By Yuri Diogenes
I’ve been working in the IT (Information Technology) industry since 1994, and to keep your progress in this field you have to stay up to date and fully engaged with the community. Throughout the years I dedicated my life exclusively to my career, I had no idea what work life balance really meant to be, since I could only see work. When you are in a tunnel vision at work, many times you won’t see the real damage you are doing with your health, because eating well is not priority…heck, that’s why we have fast food, right? Exactly, and it was like that until I reached a point where my body said: enough!
It was my peak of self-destruction, 280 lbs, 36% body fat, early arthritis at the age of 36, fatty liver, high cholesterol, high cortisol, you name it! I was going down the hill on my health, but hey, I didn’t really care since my career was also in its best level. But there is only big problem with this mindset: it’s not sustainable in a long term. You can’t beat your body over and over and expect to retire and be able to have fun with your family, you probably will spend all the money you saved with medications to stay alive. So, what’s really the purpose of doing that? In reality, none!
When I started my lifestyle transformation (because diet won’t work, you must change your lifestyle), I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve before I was 40. I was the fat guy in the gym, but was never ashamed to be there trying to improve, trying to get better and working hard to make it happen. However, the gym was the easiest part, controlling my intake was the real challenge. Dropping the addicted soda, fast food, sweeties and replace it with real food was hard. The first couple of weeks on this change I felt like a drug addicted that was sent to a rehab, shaking, sometimes finding myself crying for nothing, but I never, ever considered quitting. I knew that I had to go through hell in order to reach the other side and that was part of the plan. Well, I’m not going to duplicate content, so if you want to know more about this transformation, read this blog post.
The post transformation is easy if you really made a lifestyle change, because everything becomes second nature. You are eating every three hours, you know what you need to eat, you know the amount of protein, carbs and fats that you need, in other words: you are in control! OK, but what this has to do with work life balance? Everything! Let me explain…
Many people say they can’t have a healthy lifestyle because they work too much, which means they have no time to exercise and to eat heathier. That’s a very lame excuse, sorry, but it is, because I convinced myself on this in the past and I was pretty much lying to myself. Nowadays what companies are looking for is to have high productive employees, which DOES NOT mean more work hours. A research from the International Labour Organization concluded that longer hours does not make you more productive, and as a matter of fact it may cause the opposite effect. In other words, you’ll get less things done, and what you do get done is never your best work (low quality).
To increase your productivity you must be more energetic, more focus, and physical activity can directly help you with that. There are many studies that present tangible data and conclusion around the benefits of physical activities to improve your concentration, sharpen your memory, improve your mood, lower your stress and enhance creativity. I would like to emphasize the importance of lowering your stress, which is a direct correlation with your cortisol level. I remember my doctor reviewing my labs and saying: “are you still working with technology? Because your cortisol level is pretty much from someone that is stress free, and I know working with technology isn’t like that.” When you include exercise as part of your daily activity and you change your intake to a healthier lifestyle, you will directly see improvements in your productivity. An article from Harvard Business Review called What You Eat Affects Your Productivity, brings some tangible data about that and I experienced that myself once I made those changes.
Now you have the foundation to increase your productivity, which means you will get things done at work in less time and with more quality, which means you will have time to do other things in life, and that’s when the real work life balance will take place. Many companies do have work life balance program, but they can’t prevent employees from been workaholic and this is a real problem. In Japan companies are turning off the lights to prevent employees to work over time, because people were actually dying of working too much. While I applaud companies that invest in work life balance programs, YOU are accountable to take control of your life, do what you need to do in order to stay health.
Stay active, stay happy and be more productive!