Does achieving work-life balance seem as impossible as finding a good parking spot at the mall in December . . . or a treadmill at the gym in January? Nearly all of us struggle with this constant challenge. In every season of life, there is the question of where you’ll spend your time and what you’re willing to give up to do that.
“Work-life balance” may be a buzzword these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to attain. Although you can’t spend your time doing everything, you can spend your time doing anything. Just take a moment to absorb that — pretty freeing, right? With this mindset, you can stop chasing work-life balance and start focusing on a more peaceful path: work-life harmony. Here’s how.
Aim for work-life harmony
Wish you could snap your fingers and transform your mind-numbing calendar? If your current strategy for work-life balance has you spinning out of control, start by redefining the concept to work-life harmony. So what’s the difference? Balance implies perfection. Balance tells us we need direct symmetry in work and life. And while that sounds dreamy, it’s just not reality for most of us. Focusing on balance may give you the sensation of falling (and failing), harmony offers a simpler solution.
Inspired by a musical harmony, work-life harmony focuses on “forming a pleasing or consistent whole” with your life from a holistic point of view. Life coach Kate McCready puts it this way: “How can we tune the notes of work and life to make them sing together? What new notes can we introduce or remove to make the sound more pleasing?” You can begin to adapt your life into this harmony by figuring out what aspects of life or work are having the most negative impact and what you can shift to improve that.
How can we tune the notes of work and life to make them sing together?
Set a schedule and stick to it
When you find one part of your life slowly, yet consistently, bleeding into the other, it’s time to employ a strict schedule. If setting boundaries and getting back on track with a certain area of your life is important to you, set your schedule and be disciplined about it.
We all know this, but it’s easy to forget: there are 168 hours in a week! Start tracking your time and you’ll see how much free space you really have. This is one of the best ways to make changes if you have no idea where to start. Challenge yourself to track your time in 30-minute blocks and you’ll start to identify patterns and see what routines you can change to free up space in your schedule.
Start tracking your time and you’ll see how much free space you really have.
Know your peak productivity
When do you typically try to get your most important work done? You may not be tackling your most important tasks during your most productive time of day.
Arranging your schedule around your peak hours of productivity could be one of the smartest things you do! Some people thrive early in the morning before coworkers trickle in. Others love checking off tasks in the afternoon — when their peers hit an afternoon slump.
Interestingly, research shows that 11 am is the most productive hour for most people. The simplest way to figure out your peak hours of productivity is to become aware of how you feel when you’re getting things done. Engineer your schedule so you tackle mindless tasks when you’re feeling least productive, and the most important when during your prime hours — and you’ll see the impact on your work-life harmony.
The simplest way to figure out your peak hours of productivity is to become aware of how you feel when you’re getting things done.
Minimize distractions (even small ones)
What’s distracting you from achieving your goals at home or at work? Take the next week to examine what’s throwing you off track and make changes to avoid those issues. You may find that you really need to delegate pop-up tasks that distract you from your main goals. The same practice applies to your personal life. You may be surprised how “multitasking” actually leads to less productivity. You know the feeling: when you’re texting a friend and feeding the dog and cooking dinner and replying to email . . . and you’ve actually gotten nothing done after all.
You may be surprised how “multitasking” actually leads to less productivity.
Once you perform an audit of what’s distracting you, get to work on the tactics and tools to get you back on track. You may find it helpful to use a chrome extension like Mindful Browsing to gently remind you when you’re spending time on websites that aren’t the most productive. The Hocus Pocus app for Macs will actually prevent you from opening multiple tabs so you can keep your full attention on the task at hand. Minimizing the distractions that are getting in your way will go a long way in improving your work-life harmony.
Value your time and others will too
Seemingly little things, like saying yes to every request and letting others schedule items on your calendar, are ways that you are devaluing your time to others. Why? If you’re willing to give your time away at the drop of a hat, other people are going to take advantage of it.
It’s your responsibility to step up and own your time. Who’s going to decide how you spend your life? You or someone else? We both know it should be you! Pay attention to how you let other people take (and waste) your time. Then, it’s your job to step up and defend it.
Who’s going to decide how you spend your life?
Play the long game
Even after we’ve strategically organized all aspects of our lives, there will be times when either work or life must take a back seat. You may have professional deadlines that command your attention. You may add a new family member and invest more time at home. You may chair a committee that requires extra work. You may be launching a startup that calls for more focus. All of these things add new layers of stress . . . and none of these seasons will last forever.
And that’s where your perspective makes all the difference. Rather than aiming for work-life balance week after week, look at your life from a 10,000-foot view and shoot for holistic harmony. Don’t let a few stressful weeks alter your positive outlook.
Rather than aiming for work-life balance week after week, look at your life from a 10,000-foot view and shoot for holistic harmony.
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