With what feels like at least 5 million things on our to-do lists every morning it’s hard to feel like you’re ever going to make progress on achieving that elusive work life balance. Living in Atlanta, my commute to work can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1-hour which is crazy considering that it’s less than 3 miles away. That means I typically leave my home by 7am to go to the office and I often don’t make it home until 7:00pm. Add in trying to run my blog, maintain my social media accounts, care for my dogs, and be attentive to my marriage and it makes for a full plate every day.
I’ve learned that it’s often the littlest things that make a huge difference in how you’re feeling toward your life. I mean, when I started to plan my wardrobe the night before I found that I was in a much better mood in the morning and I felt more confident during the day because I wasn’t second-guessing my style choices.
Brandon and I throw our hearts into our careers and our passion projects so it takes intentionality for us to turn off and make the switch from work mode to life mode. We’ve had to set rules about things like screen time, bed time, and couple time so that we are focused and maintain a healthy balance in our lives.
A few of things we’ve changed about our lives in order to build and maintain work life balance have been…
Planning “No Rush” mornings
We spend about 30 – 45 minutes each evening planning for next day. We will plan our outfits and hang them, complete with accessories and shoes, in the closet by the door. We prepare breakfast for the next morning, pack lunches and bundle them in the refrigerator, and make sure the phones, keys, and other small items are on the table in the entry way. It keeps our mornings much more organized and we start our days in much better moods since we didn’t spent our first moments rushing and confused.
To keep your mornings running smoothly consider
- Shower and plan your outfit the night before
- Prep breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next day
- Put keys, phones, backpacks, and other must-have items by the front door
- Review your planner and family calendar
Prioritize tasks and work through time blocking
Every evening as I prep for the next morning I go through my planner (I’m #obsessed with my Happy Planner from Create 365) and prioritize my to-do list for the next day. Are there appointments I need to schedule? Phone calls I have to make? Blog photos to take and edit? Whatever the items on my to-do list are I sit and prioritize them, then set aside designated blocks of time to complete those tasks. I mean, I might schedule 9am – 11am for phone calls if I need to contact my doctor’s office, my veterinarian, my financial advisor, and a PR rep. Blocking my time lets me focus on specific tasks at one time and accomplish everything at one time.
Take a lunch break
It’s important to get up and take a lunch break during your day. There have been a lot of days, especially lately, when taking a lunch break hasn’t happened and I have definitely noticed a decline in my afternoon productivity. It’s worse when I work from home because it’s too easy to sit and stay distracted. It’s important to take a lunch break though because your body needs the physical activity and your mind needs the mental break.
You don’t have to actually sit and spend your entire lunch break eating if you don’t want or need to. You can take that time to take a short walk, catch up on phone calls, read a book, check your social media, or do a variety of other things that take you away from your work assignments. Whatever you do, let it be fun time and give yourself the break.
Adhere to office hours
On the days I work in the office it’s easy to adhere to office hours and switch from work mode to wife mode when the day is over. It’s a lot harder on days I work from home or on the weekends which have designated blog time. It’s easy to let time slip away from you when you’re working in yoga pants on your sofa with a puppy at your feet.
To combat falling into the black hole suck that can be poor time management I have implemented a few things which help me remember to clock out and switch to family mode, even if I’m working from home. Two of my favorite things to do are:
- Set an alarm for quitting time so there is an audio reminder to log off
- Make plans for quitting time which gives me something to look forward to doing after work (even if it’s just family movie night or baking cookies)
Schedule active time
I schedule activity time like date nights, family outings, and dinners with friends the same way that I do work meetings, training classes, or blog posts. I use different colored pens for different categories (date night = red, family outings = pink, work events = blue, blog posts = green) so I can see my work life balance at a glance and know if one area of my life is dominating another.
Brandon and I try to schedule at least one date night and at least one family or friends outing each week so that we know we are spending quality time together and being social with the people in our lives that we love. Having these events on the calendar also help make sure that I am logging off to have personal time and that I’m not allowing my career or my blog to consume me.
I strongly believe that if you accrue vacation time, you should take your vacation time. Americans seem to have this issue with using their vacation days at work then wonder why they feel stressed out and overwhelmed. You cannot do all of the things all of the time and you cannot be all things to all people so stop trying to take on so much. You’re only putting yourself on a fast track to burnoutville. Sometimes you need to take a step back and go away somewhere new and adventurous.
We try to take a travel vacation at least once a year and a staycation at least once a year. It’s easy to staycation when you live in a city like we do. Sometimes we stay at home and just visit tourist places while other times we’ll rent a hotel room downtown for a night or two and do a spa weekend. It just helps for us to get away from work mode and focus on us again. Whatever we do – vacation or staycation – it’s definitely screen-free time so we don’t have distractions pulling us away.
Adhere to bed time
I thought this was so ludicrous at first. I laughed it off like bedtimes were for kids and, as an adult, I was going to go to bed when I was tired and no one was going to tell me otherwise. Then, I tried setting a bedtime for myself just to see how it worked for my mental health. Well, I was stunned by how incredible I felt day after day when I had my body sticking to a consistent sleep and wake schedule.
What I found was that it wasn’t really about being in bed by 11pm or making sure I got a solid 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night but rather that I maintained consistency. I’m usually in bed around midnight and I’m usually awake around 6am. It may be only 6 hours of sleep per night but sticking to that schedule 7-days per week has caused my body to adjust. I feel perfectly rested when I sleep anywhere from 5 – 7 hours and I’ve found that if I allow myself to sleep 8 – 10 when I’m on vacation or during days off, it throws my internal clock off schedule and it takes almost 2 weeks to go back to my 5 – 7 hours routine. Instead, I stick my bed time every day and enjoy feeling well-rested every morning.
[bctt tweet=”Need a better work life balance in YOUR life? These 8 tips from @ashleyfromfbl may be just what you need to try.” via=”no”]
How do you feel about your work life balance? Any other tips or tricks that work for you?