If a satisfying work-life balance eludes you, here are a few tips to help you optimize your schedule:
1. Understanding peaks and troughs
We know the expression, “The early bird gets the worm.” That may motivate early risers, but it depresses those who hate mornings. But don’t worry night owls, “The second mouse gets the cheese.”
Everyone has different periods of the day where they perform best. For some it’s sunrise, for others it comes with the tranquility of night. One of the biggest impediments to a work-life balance is inefficiency.
To improve efficiency, plan your biggest tasks during times when you are more alert. As an example, you might start your day with emails so you can work on that big assignment when you hit your stride at noon.
2. Make sure electronics are a virtue, not a vice
Technology offers great benefits. It can help us manage our schedules and save us a trip to the store thanks to electronic shopping. But technology can also be a huge time waster.
On average, Americans check their phones 52 times a day. When you factor in sleep, that amounts to more than 3 times per hour.
If you struggle to ignore every vibration and notification on your device, tasks that should take minutes can take dozens. If you want to increase productivity so you have more down time, try silencing your mobile device for an hour.
3. De-clutter your life and learn to say no
There’s a great Seinfeld episode where Jerry “breaks up” with a friend of his. The friendship was draining and an inconvenience.
I’m sure you can think of similar distractions in your life. Maybe it’s a friend who wants to see you every night. Or maybe it’s another council or committee that wants you to volunteer on the weekends.
It’s ok to say no. It’s hard, but learning to decline offers and cut back on time you spend with people who keep you from friends and family is vital to optimizing a work-life balance.
4. Take advantage of flexible work options
A growing number of employers recognize the value of offering flexible work options for their employees. Millennials value a work-life balance, and so employers are accommodating to attract and retain the new generational talent.
It’s worth seeing what benefits your work offers. Maybe you can adjust your office hours (which is perfect for peaks and troughs) or work from home a few days a week. If you’re in transition, consider looking for jobs that allow you to have a life outside of the office.
5. Learn to prioritize
This last tip may be the most important. You need to prioritize your life and focus on what matters most to you. Too often we waste time with menial tasks and never get to the big ones.
Check out this demonstration called Big Rocks by Stephen Covey, co-founder of FranklinCovey and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Notice that if you try and put sand in the jar before the rocks, the rocks won’t fit. But if you put the rocks in first, the sand fills in the gaps.
So too with our personal lives. Think of the big rocks in your life: Career, family, friends, etc. Now think of the sand: all the little tasks that eat up your day. If you prioritize the sand, you’ll never have time for your big rocks. Optimize your day around what matters most, and everything else will fill in the gaps.