I was obsessed with work.
The pandemic has only intensified this obsession. But we will get to that later.
Working at home has blurred the boundaries between work and personal life, making disconnecting even harder.
It felt like work was consuming every aspect of my existence.
Because I’ve put too much pressure on myself. Why, again? Find out in my next writing. So make sure you subscribe (see the “Subscribe” button floating somewhere in this blog). ☺️
Firstly, I couldn't clearly distinguish between my personal time and work hours since I worked from home.
Secondly, the increased accessibility of digital tools and technology also meant that work-related notifications were just a click away.
Thirdly, the pressure to always be "available" and "responsive" in an online work environment created additional stress.
Fourthly, the absence of clear boundaries and structured work schedules often led to overworking; sometimes, it seemed like the work never ended.
Lastly, as meetings, discussions, and brainstorming sessions moved online, it felt like my entire day was consumed by virtual meetings.
All of these factors combined made it feel like work was consuming every second of my life.
So let me take you through it…. I work, well, let’s say as a “Digital Marketing Strategist”.
Why am I Killing Myself With Work?
In the bustling realm of digital marketing, freelancing, and entrepreneurship, a certain gravitas is often associated with tireless dedication.
We frequently champion the "hustle" and the "grind" and measure our worth by our productivity.
But in April 2023, a brush with COVID-19 made me ask a piercing question: "Why am I killing myself with work?"
When the universe throws a curveball, like a month-long battle with an illness, it can shock your system into re-evaluation.
This is what happened to me.
In 2021, alongside my job in digital marketing, I decided to help my fellow independent contractors across Asia-Pacific.
The idea was simple: serve.
But as the community expanded, what was a mission felt more like a burden.
Truth bomb: I was wearing a mask that wasn’t mine.
I am an introvert, and I’ve had much success being a lone wolf.
See, I'm not the life-of-the-party type. Crowds wear me out. My magic happens in intimate one-on-ones or small circles.
Those webinars, the digital meet-ups? They drained me.
Worse still, my main job, my bread and butter, suffered.
The mission was to help everyone earn a living online due to the pandemic limiting our resources. And as of this writing, I believe I have done my part.
The mission is genuine, and I always wanted to help. But I need to look after myself too.
But why did I pursue it even if I am not 100% that type of person?
Why did I push myself to the brink of exhaustion, sacrificing my own well-being to fulfil a mission that wasn't aligned with my natural strengths and preferences?
It was a question that kept gnawing at me.
So, in 2021, while building a podcast as part of the mission to serve, here's the unexpected: I found myself leading webinars and launching online courses.
Was it part of the plan? Heck no. I was already up to my neck, juggling my digital gig and personal battles.
Laying out my playbook for everyone to see? It felt like setting the table for my competitors. But the universe has its plans, and mine was to build a community at that time.
Thankfully, it worked. And the feedback? Unreal.
What sets me apart? Straightforward lessons. I pull back the curtains, showing both the shine and the grime. I SHARED ALMOST EVERYTHING I KNOW.
I'm not here to make a quick buck off you.
I’ve dubbed my lessons micro-workshops. Straight to the point. Here's what I did. Use it, tweak it, or leave it. Your call.
A crucial bit you should know: I'm a doer. A practitioner, if you will. Not some guru on a high horse. I've been in the trenches, making bets in marketing and covering payrolls.
I've bootstrapped businesses, even diving into uncharted waters based purely on gut feel and experiences. See Discover Mt Apo.
But there was a cost.
It declined, and alarmingly so. Relentless headaches, chronic fatigue, brain fog, hormonal imbalances and muscle injuries, cysts growing out of nowhere.
Pushing my limits had its price, and it was demanding payment.
My beloved health.
When I got hit by the C-virus in April 2023, I plunged into deep introspection.
What genuinely lights my fire? Why was I dancing to the world's tune and not my own?
I realised that joy isn't about fitting into a mould but syncing with my core values and passions.
It hit me: Endlessly grinding, without breaks, without compassion for oneself—it’s a path to burnout.
From Obsession to Self-Love, thanks to Covid-19
When C-virus struck me, it wasn't just a health crisis—it was a wake-up call. I battled with it for a month or so.
Strange as it sounds, the virus pushed me from relentless grind to genuine self-care, from obsession to self-love.
So, I made a decision to step back and reassess my priorities.
I started saying no to projects that didn't align with my natural strengths and preferences.
I began setting boundaries and carving out time for activities that brought me joy and rejuvenation.
I chose a different path: Quality over quantity. I wanted every action to resonate purposefully, not just tally up numbers.
In doing so, I discovered a renewed sense of purpose and a newfound mission.
Australia, which I call my home, is more than just breathtaking landscapes and cycle tracks. It reflects all I had neglected engrossed in my career.
It wasn't just nature I was bypassing. It was family time, moments of quiet reflection, and the comforting sounds of my ragdoll cats. Simple joys.
It's a trap many of us in the entrepreneurial world fall into. We're busy building digital empires, often forgetting who's behind the construction—ourselves.
My work obsession? It's rooted in my upbringing in the Philippines, raised by Filipino parents of Chinese and Spanish descent.
Simply knowing about work-life balance isn't a win. Living it is.
We can all read articles on well-being and nod, but how often do we drift right back into the endless grind?
Life and work don’t operate in a straight line
Life isn’t a straight road, and neither is work.
It's important to recognise that life, with all its unexpected bends and twists, doesn’t just follow a simple straight path. Similarly, our approach to work shouldn't be so linear.
Throwing yourself into your task and becoming totally engrossed does give you a bit of a buzz.
Each achievement feels like a rush, a little pat on the back reminding you you're onto something good.
But that buzz? It's short-lived.
And those light bulb moments in our careers? They're not always about the next big thing or some fancy strategy.
Sometimes, they’re quiet revelations – a reminder that there's a whole world out there beyond our emails and marketing plans.
I was superb at building businesses, I was subpar at building memories.
I was superb at building businesses, I was subpar at building memories.
It's been eight years since my mum passed away, and it's still hard to believe she's gone. Her death reminded me that life is short and that I should cherish every moment.
The other day, I was going through my files and came across a list of all the kindhearted people in my life who have died young.
It was a sobering reminder that the good ones always seem to go first.
I mean, come on! What's up with that? Why do the people who are the most selfless and caring always have to die young?
It's like the universe is saying, "We need more evil people in this world, so let's take out all the good ones."
I'm in my late 30s now, and if I had to sum up what I've learned in life, it would be: LIFE IS SHORT.
Entrepreneurs are renowned for crafting visions. But what is a vision that doesn't include oneself?
A realisation I had during my illness-induced hiatus was that while I was superb at building businesses, I was subpar at building memories.
And isn’t life, at its core, a collection of memories?
Recovery from any setback, be it health or otherwise, gifts an opportunity: a chance to pivot, not just in business strategies but also in life strategies.
For me, the post-recovery phase wasn’t just about getting back to work. It was about redefining what work meant in the broader spectrum of life.
Conclusively, there’s no shaming in hustling, no wrong in being dedicated. But it’s pivotal to remember that our careers are just one facet of the multifaceted gem called life.
Every now and then, it's okay to step back, to look outside the window, to pedal down that cycling track, or to lie down and listen to the world outside.
In doing so, you aren’t neglecting your work. You're honouring all the other elements that give meaning to it.
So, to every entrepreneur, freelancer, and dreamer out there:
Because life, in its entirety, waits for none.
But it gives abundantly to those who seek.
Quiet, the power of Introverts
My friend Jen recommended a book titled “Quiet, the power of Introverts in a world that Can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain.
It wasn’t just a read; it was a mirror into my dawn reflections.
As these words flow, I’m shifting gears - in career, in priorities.
Now, it's about being genuine to my introverted, geeky, lone-wolf self who thrives on coffees, chai lattes and milk teas.
It’s intentional now – time carved for me and my little family.
Solo cafe trips to soak in the ambience. I'm taking care of myself, eyeing those abs that went AWOL. 😂
I’ve cottoned on to something vital: balance isn’t just vital; it’s foundational.
Success? It’s not just titles or raises; it’s contentment.
This fresh chapter? It's about joy in the mundane – that immaculate coffee sip, the post-workout high. Talking to strangers. Making genuine friendships as an adult.
Work-life balance: the golden unicorn everyone's chasing
Work-life balance isn't a milestone; it's the road. It demands brutal honesty, keen introspection, and realigning priorities continuously. It’s less about the endgame and more about the play.
But is it more myth than reality? Let's dissect this.
When we speak of "balance," we often imagine a perfectly levelled seesaw, each side bearing equal weight. In life, though, nothing rarely stays stagnant or balanced for long.
Life, by nature, is chaotic and unpredictable.
Work might demand more from you one week, while the next, family needs to take the forefront.
Instead of balance, maybe it's about harmony.
Finding a rhythm that works for you without chasing an impossible ideal. Your rhythm might look different from someone else's—and that's okay.
The term "work-life balance" makes it sound like work and life are on opposing teams. But isn’t work a part of life? The real game is integrating the two rather than segregating them.
Remember, the end goal isn’t balance. It’s satisfaction.
It’s looking back on a week, month, or year and thinking, "Yeah, that felt right."
So, is work-life balance possible or real? Depends on your definition. But harmony? Integration? Satisfaction?
Those are the targets I am aiming for.
Work's good, but not at life's cost. Boundaries matter. Routines aren’t confining; they’re freeing.
It’s high time we nurture our roles and souls.
This journey has been an eye-opener. Gratitude? It's my constant companion for the lessons, experiences, and moments of crystal clarity.
So, here’s the pitch: Dive deep into life’s beauty and treasure every relationship.
The end of an era and fulfilling the mission
Remember the community of freelancers we built back in 2021? It's called the Article and Design community.
As I've mentioned, the mission was to serve.
But there was one problem.
I have struggled to keep up with the pace the community requires and how to care for myself and my main work.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, my health deteriorated with this struggle.
Unlearn everything and start again
Sometimes, you've just got to hit the reset button.
Years of preconceived notions, rules we were handed down, the “shoulds” and “musts” – it might be time to chuck them out. Look at life with a fresh perspective, with untinted glasses.
From this point? I'm done pretending or bending. Authenticity is the game.
It’s paramount to harness the present, to lean into the current moment. Why waste time on what doesn’t resonate?
Play to your strengths and what works.
And LIFE is meant to be lived in the present.
That's all there is, really.
Phew! That was long.
I hope this inspires you.
See you around.
Stay curious, stay awesome and most of all….
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