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you CAN have it all: 8 tips for balancing work and life

 

positive work 

"Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some
and draw and paint
and sing and dance and
play and work every day some."

Robert Fulghum



 


One of the most important things in life is having balance. One of the hardest areas to find balance is between work and the rest of your life. If you have a nine-to-five (or eight-to-five!) job like I do, you know all too well how much time work eats up. I spend most of my time at work or sleeping, yet I somehow manage to have a life outside of this little cubicle. How do I do it? How do YOU do it? I'm not unique in being able to find ways to balance my career, my social life, and my family. Most of us do this all the time without even thinking about it. However, considering it's a huge aspects of our lives -- this desire and attempt to balance it all -- I think it's a pretty important topic to give some thought to. After all, if we want to live happy, productive lives we're probably going to have to balance things in our lives and, for many of us, the biggest balance is between work and everything else.

It's not easy to find this balance. We want to be productive, hard working employees, but we also want to be good friends, siblings, parents, and significant others. And sometimes it's very hard to be all of those things at once. Before I discuss my thoughts on keeping it all balanced, I first want to note that it's pretty much impossible to keep everything together all the time. There are going to be times when we can't be at work because we have to care for a loved one or deal with a personal issue. There are going to be times when we miss out on a fun event because we have to stay late at work or be in early the next day. Balancing work and the rest of your life is no easy task so cut yourself some slack. We all make mistakes and we all are forced to make unpleasant choices from time to time, but the key is to do the best you can. And, to help you do that, I've provided some tips below. Check 'em out!


8 Tips For Balancing Work And Life


  1. Decide what's most important to you each day. Each morning (or, better yet, the night before) think about what you really want to accomplish that day. Is the most important thing completing a big project at work? Attending your child's piano recital? Setting aside some time for yourself? Try to narrow your day down to a few important tasks. After those tasks have been completed you can then move on to less pressing things. Remember to think about the day in terms of your whole life -- family, friends, you, work, etc. I'd advise keeping one planner or organizer for everything so you're sure not to miss anything important. Deciding what's most important every day helps you to gain focus and to tackle the most important tasks. There are plenty of things I put on my "To Do" lists that really don't need to done immediately. Of course these shouldn't be ignored, but make sure you do the most important things first. And, in order to do them first, you have to know what they are so take some time -- just a few minutes out of your hectic schedule -- to identify what really matters today.

  2. Try to keep everything very, very organized. Now, this is advice coming from someone who loves being organized. To me, organization is effortless because I've been doing it all my life. In fact, when I'm not organized I feel panicked and unsettled (yup, that's the perfectionist in me coming out!). As much as I adore organization, I understand that it doesn't come easily to everyone (or almost anyone that I know). For some people it seems like it's the absolute hardest thing in the world, but, believe me, it's worth the effort. Think about how much time you'll save if you know exactly where everything is. As a basic principle, everything in your home and at your office should have a place and you should do your best to always keep something in its place (yes, I imagine this must be much more difficult when you are living with other people and/or have children, but do the best you can). When you know where things are, when you can actually see your desk or your bedroom floor, you'll feel a lot better about everything. Trust me. Organization cuts way down on stress because you know where to find things and you don't have that frazzled, where-are-my-keys??? feeling. There are tons of great resources online for organization and I highly suggest you check 'em out if you're having trouble in this department (or just contact me!).

  3. Delegate as many tasks as possible to others. I am a terrible delegator. If I have to get something done -- whether it be for work, for a party, for a friend or family member, etc. -- I want to do it. I just know if I give someone else a task that I need to do that it won't be done the way I want it to be done (yeah, I have issues) so I have a hard time delegating. But delegating can be an absolute lifesaver when you're dealing with an overwhelming, action-packed life. Think about all of the tasks you do every day (write 'em down if you have to) and then consider who would be able to do these for you. Could your kids pick up some of  your slack when it comes to cleaning the house? Could you afford to hire a housekeeper if it'll keep you more sane? Can you ask your spouse to take care of something that you usually handle? Is there a coworker who's always asking to help but who you always turn down? Whatever you do, don't turn down help unless you really, really need to do a task yourself. Don't feel guilty if you can't do it all yourself either. Almost everyone who's working (and that includes working full time as parent!) has a million things going on and can't do everything all the time. Look around because I bet you there are a lot of people who would be willing to help you out if you just let go of control a bit and realized that delegating doesn't mean you're not doing a job well.

  4. Give yourself mini-breaks whenever you can. No matter what your job is or what's going on in your life, you deserve a break. We all deserve to have a break every once and awhile. Ideally I would suggest taking a vacation from everything -- work, family, friends, etc. -- and spending a nice long time relaxing solo. However, this is probably isn't possible for most people (and for those who are very social this probably sounds like a very un-fun vacation), but there are alternatives, "mini-breaks" if you will. What is a mini-break, you ask? Well, a mini-break can be anything you want it to be! That's the beauty of it! A mini-break can be a walk around the block at lunch, a day off of work (kid-free), a night out on the town, or an afternoon spent outdoors. A mini-break can be a spa day, a weekend getaway, a stop on the way home for a much-deserved snack. A mini-break can be a quiet night alone, a small party with friends, or a morning sleeping in. A mini-break can be whatever you want it to be, but whatever it is it must be a break. You need to take a step out of your routine and relax for a bit. It may seem like, with a million things going on, you really can't afford to spend time being unproductive, but, believe me, when you take time to relax and refresh yourself you'll be a much better friend, family member, significant other, coworker, and employee.

  5. Make every moment of the day count. When we're dealing with a day, we're dealing with a mere twenty-four hours. And, if you're anything like me, you like to spend a lot of those hours sleeping which leaves us with not all that much to work with. Which is why it's so, so important to make every moment count. For example, let's say you have to work late a lot and you don't get home until just before your kids go to bed. You only have time to read them a story and tuck them in before you crawl into bed yourself. Sure, that's not ideal, but you can make the best of it. If you only have an hour with them, make that the best hour. Do your best to put your other responsibilities and tasks aside for that period of time and focus on spending time with them. Same goes for work. When you're at work, focus on the task at hand. Give yourself a specific amount of time to work on a project and devote all of your attention to it, pushing from your mind whatever personal issues you might currently be dealing with. We can't be everywhere at once, so focus on being where you are right now.

  6. Negotiate your work load with your boss. This one depends a lot on where you work and what you do, but a lot of places seem to becoming more and more flexible with the way work is conducted. Because of this wonderful invention we call the internet, people can work from home or on the road or in a different country. There are lots of ways we can be involved at work without being at work. In addition, there are a lot of books written about how we can work smarter and not harder. A lot of emphasis is being placed on working from home, working fewer hours, or working fewer days a week. If you have a boss you can talk to, try to set aside some time to discuss ideas about alternative work scenarios. You never know unless you ask! In addition, you can try negotiating household chores, tasks, and duties with the members of your household. Can your roommates or significant other take on a bit more of the work? Can you figure out something that you could offer in return for more of the chores being done by someone else (for example, a raise in allowance for a kid who makes sure the house is tidy when you arrive home)? If you give it some thought, you might find that you can negotiate with others. A word of advice: be prepared. If you go to your boss with the idea that you want to work only four days a week, make sure you have reasons why and explanations for how all of your work will still get done.

  7. Don't put off things you can get done today. If you can do something right now, do it. Usually things we put off are things we can get done right now. Don't put something off until tomorrow because you "don't feel like doing it." Not feeling like it is not an excuse. Some things can't be done today (such as those that require input from another person or appointments that can only be scheduled on a specific date), but a lot of the tasks we face on a daily basis can be done today and should be done today. Whenever it's possible, I try to leave my desk at work with nothing hanging over my head for the next day. If I can do it today, I do my best to get it done so that I can start new tasks the next day. The same goes for personal situations and relationships. If you want to have connections with others, you have to put in the work. Don't put off sending an email or calling a friend. Don't cancel plans if you can help it. If you aren't terribly ill or completely worn out, make sure you use the time you have after work to be productive with life activities. Spend time with friends. Snuggle with a family member. Call up your parents just to chat. Unless it's literally impossible to do it today, don't say, "Oh, yeah, I'll get to that tomorrow..."

  8. Allow yourself the freedom to say "no." While I personally need to work on saying "yes" more often, I think a lot of people have trouble with saying "no." When a friend or family member asks you for a favor it can be really hard to say "no." When your boss asks if you can take on another project it can be even harder to say "no." But it's okay. It's okay to tell others that you can't take on anything else. It's okay to admit that adding one more thing to your workload is going to send the quality of your work (and your sanity) down the drain. Personally I'd much rather someone say "no" to a request of mine than have my request bring added stress and unhappiness to his/her life and I'm sure you feel the same (remember this one when someone says "no" to you and you don't understand why). It's not easy to admit that we can't do something (especially when we want to), but if you become the "yes" guy or girl people will always come to you with requests and then you will completely overwhelmed and, eventually, you won't be able to handle the pressure. It's much better to say "no" every once and a while and keep yourself balanced than it is to say "yes" to everything and feel like you never have time to relax. When you receive a request, seriously consider if you can do it. If you can't, be nice, be honest, and just say "no!"

As I mentioned above, it's not always possible to have a perfect balance. Sometimes work is going to be a priority. Sometimes family and friends will come first. It's not easy to balance it all. I feel like I struggle with balancing everything and I don't have a husband/boyfriend, kids, or anyone (other than my pup!) that depends on me so I give everyone out there who works full time and has a spouse and kids a LOT of credit. Even those who don't work and have to balance kids with social and personal responsibilities have a lot more on their plates than I do and I say "Bravo!" to you for being able to keep it together day after day. As for me, well, I'm still working on learning how to balance it all and I'm hoping that writing about these tips and following my own advice will help to make the daily balance of life that much easier.

One thing that really hurts the balance between work and the rest of your life is if you hate your job. I've gone through ups and downs at my job. Sometimes I hate it and would give anything to have the freedom to quit. Other times I'm really glad to be here and really excited about the progress I'm making. I've been given a lot of really great opportunities at my company and I'm always grateful for that (even on the days when I don't feel like being here). In general, if you hate your job and you're unhappy there (and you have no other way to get a different job), you'll be facing a lot of stress and frustration in your life. It's really important to handle this situation before you work on balancing. How should you cope with a job that makes me unhappy? My advice would be to check out a wonderful website called Work Happy Now! This site is filled with great inspiration on how to make the best of your job situation. In particular, I would advise that you check out a recent article on the site called "What Do I Do If I'm Unhappy at Work?" I would strongly suggest reading this article before diving into the tips listed above. Once you come to terms with your current career situation, you can then find ways to balance your working life with the rest of your life.  

[Note: Yesterday I was fortunate not only to be featured as a guest blogger on Shades of Crimson, but also to have a post up on another great site, The Skool of Life. In my guest post, "The Wright Way to Succeed," I tackle what I believe the deeper meaning is behind this Frank Lloyd Wright quote: "I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the thing you want to see happen." Click on the link above to access the post and hear all about the Wright way to success.]

Comments

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Saying no is always a hard one for me. I find myself improving all the time, but for some reason I have to keep using different types of organisational systems as one just seems to stop working after a while! It's so hard since I work at home all day - has its benefits though, like taking mini breaks :D

Penny - I think saying "no" is a hard one for a lot of people. It's hard to tell people that you can't do something when you really would like to, but it's important to focus on the things that are most important and also to take time for you too. Mini-breaks are great ways to refresh yourself and sometimes, as you said, it's necessary to try a variety of different organizing methods when one just isn't working for you anymore.

Great points. I once heard a speaker talk that balancing life is spinning plates. You got to put a little effort here and there to keep them spinning and prevent them from dropping to the ground. Here's a good show to demonstrate what I mean. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETiwMTENG8g

Charles - Thanks for your comment. That's a great point and thank you so much for posting the link to illutrate your point. Putting in effort everywhere in small amounts is a great way to keep everything moving.

Fabulous post. And so very important. Thanks for sharing it.

It's the keeping organized part that is so hard for me. I am getting better... My husband is a Virgo and is over organized!!! He likes to call me "Miss Manana"...because I put everything off until tomorrow...lol.

Molly - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it and thought it was an important topic.

Caroline - SO funny. I'm a Virgo too (well, half-Virgo). We tend to be very organized and can't quite understand why others aren't the same way. Being organized comes naturally to me, but I know that's not the case for everyone else. I can definitely be over organized so, as I'm discussing in this post, everything should be done with balance in mind! :)

I JUST had a conversation with someone who was essentially telling me that only stupid people are organized because it is scientifically proven that brilliant people work better in 'controlled chaos'.

Might I add I was VERY patient. {SIGH}

HEy Dani,

Thanks for the shoutout. Balance is definitely so key to all areas of our lives. I have had my moments of imbalance in work and life. Great post.

Another great post, Dani. I think not only is it important to learn how to say no, but it's also important to learn how to accept people saying 'no' to you. Sometimes, I find people taking 'no' too personally.

Cheers~

Mark

Hi Dani

Great post! I like the one you started off with the most, because it is the most important one of them all "Decide what's most important to you each day." It set the tone for us everyday. Wise choice my friend.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

I always know the second I'm out of balance because my body just screams at me. Migraines, in particular, but sometimes other little things like back strains, knee yelps, ankle moans, etc. (All having to do with where I'm headed in this life or how I'm getting there.) Imagine if none of us felt like work was work, and instead it was FUN?! And what if it involved all the people we love and care about, and want to spend time with each day?! (I believe it's a possibility... but for now, your post is necessary and so well stated.)

Have a great & balanced day!

Hayden - Oh my! I'm sighing right along with you on that one because I'm probably the most organized person in the world and I consider myself pretty brilliant. ;)

Srinivas - You're welcome! Thanks for featuring my article on your site. I have also had many moments of imbalance so I'm hoping that these tips will help me out in the future.

Mark - Thanks! Great point. Not taking things personally is SO important because it almost always has something to do with the other person and not you when someone else says "no." Sometimes it's hard not to feel it personally but it's really important to keep in mind that it's healthy to both say and hear the word "no."

Giovanna - I really believe it's important to know what's important every day. Sometimes it will be work, sometimes it will family, and sometimes it will be you. When you know what your daily goal is every day you can work towards it by setting smaller goals.

Megan - I can imagine that and I hope to someday be working full time at something that is FUN and not WORK. :) I definitely believe it's a possibility and I think the world would be a better place if we were all doing what we love to do and are good at...but, since that's not always the case, hopefully these tips will be useful! :)

I'd like to add # 9 - stay present or in the moment.

I feel most out of balance when I'm not present. Whether I work 8 hours a day or play, if I'm not in the moment and instead thinking of everything else I want to do, I feel overwhelmed and out of balance.

And I emphasize feel. I don't think balance is a state we can achieve, however, I do believe with practice (of things like meditation, yoga, prioritizing based on values, etc) we can feel it.

I have so much more to say on this, but I'll save it for my own blog!

I carry around a planner with me almost everyday. I am a compulsive list maker, so it's vital that I write down everything that needs to happen in my day. However, I try to keep it simple. If I have a large sewing project, I'll work on it for an hour or two every day of a week instead of trying to cram it all in the few hours I have to spare after work. I'm decently organised, but I definately need to improve my craft area at home!

I really enjoyed the guest post! I definately agree with Frank Loyd Wright's words.

Stacey - That's a great point. Staying present no matter what we're doing is SO important and when you're not present and you're always thinking about what you have to do at home after work or what you have to do the next day at work when you're at home you're never really fully enjoying the moment. I guess that's what I was trying to get at in point #5. Make every moment count by being present in that moment.

Ia - You make a wonderful point about keeping thing simple. It's great to have lists and goals, but it does not good if they're so complex that you can only do one thing in a day. Breaking things up over time is a great way to deal with longer tasks. No matter how organized you are (and I'm VERY organized!) there's always something that can be better organized so don't beat yourself up about the craft area. Thanks for checking out my guest post! :) I appreciate your support!

Dani,
Very good post and good clear writing and point construction. Thank you for sharing this.

I am an extremely organized person and find it hard to understand people who just let things slide on by - I did find it hard to squeeze myself into the life stream when the children were young and I was exhausted most of the time.

I am learning new levels of "yes" and "no" responses, particularly with my youngest child as I let go...she may have to go hungry? and that feels very hard.

Yes I can give her her independence.

Patricia - Thanks for your comment. Like you I have a hard time understanding people who aren't organized but accepting others for who they are (no matter how hard it is to understand!) is part of life I suppose. You make some great points about "yes" and "no." Sometimes it's not always easy but it can often be better to say no when we want to say yes (not only for us but for others). Too much "yes" can be a bad thing.

Congrats on the guest posts, that's great!

Back when I worked a 9 to 5 (or 7:30 to 4) job my balance of work and home was okay, depending on how I felt about the job. The earlier work hours were at a place only about 15 minutes from home and I enjoyed the job. Usually when I got home from work I was happy and free from work thoughts, so my balance was nice. When I got the other job the commute was much longer, about 45 minutes, and I hated it, and it through my entire world out of whack. When I got home from work at almost six at night I was tired and cranky, my home life really took a beating. Now I work from home, which present a whole new set of challenges. Since my office is for work and for personal stuff, the two get tied in together much more, and I often never feel like I'm "off" work. But at least I love what I'm doing now!

Thanks for your always insightful and interesting posts!

Jen - Thanks for sharing your insights about balancing work and life. I think that having a long commute seems terrible and I'm so glad I don't have to deal with that. I'd love to be able to work from home, but I could see how that might be overwhelming because you never really get a break. The key, as you said, is to work from home doing what you love so you don't mind working a lot! :)

Even after all else is done one can still sit in front of the TV or computer instead of singing, dancing and painting!

I believe balance has to have quality as well.

Hello and let me commend you for doing a wonderful job with this blog. Your post are entertaining and the layout of your blog is smooth and clean.

I would like to offer my congratulations as I have finished reviewing "Positively Present" and I'm happy to inform you that your blog will appear on the Blogging Women directory.

Enter our monthly contest to win a spot in our "Featured Blogs" section!

I wish you continued success with this blog and all you do.

I think number 8 is very important and what makes your "yes" meaningful is by saying "no".

Great set of tips.

I think #6 is especially key. I see too many people fail to push back on their workload, they bite off more than they can chew, and then get angry at other people instead of owning their workload. Part of it is because people don't always know their capacity, but also because they have no boundaries. For me, I set a max of 40-50 hours in the week, and bite off what I can accomplish within that range.

By timeboxing how much time I spend, I can figure out my capacity, find more effective techniques, and better prioritize what I work on. I can also set and reset expectations more effectively.

I love this list! Number 7 is the most important for me because I tend to put everything off. I've been out of work since February, which has decreased my motivation in some ways. I mean, I've been enjoying the feeling of doing less and being more; but I'll one day need to become more productive--and this list will come in handy! =)

Tess - I completely agree that quality in balance is very important! Great point!

Fay - Thank you so much for the compliments on the blog and for adding Positively Present to the site Blogging Women. I'm honored to be a part of all of the other great blogs that are featured there!

John - Excellent point. When you don't say "yes" all the time, your "yes" becomes more meaningful both to you and the person you're saying "yes" to.

J.D. - You made some great points in your comment. Too often people bite off more than they can chew and then are stuck trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Sounds like you do a great job organizing your time!

Lori - I don't think you're alone in putting things off. A LOT of people do this, but it really does help when you do as much as you can in one day. I love the feeling I get when I do even a small task that I didn't really want to do. Knowing I won't have to worry about it the next day makes me feel good.

Hi all. Try to put your happiness before anyone else's, because you may never have done so in your entire life, if you really think about it, if you are really honest with yourself.
I am from China and too bad know English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Twitter, facebook, livejournal continue fight cyber attacks."

Regards :D Robyn.

This is an important reminder of things we're willing to put aside in pursuit of our goals.

Thanks so much because this post really made me think.

I NEED to make some changes.

Robyn - Absolutely agree with you! If you put yourself first and worry about your happiness than you can be so much more effective at helping others to be happy.

Eat Smart Age Smart - I'm so glad this post inspired you to make changes. Balance is so important but it's hard to come by sometimes. Thanks for leaving a comment!

Hey,

I think this post was great. It's always important to make the best out of your time because it's something we can never get back.

BeTrulyHappy - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the post. I agree -- you can't get time back so it's important to make the most of it!

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