We all know the scenario: you get up late after having hit snooze on your alarm clock eight or nine times, shake the sleep from your eyes, and from the time your feet hit the floor, you’re in a dead sprint to get out the door on time to fight traffic and get to work on time. You work for eight hours (if you’re lucky), and get home an hour after work ends, thanks to the thousands of others you share your commute with each day. And after a few short hours, it’s time to fall into bed so that you can do it all again the next day.
If this sounds about right to you, then you’re in good company.
Work/life balance is a term that is thrown around a lot. We all know it’s important, but most of us don’t even know where to begin. We spend the greater part of our day working, which makes the free time we do have precious to us. Most of us have other people in our lives pulling for our time and attention, and we have a desire to invest in the relationships we care about. And somewhere, we have to squeeze ourselves in – at least enough to eat some sort of meal and catch a shower. It’s exhausting!
Is there hope? I think there is. Here are some dos and don’ts:
DON’T: hit the ground running every day.
DO: start your day with some downtime.
You need a buffer. Hitting snooze fifty thousand times does NOT help you get any extra rest — it only ensures that you will be self-medicating with coffee, or energy drinks…again.
Do whatever you have to do to make sure you’re not getting up at the last possible minute. Go to bed early, or just set your last alarm 30 minutes earlier than normal. The subconscious knowledge that you don’t have that failsafe alarm might actually help you get up earlier instead of continuing to hit snooze.
Give yourself at least a little downtime each morning, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Spend this time however you want to: read, meditate, journal, enjoy a cup of coffee, play video games – whatever you want. I have found that having the time to do something for myself in the morning helps reinforce my desire to get up earlier. In fact, that extra 15 minutes has turned into at least 30-45 minutes extra every day.
DON’T: spend your lunch break tracking down food.
DO: prepare your lunch ahead of time.
Unless you have an abundance of food within a 3 minute walk from your place of work, foraging for fast food is an unnecessary, stressful, and time-consuming endeavor. Also, fast food is incredibly not healthy for you.
It may take a little extra effort, but if you prepare a lunch the night before, you can spend your lunch hour (or half hour) actually taking a break. If you tend not to take breaks, it’s time to start – a short mental break from your work will do wonders for your stress levels and productivity.
DON’T: wait until you’re tired to go to bed.
DO: have a loosely defined routine.
If you’re like me, routines don’t really work for you. I tend to want to squeeze so many things into a short amount of time that I invariably forget at least ten things, and then my whole routine goes out the door.
Buuuuut. Some level of routine helps bring stability and lower stress. Make a deal with yourself that, if nothing else, you will go to bed with a packed lunch in the fridge and some idea of what you’re going to wear the next day. Making sure these two small tasks are done at night will pave the way for a smoother morning, even if you do sleep in too long.
DON’T: be overly optimistic about how much time you actually have.
DO: make things as easy on yourself as possible.
This is a hard one for me. I always (always) think I can do more in the time that I have than I can. Contrary to popular belief, I am not Wonder Woman. I cannot shower, get dressed, put a brush through my hair, clean the house, make a lunch, and find clean clothes within 30 minutes.
Do as many things ahead of time as you can. We all have those micro choices between watching another episode of Criminal Minds, or loading the dishwasher, cooking some chicken, or any number of tasks on our never-ending personal to do lists.
But don’t overdo it. Like me, you are only human. Sometimes, making things easier on yourself means spending a little extra money for the pre-made salad or pre-cut apples, especially if you know you won’t find the time or energy to make that beautiful salad yourself. Sometimes, it means giving up that extra Netflix episode to fold laundry (or multitasking so you can do both).
Whatever it takes for you, don’t leave yourself more work to do than can be done before work in the morning. Do what you can early, and make sure you have at least a few small pockets of downtime – morning, noon, and night. Work/life balance is about being kind to yourself, being wise with your time, and working smarter – not harder!
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