Time seems to be moving faster and we have more that needs to be done in the short time we have. So how can we figure out a way to balance our working and day-to-day lives? A good work life balance is essential, not only for our physical, but also our mental heath.
“The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days waiting for better ones ahead” – M. Hinckley
It would be a totally miserable life if all we did was eat, sleep and work without factoring in some time for ourselves to achieve our own goals, enjoy our homes and have some fun. But, due to hectic working schedules, long hours, commuting times, parenting and house chores it seems like an impossibility to get a bit of time to ourselves. And it can be a rare occasion when we feel like we really do get a real break.
So how can we be more productive and gain some time back? It’s all about managing our time and being organised.
To maintain a healthy work life balance we need to prioritise and break up our days into manageable chunks. Rather than putting off jobs, we can add them to a daily or weekly plan and visually see what we need to work through.
I’m a fan of a good old-fashioned list. Most days are spent writing them, highlighting them and then binning them. However most people these days probably just use the checklist or notepad on their phones.
Depending on your life you may prefer to work on a day-to-day basis, or for anyone who takes on way more than there are hours in the day, you could work to a weekly or monthly planner. They can be bought online for a few pounds or printed off as you need them, so there’s no need to spend a fortune.
Schedule everything onto it and colour code it. Add extra cells should you need to and track everything from the school runs, to the food shop, to the kids’ swimming classes and cooking dinner. This will give you a visual of the time you are actively using throughout each day and will show you the available spaces in-between.
Use these small windows of available time to do the silly small things that get put off, such as taking the laundry pile upstairs, packing the school bags for the following day, or just sitting down and having a coffee.
Always make sure to schedule in one day a week of minimal activities: one day of rest and self care. If going to the gym or reading a book helps you to wind down and feel good about yourself – then factor it in! These are not luxuries, they are important for keeping a healthy mind.
Two useful methods to increase productivity if you have a work project or university deadline to keep:
The Pomodoro Technique
- Divide your time into 25-minute sections. Sit and work or study for 25 minutes undistracted.
- After 25 minutes take a five minute break.
- Repeat four times and then take a 20 minute break.
- Continue for several hours.
By working in intervals, it reduces the impact of interruptions, so you can focus and work can flow.
The two-minute rule
If it can be done in two minutes or less, then do it immediately.
This one is great for all those small jobs at home that get ignored time and time again; taking the cup in your bedroom downstairs, moving a box to the garage and so on.
Making time for the things we enjoy
I have put together a list of ideas that can be incorporated into our everyday lives to help manage our work life balance, and gain more time which can be spent doing the things we enjoy:
- Stop trying to multitask – complete one job at a time.
- Set yourself deadlines and goals – daily, weekly and monthly.
- Prioritise tasks – A looming Uni deadline is ‘Urgent’, Shopping for Summer clothes can wait.
- Remove distractions and turn off notifications – I recommend downloading a digital detox app.
- Keep your mind fresh – work in intervals, work when most productive and take breaks.
- Set yourself reminders – post-its, diary, or on your phone.
- Wake up an hour earlier during Spring and Summer.
- Organise your workspace – no one can work productively in clutter.
- Go for a walk or run to clear your mind – running time is thinking time.
- Create routines – babies love them, why can’t we?
- Prepare meals at weekends – cook a batch and freeze dinner size portions.
- Decline additional commitments – don’t add to your workload by agreeing to host a games night.
- Break up big projects into smaller chunks, then add them to your planner.
- Take on only what you can finish.
- Focus on what matters.
- Keep your goal in sight.
- Minimize screen time in bed – it’s harder to get a good sleep with an active mind.
- Fell good with the right nutrition and exercise – feeling good increases your energy and motivation and motivation gets the job done.
- Make time for intellectual stimulation.
- Communicate with friends – I don’t think I would cope without my mum-squad to vent at and laugh with.
A healthy work life balance
If you constantly feel overwhelmed with the number of things happening in your life, or feel like life is a juggling act, try one or two of the ideas from the list above and see if, by actively managing your time, you can also manage your stresses.
Don’t beat yourself up about not being able to do everything all the time. Keep doing what you can and never compare yourself to others. Managing a healthy work life balance will help you do what’s right for you and your family.