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4 Ways to Steal Time for Yourself and Find a Better Balance

Don't succumb to life's pressures and an eventual burnout. Try these activities to find a happy medium between life and work.
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A long-term work-life balance is about as durable as building a brick-and-mortar business without the mortar -- it may last, but not for long. In fact, just the balancing act alone is another hat to wear aside from all your other personal and professional pursuits.

After navigating known and unknown challenges in the SEAL Teams for 13 years, I’ve discovered that there is just one, singularly powerful way to balance the push of your profession with the pull of your passion: you don’t. Seriously. If your heart is in a different place than your paycheck then you’re working on borrowed time, because it’s only a matter of when you realize that work burnout has gotten the better of you before succumbing to life’s pressures.

Hey, it happens.

Related: 10 Ways to De-Stress at Your Desk (Learned from Kids)

Of course, if you’re not one of the fortunate few who absolutely love what they do, or not ready to forego a steady income stream for your guitar playing, you can try to find a work-life balance through these four avenues:

1. Workout at the office. You may turn into “that” guy or girl but there is nothing wrong with exercising at work. Bring a kettlebell, medicine ball, jump rope and some deodorant with a change of clothes. If those items don’t suffice then you’ve always got your bodyweight.

Of course, if you’re worried about what others think (that you’re exercising and not working), you can tell them one of two things: The first one I won’t mention here because it’ll likely be censored, but the other retort is to cite how exercise induces connections in the brain while combating the effects of stress.

John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain , talks about how consistent muscle movement “produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.”

Related: 6 Truths About Exercise That Nobody Wants to Believe

2. Take a personal break offsite. Forget the family, ignore your friends and leave your team behind (I bet you never thought you’d hear that from a SEAL). Take a few days and spend it on the one commonality between your personal and professional lives: you. Just as going on a walk clears your mind by accessing new areas of consciousness, taking time off from work allows you to embrace your “life place” and not just your workplace.

3. Schedule white space. If you are one of those people who live and die by your calendar, try penciling in some white space -- free time -- into your daily routine so you can be more proactive and work on the tasks you want to, rather than reactive and putting out office fires as they ignite.

4. Beat the sunrise. There is something about waking up early and doing things you enjoy that offers a sense of fulfillment. Of course, if sleep is something you’d rather be doing, then this is not for you. Personally, I like to wake up early (like, 4:30 a.m. early) because if I don’t, then the chaos of the day funnels me away from the things I can’t do at work, such as exercise, read or write -- and then I get grumpy.

In the end, if you’re unhappy at work because you have no “me” time, then it’s time to reassess your job. Doing what you want to do and not what you “have” to do builds a much more enjoyable “you” -- for all of us.

Related: Does a Work-Life Balance Exist for Entrepreneurs? Not Really.