Getting Off the Treadmill of Life

By | July 10, 2007
Treadmill

Do you wish you could slow things down, especially your mind? Life is hectic and harried, but there are several ways you can jump off the hamster wheel of life to get some much needed respite. You only need to mentally commit to it and you can make it happen. Here are a few ideas.

1. The Bathroom Break
You may laugh at this idea, but it isn’t called the rest room for nothing. For many of us, our day is a never ending stream of requests for our attention from others. When you find yourself hitting the wall, go take a bathroom break whether you need to go or not. Go into the stall and have a seat, close your eyes, take a deep breath (if it’s safe), and relax. Try putting your hands over your eyes and rubbing your temples. You’ll feel better even though this is a short break. Use the time to think about what you really need to do next instead of just reacting to every request.

2. Meditation Nap
This has been featured on Lifehack before. Here is a very quick synopsis: take a 5-20 minute break where you stretch, close your eyes, and empty your mind in a relaxed but wakeful state. You will be amazed at how much this can rejuvenate you!

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3. Appointment with Yourself
Set aside a one hour appointment with yourself during your day. No one needs to know that the appointment is only with yourself. Where? Library or a bookstore are both nice quiet places you could retreat to. What should you do during this time? Since it is not a huge amount of time, I would suggest using part of the time for a meditation nap, and then use the remainder to think about your dreams and how you can move towards them. You might want to schedule this kind of time once a month or once a week even.

4. Play Hooky for the Day
Sometimes when you’re working hard, it can be easy to feel like you’re never going to reach your dreams. You may feel tired, down, or frustrated. This is when you should take a whole day for yourself! If you are doing work that is not towards your dream, use the day to redesign your life. Where do you want to go? How do you want to live life? Map out how you will get there. Start today! If you are already working towards your dream and you are simply exhausted, use it as a day to play and relax. Go see a movie, visit a museum, anything that will allow you to forget about work and enjoy life.

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5. Change Your Perspective
Sometimes we can’t get our minds off our work, even when we come home from work. So how do you slow down your mind? Many turn to TV to help turn off our minds. But how about doing something totally different? You could: go to an art opening, do some volunteer work, visit a lecture at the local library, go see a live play or live music, or anything else that will help you forget about work for a while, but at the same time open your mind to other ideas instead of turnig your brain off the way TV can.

6. Change Your Location
Another idea for freeing your mind is to go to a place you don’t usually visit. Or go to a place that you do go to frequently, but this time really take notice of what’s going on around you. For example, a great place to go is simply out in nature. The woods, the beach, the mountains, the park. As a child how did you feel when you were in these places? Can you notice those things again today as an adult? Go ahead and take some time to enjoy fond memories. Let them take you away from it all. Do the smells, sounds, and scenery of a place talk to you? What do they say? What do they motivate you to do differently going forward?

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7. Play!
Take some time to play some games, sing, or dance with your children or with friends or family. Make it a point to become really engaged. Tell yourself that all your worries and thoughts will still be there when you’re done playing. Commit to letting it all go while you do so. If it’s hard for you to do this, then schedule it with someone with whom you won’t be able to break the date. Have fun for a change. A good warm up is to play some music before to get your fun self moving and grooving and leave your work-a-holic self in the dust!

8. Going to Sleep
At night, there are a couple things you can do to get off the treadmill of life. First be kind to
yourself by going to sleep when you’re tired! Find a way to turn off the TV an hour or more before your target bed time. TV is a stimulant, even if you think it helps you fall asleep. Better yet, leave the TV off except for your favorite shows or educational TV. Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself or alone with your spouse. When the TV is turned off you can begin to think, to unwind the day. Try it or a week. If that’s hard for you to do, you could try putting the TV in the garage for a week to failproof it.

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The second thing you can do when going to sleep is, if you find yourself thinking too much, try this mantra, “Empty the Mind.” Just repeat that as often as is necessary to release your mind’s clinging to work, worry, and ceaseless thinking. Remind yourself that by releasing your thoughts and succumbing to rest, your subconscious mind will continue to work on the problems for you while you sleep. You will wake up refreshed and with the energy needed to tackle your challenges anew.

Which idea will you try today? What other ideas do you have for escaping the treadmill of life?

K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are How to Stop Being “Busy” and Live Your Dream Life, Creativity Blocks? Bash Through in 15 Steps, How to Nap at Work – or Anyplace You Need a Rest, and The Cure for Overworked, Overtired YOU!.

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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