This is the seventeenth piece in our twenty-part series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties and this time we’re talking about balance. Sometimes the best way to excel at your job is to know when to give yourself some room to breathe and time to reflect. However, as we all know, this isn’t always possible. There will be times when deadlines are pressing and the business needs you to pull out all the stops. As a young twenty-something, you can use your drive and ambition to get through these stressful periods, but always remember to reward yourself with a break to stop that stress from building up.
Regardless of how dedicated you are as an employee, stress can catch up with you. Stress can affect us in many different ways, impacting our ability to concentrate and focus and increasing the likelihood of us making simple mistakes. It might not always be obvious to your employer when you’re stressed and when you need a time-out, so it’s important to stay in tune with your body and pick up on the signs.
Managing day to day stress
Stress comes in many different forms. Deadlines can make us feel pressured, working overtime can lead us to feel burned out and unable to cope, and even things like poor diet or lack of sleep can make ordinary situations seem stressful. Part of finding balance is discovering what your stressors are, and knowing how to avoid them or handle them effectively. Some stressors - like workload - might not be avoidable, but you can approach your workload in different ways to make it less of a stressor in your life. This may involve getting ahead of the curve and starting your work sooner, so you don’t feel the looming pressure of any deadlines. Or perhaps being honest with your line manager and asking for more time would lead to less stress than frantically trying to pull a project together the weekend before it’s due. Much of this is down to time management.
While we can learn to balance things at work to reduce stress, there’s also another big factor in keeping your mind sharp, focused and stress free - life outside of work.
Finding a work-life balance
Many of the successful individuals you look up to will most likely have one thing in common - they know when to work hard, and when to relax. It’s important to try hard early on in your career. It’s normal to want to ‘prove yourself’ by working longer hours or going the extra mile and that’s fine for the most part. But it’s also important to take time away from work to enjoy time with friends and family and pursue your hobbies. There may be times at work when it would really benefit the company for you to work overtime and pick up more responsibility, but there may also be quieter times when you’re able to take a few days holiday or make the most of your evenings and weekends without worrying about what’s happening at the office. To be successful, you need to use these times to recharge and pursue the things that truly make you happy. Then, when work does get more demanding, you’ll be rested and ready to focus on the task in hand.
Your long term goals can sometimes seem elusive when you’re in your twenties. It can be tempting to race toward them without letting anything else distract you, but do this and you’re more likely to make mistakes, get stressed and be miserable. Just remember, those who become extremely successful at work, know when not to work.