Reclaiming Life In A Workaholic Culture

Reclaiming Life In A Workaholic Culture

Goodbye, "work-life balance," hello, "green space."

If I could eliminate one phrase from the English language, it’d be “work-life balance.” It’s so charged that just saying the phrase has become taxing for people.

A much more welcoming term is what I call “green space.” Green is a soothing color, connoting nature, calm, ease. Space allows for a mental, physical and calendrical clearing. Taken together, green space gives us mental and physical breathing room.

The blue sky is the limit

My recommendation is to find green space daily. Sometimes that means 15 minutes to walk outside for your coffee break. Other times it’s a trip to Tahiti. Only you can decide what green space means to you. The common denominator is that green space is your refresh time. Your productivity goes down if you become all work and no play.

Many companies have a use-it-or-lose-it policy when it comes to vacation time. This should compel you to take that time away from the office to recharge. Some organizations do this for accounting or workforce management reasons, while others have a mission of getting you balanced before you come back to the office.

Mindful mornings

“One of the first things to recognize is that balance is a state of being or state of mind, as opposed to something on your calendar,” reminds Pilar Gerasimo, founding editor of LifeTime’s Experience Life magazine. A nationally recognized expert on mindfulness, Gerasimo suggests people start the day by committing a few minutes to self-care and sanity: “Neuroscientists recognize the morning as the most fertile time for the brain.”

So when you turn on the television right after you wake up, you are choosing chaos. If you choose mindfulness, you allow your brain to wake up and be more receptive to positive behavior for the day ahead.

A three-minute meditation

Gerasimo suggests you light a candle and relax on a meditation mat. Do something that appeals to you for three minutes. She calls it a “feel good” act. Examples include reading a poem, playing an instrument or doing a few yoga poses. Even working in your garden can serve this purpose.

She says a start like this “allows your system to wake up in a sensible and self-loving way.” At the end of three minutes, you can do more or wrap it up. If you can’t take just three minutes for yourself in this way, Gerasimo warns, “you’ve become a slave to a mindset that is not serving you, and you are really suffering from imbalance.”

Charting a course

Ultimately, you make a choice for green space and balance in your life. So how do you set priorities? “It’s got to be something I am passionate about,” says Chris Wright, president of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. His green space vision stems from what he calls his “3 F’s to Life”:

1 Faith | 2 Family | 3 Franchises

Wright explains: “My faith drives who and what I am.” He’s tried to create a “not the boss of anybody but the partner to everybody” feeling among his staff at the Timberwolves and Lynx.

Wright says he’s also fortunate when it comes to family, and he wants to bring as much energy to them as anything else. “I am incredibly blessed to have Walla as part of my life on this earth.”

Wright and wife Walla work out together with a personal trainer two to three times a week. From a green space perspective, this is ideal. You know you want to stay fit, and here’s the perfect way to pair physical activity with quality time with your spouse. Just like Wright, you can build green space into active parts of your week. A bonus for Wright: “It’s easier to refresh with someone you’re meant to be with, your soulmate.”

A lot of Wright’s heart and soul is with the basketball franchise. He knows the demands of the franchise extend well beyond 9 to 5 for the organization’s 168 employees. His attitude toward social responsibility, “being built for a purpose, to give back to the community, especially the underserved,” influences his encouragement of staffers to participate in charitable events, serve on boards and attend community gatherings, sometimes on company time because Wright knows their well-being benefits the overall organization.

Experience Life’s Gerasimo agrees that service is an essential part of a balanced life. “We are not here to race through and check off as many to-dos as we can,” she says, “but to be of service to others and make a positive impact in the world.” She suggests you “respond to your life but not be in reaction to it.”

Create your own version of a filter system Wright uses. The first question is to ask: Is it meaningful for the advancement of the organization? If yes, there’s a high chance it should get on your calendar. Then ask whether you are passionate about the item in front of you. You may not have the luxury of declining a work task, but you should at least ask yourself the question. It may help prioritize events for you in the future.

Finally, try putting the item through your own version of faith, family and franchise. When something doesn’t make it through these filters, it’s not worth your time—or time away from your green space. TCB

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit