When I decided to become a mother, I was excited at the thought of having a baby. After the initial excitement wore off, I knew realistically it would add another factor to my time management. I also knew that I both needed to and wanted to keep working — and that it would be quite a balancing act to raise a child, continue to advance in my career, and still find some time for myself! After all, I still wanted to be able to maintain my social life to some extent, and get enough sleep and relaxation to be both a good worker and a good mother. That meant learning how to be even more efficient with my time, and finding strategies for making the most out of each day.
All of this falls under the umbrella of having a good work-life balance, which is a term you've probably heard before. The two major components are "work" (career goals, professional ambitions, etc.) and "life" (personal health, leisure, family, etc.), and the combination of these which makes up your lifestyle determines how you split the balance. It's all about choice: what matters most to you and what you decide to spend time on. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what balance is right for them, and so what I choose to devote my time to may be different from what you would spend your time on. However, there are some common methods of managing your work and your personal life which apply no matter where your priorities lie.
Below are a few tips that I've found helpful in striking my ideal work-life balance. I hope that you might find them helpful in thinking about your own balance, and how you can approach building a balanced life for yourself.
1. Don't forget to incorporate downtime into your routine.
Everyone has a different schedule, and depending on your job, it may be more or less predictable. Even if you're not working a typical nine-to-five office job, there are ways to plan "me-time" or "family-time" into your routine — you may just have to be more flexible about when you take it, and may not be able to schedule it for the same time every week. Work will expand to fill the time available (whether it be professional or housework), so if you don't block out time for relaxation or plans with loved ones and friends, you'll never get around to it. This leads to that stressful feeling of being perpetually busy. So remember to plan even small chunks of time to devote to non-work activities, and defend that time from other responsibilities. Luckily, the anticipation of enjoying your downtime will help you by providing additional incentive to manage your time wisely.
2. Stop doing things which unnecessarily sap your time and energy.
Of course, some unpleasant and draining tasks are unavoidable. We all have to clean, deal with bureaucracy at work or in our personal lives, and spend time we'd rather spend elsewhere on small annoyances. However, you can try to weed out any other activities you find yourself doing that provide far less benefit to the amount of energy or effort they take out of you. Avoid distractions at work — don't have your email constantly open, don't stand around the water cooler gossiping, block time-wasting websites. This will help save you a huge amount of time which you might not realize you were losing each day! Are there commitments you've made in your personal life that are also providing very little value for the amount of effort you put into them? Ditch those — you won't even miss them.
3. Outsource small tasks where possible.
Can you afford to pay a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn? Have your laundry or dry cleaning picked up and dropped off at home by the cleaners for a small additional fee? Even on a small budget, sometimes spending a little extra here or there can provide more value in the time it saves you. Also think about whether you can exchange services with a friend or neighbor — if one of you is handy with repairs and the other likes to cook in big batches, you might be able to work out a trade. Also ensure that division of household labor is fair, and that you aren't getting the short end of the stick. Most women today still end up doing the majority of the housework despite working similar hours to their spouses at a job. Discuss with your partner (if you have one, or with your roommates or family members) where you need them to pick up some slack. You can always divide the tasks by which ones you each prefer to do, which makes it simpler to handle and more pleasant for both of you! If you have children old enough to help out around the house, set up a chore wheel or give them a few household duties each week in order to earn their allowance.
4. Remember to start small; a little relaxation can do wonders.
You don't have to become a superwoman overnight! Even just making a small change to your time management strategies can provide benefits that will begin to snowball. Find a way to eat family dinner at least 3 or 4 weeknights (depending on how ambitious you are) and don't leave the television on. Just this short time spent reconnecting with your loved ones can feel like a major recharge and give you a second wind to handle other responsibilities in the evening. Set aside 15 minutes to read a book or meditate before bed each night, and don't let anyone disturb you — you'll be calmer, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested the following day. Slowly build more activities you care about into your schedule and drop those which aren't fulfilling. Get up 10 minutes early and do a quick bit of exercise before breakfast to energize yourself for the day!
So tell me, do you have any good work-life balance tips to share? How do you manage all the components of your life? I'd love to hear about how you make time for the things you love and keep yourself calm and content in a hectic world.
Stephanie is a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping busy women honor themselves, their family, and their future by showing them how to streamline their life, eat better, create more energy, and make better decisions thus decreasing stress. Find out more at www.StephanieKatherine.com
Stephanie is a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping busy women honor themselves, their family, and their future by showing them how to streamline their life, eat better, create more energy, and make better decisions in order to decrease stress.