We all know that work life balance is essential to our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
But can we say for sure what work life balance actually means or even looks like?
Does it mean that we’re crushing it at work while also offering to host a friend’s bridal shower; baking cookies for our kid’s fundraiser and somehow finding time to go on a mindfulness walk and meal prep for the week?
To me, that doesn’t sound like balance. It sounds like exhaustion and burnout.
Fortunately, achieving work life balance does not mean that you have to excel in every single area of your life. It is actually the opposite.
It is choosing to make a wiser decision that simply to “do your best” everywhere, every time.
It is learning how to synchronize your personal life and your work life, so they balance each other in a way that feels fulfilling for you.
If you make decisions based on what other people might think, you lose no matter what.
This is about deciding what is important in your life, and making smart choices to prioritize the things that truly matter to you.
Below, you can explore tips and strategies on how to carve out time for your work and personal schedules, while also ensuring that you have time for your personal needs.
If you’re looking to achieve work life balance, but aren’t sure where to begin, then start with establishing work-life boundaries.
Boundaries may not evoke the same graceful images that we associate with work-life balance, and in fact, can maybe even sound hostile to some people; but trust me, boundaries are a good thing. And what’s helpful about boundaries is that there are actual, tangible steps to taking care of ourselves.
Remember: setting boundaries does not mean that you are being a neglectful employee, friend, or parent. In fact, when you curate your own schedule and prioritize your needs, you’ll be in a much better place to be present for others.
Let’s say you are feeling anxious about work emails or experiencing the Sunday scaries before the start of the work week, try setting a cut-off time for reading work emails or texts. Maybe that means turning off your computer or setting the phone on airplane mode after a certain time. Depending on how you’re feeling, maybe that means saying no to a Zoom happy hour with coworkers or declining a person’s request to pick your brain.
That way, when you’re socializing with friends and family, you can be fully present and attentive, instead of feeling distracted, thinking about the latest work drama.
It’s also important to set boundaries around your personal goals. If you find yourself struggling to find time to work on your personal endeavors, remember to actually schedule your personal time into your calendar or planner. When you make the effort to schedule your time to meditate or journal or work on a personal goal, you will honor this appointment and show up. This is sacred time for you and you should treat it as such.
Manage your work with batching
You may already be familiar with batching, a productivity method in which you group together similar tasks and execute them all in one fell swoop.
For example, instead of responding to each and every email as it comes in, you would set a time to get through all of them in one batch. Or if you had a bunch of errands that were either work and family-related, then you would combine them in one batch.
Batching is highly effective in that it can save you time, energy, and effort. Think about it: we get into grooves when we start working on a task that requires a single focus or skillset, like writing emails or updating our calendars or editing a presentation. But imagine how disruptive it would be to work on your presentation and then move on to a different task that requires a different skill set and energy level. It’s one thing to shoot out a bunch of emails at once. It’s another to work on an email, and then try to declutter your house. It’s not great for your energy or concentration.
Cut down on decision fatigue by organizing your different tasks into similar categories and then scheduling them for certain days.
Use a weekly pad and identify themes for each day or time block. Maybe Monday afternoons can be reserved for emails or Tuesday evenings can be assigned for research time or Thursdays for running errands.
You can batch meetings, too
For a lot of people, meetings and calls can feel very disruptive to their workday. If you’re anticipating an upcoming meeting, it’s hard to concentrate on your current task because your energy is spent thinking about the meeting and preparing for it.
And after your meeting, it also can be challenging trying to resettle into your pre-meeting groove. Suddenly a 30-minute meeting has actually soaked up 60 minutes or more of your day.
Let’s be honest: meetings can be very draining as they require a lot from us, socially and energetically. That’s why it can feel hard to refocus when you have meetings scheduled throughout your day.
Instead, try batching your meetings by designating two or three days a week for external meetings. By batching your meetings and reserving them for specific days, you get so much of your time and energy back. You can even do this for video conferences and calls as well.
On the days that you don’t have any meetings scheduled, use that time to focus on your personal goals and tasks.
Make a “small-tasks” list
If you’re having trouble making a dent into a big goal or project, make a “small tasks” list. This is a master list of every single action item for your big goal. Having this list readily available will save you a lot of time and effort for those moments when you do find yourself with free time.
In this Harvard Business Review article, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders writes: “But to really get project work done, you need to have pre-decided what you will do during those open times. If you don’t, the path of least resistance will lead to doing the first thing that comes to mind — like answering email.”
For example, is your big goal to transition into a freelance career? Then break this down into small chunks that you can accomplish easily within a short time frame.
- Update resume
- Buy a website domain name
- Hire website designer
- Sign up for a networking workshop
- Read articles on breaking into freelance
So let’s say you have a 20-minute block of time between meetings, take out your small tasks list and try to knock out as many tasks as you can within that time frame. This is similar to batching in that it’s a concentrated effort into one specific category.
Your small tasks list doesn’t even have to be goal related. You can use it to jot down personal tasks, calendar reminders, doctor’s appointments, online purchases, etc. So if you’re ever looking to cross off tasks of your to-do list and avoid being on social media during your precious free time, this task list is for you.
By creating your small tasks list in advance, you’ll be ready to break it out and maximize your free time.