As hard as it may be to believe, we’re not any busier than the generations before us. Every working generation has felt the pressure, the overwhelm and the time constraints. The only difference between us and those who have come before us is that we have a slew of things that can easily distract us from the task at hand.
There are two types of distractions we encounter daily. There are the “fun” distractions and the work distractions. The former are things such as browsing on social media or watching a funny video. The latter is responding to emails or group chats regarding work, while we’re supposed to be focusing on a specific task like working on a product or bonding with our loved ones.
Although there isn’t a magic formula to work/life balance, it’s possible to learn how to slow down time and find the time to focus on the work and the people we care most about.
How To Turn Into A Time Management Pro
Forget about that perfect balance
The first thing you need to accept is that you can’t strike the perfect balance between work and life every day. There will be days when work will take more of your time and other days when life will take over. This is part of the unpredictability of life. Don’t feel guilty about this.
Photo Credit: Karl Fredrickson
Use a calendar wisely
There’s nothing new about using a calendar for time management but there’s a way you can use a calendar better:
First, learn to schedule life, similar to how you schedule work. That means carving out time for chats over coffee, time to cook dinner and laundry, and time to do nothing but unwind.
Second, schedule your time according to your priorities and goals. Identify your top 3 targets of the day and the week, then set specific times for each task.
Lastly, change the time of the tasks on your calendar as you go about your day. This is a habit that will help you identify where your time is being spent. If you set one hour a day for writing but the task takes you two hours on the day, then edit the time on the calendar. The same goes for lunch time and coffee breaks.
Write down the exact time you start a task and the time you end it. This way, you will start to see which things are taking up most of your time and whether they’re worth it. If in between one task and another there’s a thirty-minute gap and you can’t recall what you did, then you know that distractions are taking up your time.
Focus on one task
If you’re going to add an hour to writing, make sure the extra hour was needed to improve the quality, not because you spent most of your time distracted. It’s hard when notifications are always beeping but if you set a time for everything (including replying to emails and group chats) then you should have no problem putting everything on silent and focusing on a specific task.
At the end of the day, you want to know that those six hours you scheduled for work were highly productive, so you can spend the rest of the day focusing on life.
Photo Credit: Giulia Bertelli
Schedule things you must do every day
There will always be something important that needs to be taken care of ASAP. No matter what you’ve got going on, you need to schedule things that make up your idea of a work/life balance.
For some people, it’s running every day, meditation or a weekly coffee date with friends. For others, it’s writing a 1000 words to finish their novel, volunteer work or working on their side project that could turn into a business. Whatever it is which gives you a sense of meaning, sanity and balance, make sure you schedule it into your calendar.
Focus on quality not quantity
12-hour work days are meaningless if you’re not seeing progress. Instead of focusing on the hours you’re giving work, focus on progress made. Often, we take on long work days to feel good about ourselves. But we shouldn’t feel good just because we’re busy. We should feel good when we see that real progress is being made and not that we’re busier than anyone we know.
When we see real progress, we can enjoy life without feeling guilty that we aren’t working as many hours as we think we should work. The same goes for life. If we’re with family, we need to be off our phones and having quality time.
Work/life balance has become an issue issue because of the constant connectivity our phones have given us. Rather than trying to find MORE time, we should be finding ways to make the most out of the time we have. This means spending our time the way we choose to and on the tasks that matter.