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How to Balance Your Work and Life — the Work Rest Matrix

Posted Jun 29 2009 5:26pm

If you are a normal person then you probably always have a conflict between work and rest in your life. If you rest too much, then you do not get anything done and your income is probably going to suffer (unless you have been lucky to inherit a fortune from your billionaire uncle:-)). If you work too much then you start suffering from stress and overexhaustion that eventually leads to health problems and depression. Both the work and rest areas of our lives are very important and our main goal is to learn to balance them properly.

Today I was surfing the web and stumbled upon a very interesting post by Darren RowseWork Rest Matrix. This post immediately inspired me to write this post and to share my ideas about work and rest balance. Darren created a matrix (you can see it below) that combines four major areas of his life. The main idea of the matrix is to realize where you are and try to reach your best balance by being right in the center of the matrix.

I would like to add a few changes to this matrix from the female point of view. Other than being just a self-employed blogger I am also a mom of 15-months old twins who is responsible for taking care of the family food supply and overall livability of the house environment (basically cooking and housekeeping). These tasks add a few more areas to the matrix above.

I have also added Mind & Body techniques like Yoga and Pilates to this grid. I am an avid fan of Pilates and I think that it does a terrific job in helping me to balance my life (you can read more about it in 25 Benefits of Pilates ). I have removed meditation from the matrix simply because I have not had time to try it yet. I have also added Time with spouse, family and friends under Body at Rest, Mind Active and Mind at Rest. The activities that you can do with your family, friends or spouse are so numerous that this area can be added into every quadrant of the matrix. I also think that it’s an extremely important part of life and I just cannot ignore it in my work-rest matrix.

The more tasks you have in life the more areas you can add to this matrix and the more difficult it gets to find the perfect balance of all these areas. I personally always have a conflict “Should I go and spend more time with my babies or should I try to work with my projects while the babies are not crying?” “Should I spend some time exercising or should I vacuum the house?” “Should I go to bed early to wake up well rested the next day or should I try to write one more article?” Sometimes these questions simply drive me crazy!!! Sometimes I even doubt if there is any room for balance in my life!
For me the answer is to realize what area is the most important every day. Trying to do everything at once is almost impossible for me so that is why every day in the morning I plan my day and decide what I am going to do.

For example, I know that I need to clean the house today. This means that I can skip my regular running just because I will have at least an hour of moderate physical activity. I will definitely spend time with the babies (take them for a walk, play with them, feed them), but I can still have at least 15 minutes for my Mind & Body routines like a morning Pilates or Yoga workout. My desk job is probably going to suffer, but I promise myself that the next day will be more productive. In the evening I spend time with my husband and we enjoy a relaxing movie and a glass of wine after a busy day. As you can see I have used almost all areas of the matrix and still remained sane by the end of the day.

I know that my life is different from the lives of many other people out there but I believe that the work-rest matrix can help anybody balance their lives. Just add the areas that are parts of your life and then try to divide your activities equally throughout the day. I find a to-do-list to be very helpful in balancing my life. One of the best ones I have found is the Day Grid Balancer by David Seah.

Most people in the real world don’t work at home of they have to balance their work and study at the same time. I’ve been in this situation before so I know how difficult it gets when you have to juggle a few important areas of your life. Being on a tight schedule (a 9-to-5 job or school hours) adds a few challenges to life balance but you can still reach that golden work-rest balance (check out time management tips that will help you take control of your time). Again start by creating your own work-rest matrix and add all the important areas of your life to it. Tasks that are not on a fixed schedule (exercise, time with family, friends) are very flexible so you can group them into 3 main categories:

  • things that you can do before work (a 30 minute run in the morning or a morning Pilates or Yoga routine is all you need to jumpstart your day);
  • things that you can do during lunch (meet your friends for lunch, stop by the grocery store to pick up a few essentials);
  • things that you can do after work (go to the gym right after work, spend time with your family).

If you plan your exercise in the evening then you can order Chinese for supper (you will probably have enough food for three days after that if your local Chinese restaurant gives you as much food as ours does:-)) and you won’t have to spend your precious time in the kitchen. If exercise is not on your list then you can always use stairs instead of an elevator and park in the furthest corner of the parking lot (just old school ways of staying in shape). Take your kids to the park to enjoy a peaceful evening and still get your essential activity. And the most important thing: forget about all time-wasting useless activities like watching TV and surfing the web for hours (unless it’s your job of course:-)).

I hope this article was helpful and it will help you to find a nice balance between work and rest.

Keep it balanced!

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