Balancing Career And Life: Finding Time To Do It All

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Simply put, many of us “want it all.” In our pursuit of a coveted work promotion; losing 15 pounds; learning a new language; and not missing a single night of Quizzo at the local bar, we often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. If we continue on this path, the things we value the most begin to suffer, all the result of our being stretched too thin. This is where the ‘work-life balance’ concept comes into play. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best way of balancing our personal goals with friends and family against our career growth, the following tips will help you springboard your own personal plan.

1) Be realistic. As children, we were told we were capable of mastering anything we put our minds to. Now that we’re adults, it’s important to realistically understand our limits. With only so many waking hours in the day, one can’t “do it all.” If you’re a perfectionist, this may mean lowering or changing your expectations for the things you pursue outside of work. For example, photography is a hobby that I’ve always enjoyed. However, I currently don’t have the free time to improve my skill set by regularly attending classes or learning advance editing programs. I’m 100% content with my current mediocrity and am gentle with myself about the final results. After all, with there being so many other aspects of my life that are more important to fine-tune, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to put my goal to grow as a photographer on the back burner.

Of course, this lesson can extend to other aspects of ones life. Sometimes, it’s okay to heat up a microwave meal instead of preparing a three-course dinner, or to fall behind a chapter or two on your book club’s assigned reading. Try honestly to review your priorities, and realize that not everything can be “number one.”

The mantra of “accepting your limits” also translates to work. Sometimes, it’s necessary to set boundaries with your boss or team. Instead of flat our refusing to do a project, articulate your concerns and offer a compromised solution. For example, “I understand that getting this billing information to clients before Tuesday should be top priority. However, I’m concerned that I may not be as thorough as necessary if I’m rushing to complete both this and the scheduled presentation for the same day. Could I potentially push back the presentation until Thursday?”

2) Make sleep a priority. While I’m plenty guilty of canceling a trip to the gyym in favor of work, the one crucial health component I never compromise on is sleep. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way; I use to stay up all night to finish projects, only to find error after error in the final results. The next day, I would be sluggish and grumpy, crippling my overall productivity. Sleep is vital to staying mentally sharp so, ultimately, foregoing sleep is the worse thing you can do for your work and social life.

3) Schedule activities out in advance. Think of all the tasks you want to accomplish, and visualize them as Tetris pieces; they’re much easier to fit together if you spread the various activities on the table in front of you to carefully deliberate, rather than simply waiting for them to fall from the sky (or the top of your computer screen). By listing out what needs to be accomplished and a slight over-estimation of how long each activity should take, you can fit them together to help your day hum along productively.

Look for shortcuts. For example, does your hair salon reside next to the new Mexican restaurant your friends want to check out Tuesday evening? Consider making an appointment prior to meeting them and spare yourself from making the same commute twice. Do you have Saturday and Sunday brunch plans with two separate pals? See if its possible to make it one activity that you could do with both.

If there are unfilled blocks of time, consider whether there is anyway you can “work ahead” to free up larger blocks of hours in the future. For example, my boyfriend often sleeps in until noon on the weekends, so I use this chunk of time to get a jump start on next week’s workload so I won’t have to stay as late at the office.

4) Try to make your social life productive. Going for drinks or coffee with friends can lead to plenty of laughs and happy memories, but it’s not the most productive use of your time. Consider whether or not there are chores or goals that you can accomplish together in order to further streamline your life. The concept is fairly simple; if you and your friend both jog, make it a shared activity; instead of catching up with your roommate over tea at the kitchen table, have the same conversations at the laundromat; and, if you and your significant other both enjoy cooking, preparing meals for the week can be a fun way to spend a Sunday evening. You and your companions will enjoy the satisfaction of scratching a chore off the list, as well as making it infinitely more enjoyable due to the added company.

What tips do you have for balancing it all?

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