If money was no object, how would you spend your day? Would you still go to work, would you go hiking, visit your friends or family, would you travel or spend more time with your partner or kids? Or would you spend all day in work?
Nobody, reflecting back on their life, says they should have spent more time in the office. Most people regret not spending more time with family and friends or pursuing their dreams. It's so easy to get caught in the trap of work and neglect what life is really about.
I was guilty of it myself. I used to spend 10-12 hours a day working, including every weekend. I neglected my health and my private life suffered. I was a nervous wreck on the verge of burning out.
When I actually managed to go on holiday, I was constantly on the phone or checking emails. I was never living in the present, taking in my surroundings. I remember being on a yacht in Turkey surrounded by beautiful sea and mountains but I was talking on the phone with my office, stressed-out and not taking in the beauty around me.
Getting off that boat and realising that I'd completely missed the trip was a big wake-up call for me. What was the point of going away somewhere warm and beautiful if my mind was still in the office?
It was then that I began to give far more consideration to a work-life balance. I did a lot of research into how other people strike the perfect balance.
I read books and took motivation from other people's stories. I'm not a very well-balanced person and struggle with moderation, so this was a big challenge for me. My default mindset was to be productive 24/7, but I didn't realise just how much less productive I was by burning the candle at both ends.
I knew that change was necessary. I downloaded a meditation app, Headspace, and started meditating daily. In the beginning I was left feeling frustrated and angry – I just couldn't switch off and still had 100 thoughts per second. But I persevered, and it got easier and easier each week. With this extra time and energy I signed up for an IronMan triathlon and began training every day.
I found that it made me far more productive and focused because my brain functioned properly all day, not just in the morning. I felt far more decisive and creative with my work.
I began really enjoying my new lifestyle and spent less time in the office. I took the decision to get a holiday home in Spain. Sometimes I worked from home and got more done with no interruptions.
I became more trusting of my staff and took the decision to delegate to them more and they seemed more empowered and decisive because of it. I was so enjoying spending time in Spain that I decided to appoint a managing director, Alex Parr, to run my two companies, Wolfestone and VoiceBox.
I then began to think more about how much money I actually needed to spend time with friends and family. How much it would cost to run, bike, swim, read, write, hike, travel, cook, volunteer and learn Spanish – and it wasn't that much.
Most things I enjoyed doing were free. So why run myself into the ground and get stressed every day if I can have it all now. Why wait till I'm 65?
I know a lot of businesspeople who keep waiting to start living. They always say they will do something next year, when they retire, in the summer, when their business achieves 'x', when they have time – but the time is just not there. We need to make it. We tend to fill every minute of each day with things that don't give us happiness.
We always wait for something rather than enjoy the present moment.
A lot of studies show that we can be much happier if we spend money on experiences rather than things. And a lot of things we really enjoy in life don't cost anything.
Meeting a friend, cuddling your dog, spending time with your partner or kids, going for a walk. Life is about the small, everyday things that you can already afford.
There's no need to completely bog ourselves down with work just to have more stuff. We need to remember to live before it's too late.
- Written by Wolfestone Founder, Anna Bastek.