It’s so secret—managing all the things you have to do as an adult is a challenge. From doing your best on the job to taking care of yourself (and, if you have them, your kids) to trying to see friends and stay sane, we know you’ve got a lot on your plate.
And while it’s up for debate whether you can “have it all,” you certainly ought to be able to balance everything you’ve got and live a happy, fulfilling life. To help you out in that pursuit, we’ve gathered some of the best advice out there on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Read the tips below, and start implementing some of them today.
Managing Your Time
1. The most game-changing advice I’ve gotten is this: If you’re truly going to act on your priorities, you need to dedicate time to them. So, I took a weekly calendar and some crayons, and mapped out my priorities to create a “typical” week, with time dedicated to each of my priorities: exercise, work, family time, and so forth. I started with the “big rocks:” the most important and least flexible responsibilities (I learned this trick from Stephen Covey). For me, these were work and my children’s sports schedules. Then, I decided when I get my best work done. For example, I knew that my job required time for “deep-thinking” work, so I dedicated one day per week to be meeting-free. Alix Hughes
2. One of the biggest struggles is fitting it all in to 24 hours. Waking up at 4 AM gives me extra hours in the day, and this quiet time allows me to complete projects before the house wakes up. Hannah Morgan
3. To make time for hobbies, passions, and relationships outside of work, I’ve made sure to have a short version of what I’d ideally love to do for busy weeks. I’d rather have a nice long dinner with a friend if I can, but during a busy week, catching a 45-minute coffee during the day is better than not seeing friends at all. I love biking, but it requires more time than I have most weeks, so I’ve picked up running (reluctantly), since I can do it when I just have 20 minutes. Alex Cavoulacos
5. Instead of multi-tasking, I look for ways to overlap things. Best example: When my kids were little, I had no time for hobbies, but I was dying to try birdwatching. So I introduced it to my seven-year old son, thinking he might like it, too. He was hooked, and so we started doing birdwatching together. It became the perfect overlap of time together with a hobby for me. Kate White
6. We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but we need to elongate it without falling into the trap of the “I’ll have a life when I retire, when my kids have left home, when my wife has divorced me, my health is failing, I’ve got no mates or interests left.” A day is too short; “after I retire” is too long. There’s got to be a middle way. Nigel Marsh
Taking Time for You
7. It’s important to remember that free time doesn’t have to be available time. In other words, just because Wednesday night is empty on your calendar, doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” when your co-worker asks you to go to an event with her. It’s important to remind yourself that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself, that your free time can be just that—free. Erin Greenawald
8. When I have a good chunk of time to myself, I sometimes feel obligated to use it to get other things done, like errands or phone calls—but I’ve learned that the only way to use that time to truly reduce my stress level is to do something totally for me. A yoga class or quick burst of exercise is a good method to calm your spinning head, or enjoy some light-hearted TV or an ice cream or coffee date with a friend. You could also spend an hour playing with the puppies at the pet store, indulging in the total silence of a library, or browsing for random treasures at a thrift store. Jessica Taylor
9. I block out “me time” in the early evening. Even if I know that I’m going to get back online later and work, I realised that I’m a lot more likely to go to the gym, see friends, or cook myself a real dinner if I give myself 7-9 PM “off” to do those things before getting back online. If I finish all my work first, or even “just do my high priority work”—it’s 11 PM before I stop, and I am realistically not going to go to the gym or call anyone up or even cook, I’m just going to finish my work for the night and crash. Melissa McCreery
10. Even if I’m feeling busy, I remind myself that time away from work and the computer is energising and important. Scheduling downtime requires a combination of time management (deciding when else to get the work done), working ahead when possible (so I have more time later), and keeping a to-do list. Miriam Salpeter