking the main stage at massive tech conferences and espousing the benefits of a good nap. But why not, considering studies show a short nap in the mid-afternoon can boost memory, improve job performance, lift your mood, make you more alert, and ease stress.
So what can you do to help balance your life besides a great mid-day nap?
What will help you end the #hustle blues?
I’ve compiled a list of ways I fought the go-go-go mentality, and I hope one or two things might be useful for you:
- Turn off social media. Unless you’re a social media manager, there isn’t a need to be on these apps everyday. And there’s mountains of evidence piling up that the #FOMO you experience by seeing everyone’s perfectly scripted Instagram life isn’t healthy. Start by deleting the apps from your phone for just one day a week. Who knows? Maybe you’ll feel better by not seeing your frenemy from university get engaged or your neighbor’s 5:00 a.m. ten mile run.
- Set daily small, achievable goals. Setting clear and reachable intentions each morning can contribute to a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I know I’m not the only who keeps a to-do list, and will retroactively add things to it, simply for the small joy of crossing it off. Do not underestimate the sense of pride by finishing your list every day and how that can lead to better self-esteem and purpose. I also start my year with a vision board, which is fun but also functional in visualizing success.
- Get a therapist. Normally, I wouldn’t suggest something that costs tons of money, but I can’t recommend therapy enough. Having an impartial person to talk to, who can reframe problems and point out behavioral trends and habits, is invaluable. Nowadays, there are therapy apps, but I suggest, if money is an issue, to visit a local university and ask about reduced-cost therapists in their doctoral programs.
- Take a break. My mentor at my first job once said that he hated taking vacations because it was too much hassle to prepare to be out of the office and too much work once he returned. So I am not suggesting taking a $10,000 two-week Fijian adventure (although, if you can do that, do it!). I am advocating for breaks. Make sure to stretch your back and hands every hour or so. Refocus your eyes when working with a screen. Take lunch away from your desk. Turn your work phone off sometimes. And yeah, maybe take a vacation too.
- Change up your routine. Now, for me, this looked like leaving my corporate job and becoming a digital nomad. I started working from coworking spaces, traveling to new cities, and it changed my life. While this is quite extreme, I can say making a change to your daily routine can help refocus your mind and open the door for new possibilities. Go to a new Meetup. Try a new coffee shop. Volunteer with friends. Anything that will push you slightly out of your comfort zone and effect positive change.
- Sleep. It’s my #1 cure-all. I don’t care about all the people who say they only need three hours. It’s b.s. Sleep isn’t a luxury, nor a weakness; it’s a necessity.
What would you add to this list? What helps you find everyday balance in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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