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5 things I learned about work-life balance from my first real job

01 marca
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Starting our first or a new job may be a major lifestyle changer. Suddenly we're finding ourselves in a completely different environment, maybe even in a different country. And all what we've got used to as students, needs to be reevaluated. But once we obtain a good work-life balance, the whole experience gets way less scarier than previously assumed. Sure, it takes time to understand those changes, and I would lie if I would say that I don't complain about them. I do! But I learned to embrace the good sides too. So how it really is with this work-life balance? Will we really run errands with a cup of coffee in one hand and lipstick in the other? Sip Cosmopolitans at the rooftopbars and never even touch the stove at home? Or did Carrie Bradshaw lie?
Here's what I learned about it all from my first real job.

Click here to read in Polish: 5 rzeczy, których nauczyłam się o balansie między życiem prywatnym a zawodowym w pierwszej poważnej pracy

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Work-life balance 

I didn't really know how important work-life balance is, until I dived full time into my newly adapted lifestyle. Of course, I had some brief idea of how my life will look like now, but I tried to see mostly the positives that come along with it. Online world has a slightly different opinion on that though. As I really enjoy reading some lifestyle blogs while sipping my morning coffee, I came to conclusion that there are two main functioning trends in this matter. So either we're heading towards some unspecified major success, sipping latte while running errands and crossing out another things from the "successful person's" to-do list, or we're completely lost in the world of adults that no-one has prepared us to be a part of, while definitely not having "our shit together" and not even touching the stove at home since the move-in. 
I don't find myself in any of it, and here's why.

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1. Being busy doesn't mean you're successful 

There are probably more than two generations who loved watching Sex and the City. It's still one of my all-time favorite tv-shows, because of its funny approach towards the sexuality, feminism and lifestyle. It's probably where my dream of visiting New York comes from, and it's also probably where millions of viewers based their completely unrealistic expectations (about work and lifestyle) on. So when the reality takes its share and turns out that eating in the city for a longer period, even if convenient and tasty, is actually pricey and unhealthy for the body; and affording new Manolo Blahnik's shoes may be in a range of possibilities, but at the cost of cutting monthly food expenses - it's time to come to some conclusions about the work-life balance.
Busy became so-called synonym of success these days. And it doesn't really matter that your work-life balance is a mess, you didn't eat a proper meal in 3 days and probably put your personal life on a second position, but it looks good in the eyes of the society. But is it really something to aspire for?



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2. You need to learn to say no more often 

You've planned a lovely afternoon or evening with your second-half, but you're cancelling it in the last moment, after you're asked to stay a bit longer at work. Sure, you can say no, but you start wondering how would that look like? Of course, I've been there too, and I've earned my fair share of extra hours as well. But what I've learned from it is that we're the ones who set our priorities. Being afraid to say no, doesn't lead to anything good. In our minds we're creating a picture of a reliable and always available worker, and the reality is rather opposite. We do show that our private time isn't that important and that encourages the employees to take advantage on it. Refusing in a polite way may be much more beneficial, while marking a clear boundary between work life and private life.
Luckily my decisions have always been respected. No matter if that was about participating in a work-related event, or leaving the discussion that took place in the evening. You may call it bold. I call it healthy. 

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3. Stop fulfilling someone else's expectations and don't be afraid of it 

No matter if those are your parents' expectations or the expectations of the society - you need to stay true to yourself and choose what feels right for you. How can you expect to maintain a healthy work-life balance, if you're doing something that you don't enjoy, trying to please the others? 
The most boring saying says that no one will live your life for you. And even though it's been over-used over the years, it still remains painfully true. So stop wondering what people will say and don't waste your energy on them. They will talk no matter what. 

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4. Work to live, don't live to work 

It's probably the most important lesson that I've learned in my first real job. I always thought I will work in police or teach at university. Until the moment when I was offered a slightly different job. And even though my life has changed for better, and at first I couldn't even believe that all of it is real, I got my doubts too. Because let's be honest, being a twenty-four year old graduate is great, but also it leaves a whole lot of questions like: but what now? So no matter how riduculous it may sound like, I found myself working alone in an amazing office located in the luxury villa, with a fridge full of Moët champagnes, and despite of that, I began thinking if I'm on the right track? 
So instead of being rather proud of it all, I started comparing myself with all the people running errands day and night, competing, promoting and being all busy (which perfectly explains the point of the paragraph 1: being busy doesn't mean you're successful) And because I didn't do any of it, I started wondering if I'm doing anything wrong? 
It took me a great deal of time to come to terms with my own expectations, just to realize that all the people mentioned above chase what I already have. And that the greatest achievement for me wouldn't be spending my days and nights at work, but rather doing all the other things that make me truly happy. I had to understand that work should be a tool to fulfill the dreams, and not a goal itself. Working to live, not living to work.
And also, that what is good for one person, doesn't necessarily will be equally good for us.

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5. Disconnect from social media at home more often

Social media are very beneficial in many ways. They let me keep close contact with my friends in home country, same as maintain the international friendships from all over Europe. The social media also played a major role in my long-distance relationship (that survived thanks to Skype and WhatsApp!). But even though I love Instagram dearly, many times I found myself scrolling through some travel-related feed at home, instead actually spending time on: a) something more productive b) something that involves my boyfriend. And then we all complain that we didn't have time for this or that. And I know that I'm not the only one. So maybe the new picture from "cats of Instagram" is really funny, but is it really more important than a real life talk? I don't think so. And that I find crucial for a healthy work-life balance. If we never disconnect ourselves, we never truly rest - and same goes to checking work-related e-mails or phone calls at home.
Even though many times I still find myself scrolling through the beautiful pictures at home, I try to cut (or at least limit) this habit. And if you really need to watch those funny kittens, at least do it together - who can refuse some good laugh? 

How do you all take care of your work-life balance? Share with me! 

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