For many of us, the concept of work-life balance is a myth. There never seems to be enough time in the day to increase our efficiency, enhance productivity, and set aside quality time for everyone on our list of priorities.
In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. If balancing family and career commitments were as easy as turning on a switch, we would never need to receive these monthly reminders from our employers about taking time off for the holidays or attending workshops at work on effectively managing our time wisely. Regardless of how it’s framed, it’s clear that we all need strategies to make the best of the time we do have.
While this seems simple enough in theory, there are so many decisions to be made about managing our time, energy, and resources daily that most people find themselves making choices based on what is easiest at the moment rather than what is most effective. For example, you may choose to stay late at work to complete a project rather than come in early the next day because it’s easier to take care of everything right away instead of setting aside time tomorrow. If this pattern continues, you’ll find yourself working more hours each week and taking less time for other priorities without even thinking about it.
What strategies can you employ to make the most of your available time?
1. Prioritize Daily Tasks
Instead of choosing the first choice that presents itself, take a moment to think about what has to be done today and establish your priorities before you start working. For example, make sure you fit in time for other tasks that need to be done but not necessarily right away.
If you find yourself continually making decisions based on what will work best at the moment, make a list of your daily tasks and arrange them from most to least important. It helps if you can have this list in front of you during the day when it’s time to choose how to spend your time.
2. Set Aside Time for Other Priorities
Once you know your priorities, make sure to set aside time to do some tasks that need to be done but not necessarily right away, such as going through your inbox or calling a family member. Or it could be getting some exercise after work.
For many of us, the most challenging aspect of this is finding time to do the unexpected. For example, you may have a day when your schedule remains relatively unchanged, with meetings and work taking up most of your time. If that’s the case, try to dedicate at least a few minutes each hour for tasks such as checking email or making one phone call to set up an important meeting.
3. Use Your Lunch Break to Plan Your Day
Take a few minutes to think about what you need to get done today and how you’ll fit everything in during your lunch break. Think ahead for potential challenges that could derail progress on these tasks, such as appointments that have been scheduled that might run longer than expected or impromptu meetings that require your full attention.
4. Take Breaks Throughout the Day to Recharge
Taking breaks throughout the day is an integral part of staying productive and working more efficiently. After all, how can you stay on task if your mind is distracted or unfocused? Try taking a break every few hours for at least 10 minutes. During this time, it’s best to avoid checking email or looking at other work documents since they can lead you back to your desk when you should be enjoying some time off.
As well as taking regular breaks during the day, it’s also important to plan time for yourself throughout the week. If you are overwhelmed, try arranging a meeting with your supervisor or team members so that you can share how you feel and ask for help in prioritizing tasks. Or you can set aside time to meet with your kid’s teacher at the childcare center or arrange playdates.
5. Set Boundaries With Co-workers and Outside Commitments
Busy work schedules can often leave us with little time for family and friends, so it’s essential to set boundaries around this. For example, you may choose not to volunteer as much at your child’s school or sign up for as many recreational activities. Or you might only commit to attending one birthday party per month instead of every few weeks.
How do you manage your time and stay organized? What have been some challenges that have come up?
One common challenge is balancing the need to be there for other family members when they need help, which can take away from work commitments. Another challenge is constantly being “on-call” by checking email frequently throughout the day.
6. Utilize Technology
Many tools can help you manage your time and tasks more efficiently, such as productivity apps and timers that allow you to set specific intervals for when it’s time to stop working on a particular task and move on to something else.
Many challenges can occur when trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance, including not having enough time during the day for specific responsibilities. It’s important to plan and set boundaries with co-workers and outside commitments to avoid falling behind on your work or losing track of time. Additionally, taking regular breaks throughout the day to recharge is good for your health and your productivity.