If I could have on superhuman power, it would be to increase the number of hours in a day! There never seems to be enough. But that’s probably because I’m a chronic procrastinator . . . And it’s led to a lot of unnecessary wasted time, guilt and ineffective life management. So last month, I set myself a goal to find a better work/life balance that fits my lifestyle.
One of the biggest challenges I face is balancing my time and energy. I’m always tempted to work late into the evening, checking emails or finishing up a task right before time runs out. But at the same time, I’ve been struggling a bit with motivation. So it’s a weird and annoying mix.
While I can’t say the struggle is completely over, I feel like I’ve definitely made some progress in the last 35 days. It’s all about prioritizing your tasks, managing your schedule and tracking your progress made. I hope that this post will inspire you in your own life and help you find just the right combination of work and play so you can make it happen, too. Scroll through for seven ways to manage your time like a boss and to make the most of every day!
Examine Your Current Situation
I think the first step to really find balance is to consider what has worked for you in the past. Think about what you’ve done that has worked well so far. “Take some time to really look at your life, your state of mind, and how you’re feeling,” suggests Jasmin Tanjeloff, writer for Tiny Buddha. “Be honest with yourself and notice the areas of your life that you’re neglecting.”
Work-life balance isn’t just about your work. It’s about finding balance in your family life, your social life, and your spiritual life as well. So examine your current situation — what’s working for you and where can you improve? You don’t need to make big changes to bring more balance to your life. You can build on the foundation that you already have, and make changes where necessary.
If you lack structure in your life, I do suggest you add some structure to your life. It’s totally fine to start small if the idea bores you to tears. Carving out 20 minutes a day to work on something that lights you up or gets you moving is a great place to start! Even during a hectic day, you can take 10 or 15 minutes to do something at the same time every day to get yourself in the habit of a routine.
Know Your Priorities
The truth is: Too many priorities equals no priorities. If you have two or three things on your to-do list that you must accomplish, you will accomplish those two or three things. However, if you have eight or ten things on your to-do list, chances are, you’ll only accomplish as much as if you had shortened your list.
Shortening your to-do list may feel like automatically giving up on being productive, but it actually helps you get more done! Tim Ferriss, the productivity guru, suggests choosing two or three high priority items to focus on each day. When you narrow your focus, you keep yourself from getting sidetracked by trivial tasks.
Even if that means you only get those three things done, you’ll feel more productive than getting ten things halfway done. Prioritizing forces you to choose what is most important at the beginning of the day, giving you perspective throughout the day to avoid staying busy, just for the sake of it.
Be Realistic With Your Commitments
It may feel empowering to stay busy all the time, or say yes to a bunch of projects and activities, but the stress of over-committing will eventually slow you down. And those you committed to will notice you falling behind. Think about the last time you pulled an all-nighter. How much did you really get done the next day?
Forcing yourself to be busy to the point of stressing yourself out is not only detrimental to your work, but your mental and physical health as well. Not only that, but spreading yourself too thin can lead to problems in your career or with your friends and family.
Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, and you end up having a million things on your to-do list in one week. Be honest with those you’ve committed to. It’s okay to admit you took on too much. Most people will understand and either give you an extension or hand the task off to someone else. If you’re stuck with the task, see where you may have some extra time. Turning things in late is often better than turning them in half-assed.
Set Self-Improvement Goals
By applying the same amount of focus and diligence toward personal goals as those you set your work life, you’re more likely to see results. By this I mean dedicating time and energy to your self-improvement aspirations rather than leaving them to be accomplished in your spare time (which, for most of us, are few and far between).
In other words, if you plan to add more self-love to your life, hold yourself accountable in the same way you would with a work-related goal.
Be Efficient With Your Minutes
Every minute you give away has an opportunity cost. It’s one less minute you get to work, exercise, think, be with friends and family, etc. While it can be incredibly rewarding to take time to help others, you can end up forgetting about your agenda altogether. Make sure each task on your schedule has an agenda — a plan of attack.
But it’s important to know the purpose of not only your tasks, but your day as a whole. And there should always be a time limit for each task. Certain things will take only 15-minutes while others might take an hour-and-a-half. So this is where time blocking can be really beneficial.
Getting smarter with your time can free up more space to be flexible and lower your stress levels.
– Beat The Clock
The Pomodoro Technique is a sure-fire way to get shit down without pushing yourself too hard. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, get as much done as you can on a project or task, take a break for 5 minutes, and repeat. After four Pomodoros, you take a 15 – 30 minute break.
Even if you don’t want to follow the technique to a tee, the act of setting yourself a timer and seeing how much you can get done is a really easy way to start on a project that you keep putting off. There’s times I set my first timer for an hour and follow with three 25 minutes intervals. Figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Tip: Whenever you stop working on something, write down what stage you’re at and what needs to be done next. Not only does this prevent lost time, trying to figure out where you left off, you’ll also know exactly what you can start doing after your break.
Limit Time-Wasting Activities & People
Identifying what’s most important in my life has done wonders for my work/life balance! Of course, every one’s interest differ, so make sure your list truly reflects your priorities (not someone else’s). Then I suggest you draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority activities.
From there, it’s much easier to determine what needs to be trimmed off from your schedule. If email or Pinterest sends you into a time-wasting spiral, establish rules for yourself to keep on task. That might mean turning off email notifications and replying in batches during scheduled times each day. If you’re mindlessly surfing Pinterest when you should be checking tasks off your to-do list, try using productivity software. The one I use is Freedom, Leech Block, Rescue Time.
And if you find your time being gobbled up by less constructive people, find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions. Drinks with the work gang the night before a busy, important day? Ask for a rain check and get a good night’s sleep. Cornered by the office chatterbox every morning? Politely excuse yourself and get ya butt back to work! Any time you feel that you’re getting off track, refer back to your list to bring your focus back to the people and activities that reward you the most.
Schedule Your Calendar Like A To-Do List
I’m a huge fan of to-do lists. I also have a little obsession with planners. So for tasks that must be accomplished, I schedule them in my planner like an appointment. These tasks are not to be pushed back or interrupted until completed.
I pencil in exercise time, meal time and me time. On the day’s I know I have a lot to do, I use a planner with 30 minute increments listed out and write in my to-do list. This helps me to see how long I expect (and hope) each task will take. Plus it helps keep me focused and keeps me accountable.
It may seem silly to write out every task for each day, but I’m telling ya: If you have trouble focusing, it doesn’t hurt to try! Write down, in order, each task that you need to do.
The Bottom Line
This is what I have found works best for me right now. And the one thing I’ve realized is you have to be able to be flexible if you really want to balance your time well. Since switching to this method, I have noticed a tremendous increase in my overall productivity. I make sure to touch the most important areas of my life each week,which leaves me less stressed that something is being left behind.
It’s all about prioritizing your own life, getting the necessary things done, and not worrying about the rest. And try not to stress if something isn’t going the way you planned. Sometimes, life is a trade-off. In fact, the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I am beginning to realize that balance doesn’t always mean dividing my time equally between worthy endeavors, but instead learning how to focus all my attention on my top priority at any given time.
You just need to do you! Don’t feel discouraged if things don’t go as planned. And try not to force yourself to go about your day in a way that feels unnatural. Just strive for a little more balance to make life easier for you.
+How do you find balance between routine and flexibility? Are you a super-scheduler, an anti-scheduler or an in-betweener? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.