Balanced life - what helps me?

[Anna] Natalia Sarata from RegenerAkcja in her changemaker story shared few tricks which worked for her in finding her work-life balance. I got inspired to implement some of them, but also to make my own list of behaviors that helped me, considering my workaholism, about which I wrote in some previous post. I hope that these experiences can be useful for you in finding your own way into a more satisfying, healthy, balanced life.

Before I start, I think it is worth mentioning I am a freelancer and I have full control of my time. This has obviously good sides, but also some challenges – there is no door to close after work, and the temptation is strong to make more and more work done.

What helps me?

Switch off the Internet on my phone for at least one day a week. And for the night

There are many articles and movies (Netflix's Social Dilemma is on the hype now) telling about how social media influence our life, our brain, our behaviour. And we can see it clearly – how we became addicted to our phones, to notifications, to constantly checking messages, to be available 24/7. It helps me a lot to relax if for at least one day a week I don't really switch on the Internet, I don't see those blinking dots, I don't receive all the messages and notifications which require my reaction and I can simply focus on here and now, enjoying other things than scrolling the screen. The same goes for night – I switch off the Internet in the evening, not letting it wake me up just because somebody decided to write at 3am.

Take time before accepting any new projects/proposals/job offers

I made an agreement with Andrea to always consult with him all the new projects and work proposals that come into my hand. I used to answer immediately, accepting the deal and then regretting later on (and rarely withdrawing – once I agree to something I feel compelled to carry it out). Waiting to discuss first with Andrea gives me time to check deeply with myself if I really want it, plus he can also give me a bit of an outside perspective. Both help a lot.

Observe my body, emotions and behaviour to know when it's enough for today

There is a moment, which may vary from day to day, when I feel I shouldn't work more. I start to be tired, nervous, irritated, everything takes me more time. If I can, I stop working at that moment or at least I take some serious break for coffee, a bit of movement or a nice chat with Andrea. I know from experience that if I continue to work in this stage everything will take me more time and the outcome will be much worse than if I waited some time or postponed (if possible) my work to the next day, when I can start with new energy.

Plan smart when I do each task depending on my level of energy along the day

In my ideal working day every task has its own place depending on how demanding it is. The peak of my energy and the biggest ability to focus is for me early in the morning, just after I wake up. There is nobody around, the Internet is off (so my mind is not disturbed), I spend that one hour on the most difficult tasks, those that require real focus: writing stories, posts, grants. Then I do half an hour of yoga and have breakfast, already satisfied from the amount of work I was able to do. Only after breakfast I check my email, answer messages, etc. Till lunch I work on teaching English, and doing other still important and challenging tasks but which do require less engagement. During the afternoon my energy starts to slowly fade, so I use this time for easier, more repetitive tasks, which don't require that much input. I'm completely unable to work in the evening, so I never do that unless it's absolutely necessary. This is a very subjective thing, though, some people work better at night and need slow mornings (Andrea, for example) and that's fine too. It's more about recognizing your inner clock and adjusting to it.

Exercise and meditate

Beside 30 minutes of yoga every day, I try to exercise at least 2-3 times per week (running, roller blades, online zumba if it's raining, etc). I also meditate, although I change the way and time of meditating quite often to fit the period.

Take regular (coffee) breaks

In the toughest moments of my workaholism I couldn't even stop for a coffee. I got irritated when Andrea entered the room asking some questions and I was in my flow, doing as many things as possible. I learned to force myself to stop, at least for few minutes. To discuss with Andrea how things progress, to reflect on what I did so far and what else needs to be done that day and to simply set my brain on pause for a while. It helps. To convince myself it's important, I sort of put coffee breaks on my to-do list. I know it sounds bad. But sometimes there is no other way.

Ah, and of course it's not about coffee (even if Andrea would disagree on that ;) ). It can be tea break, stretching break or just break.


I need more than 8 hours sleep and there is no way out here. I tried a million times to sleep less, but it always finishes with frustration, slower and less effective work, etc. After much fighting I just accepted that I need this amount of sleep. And I prioritise it.

I guess that's enough for the beginning. I could figure out a few more things if you are interested, but I also encourage you strongly to check Natalia's advice:

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We are Anna and Andrea, a Polish-Italian couple traveling around the world. We are looking for changemakers,  in order to describe and share their stories.

Our journey is based on exchange: story telling and other skills in exchange for a place to sleep and food. 

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