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Achieving Balance: Work, Play, and Down Time
2014, Q2 (May 21, 2014)
By Laura Dragonette, Chapter Communications Manager

Laura Dragonette
Laura Dragonette
It can get rather challenging to juggle a full, well-rounded life without dropping a ball every now and then. Sometimes you have to stay late at work to meet a strict deadline. Things may pop up in your personal life that require immediate attention. These unexpected changes are particularly stressful when you don't have a whole lot of extra time to waste.

No two people are alike, and different balancing tactics work for different people. Try some of these approaches to strike a healthy balance between work, social, and personal time.

Work smarter, not harder

Figure out the most efficient way to perform your work. Just because you spent all day and night on an assignment doesn't mean you completed more than the coworker that left at five o'clock sharp. Remember Cheaper by the Dozen? Frank Gilbreth made it his life's goal to find the quickest way to perform each everyday task, right down to washing the dishes. However dated this may be, it shows that people have been making efforts toward efficiency for a long time. You don't have to be quite that scrupulous in your daily life, but it helps to do things right the first time so you don't spend more time than you should on any given task.

Plan and schedule

Having a planner or calendar is essential. This allows you to visualize exactly what you need to get done, and it prevents you from forgetting appointments. If you're considering adding a meeting or dinner with a friend to your busy week, glance at your planner first to see if you should really fit it in.

Make to-do lists

Make a to-do list before you start each day. List each task that you need to get done and when it needs to be completed. Pick the top three items on your list and focus on getting them done before the day is through. This helps your mind focus on the things that really need to get done rather than jumping from task to task.

Learn how to say "no"

It's alright to say "no" to a request. If you have a project due on Friday and you know you'll need to focus all your waking attention on it, don't schedule personal appointments until you've finished. If you agree to take on more than you can handle, you'll be unable to give it your full attention and your work will suffer.

Set goals

Set long-term professional and personal goals and list the steps you must take to achieve them. While this might not be at the forefront of your mind each day, it's motivating to know exactly what you're working toward. Maybe you want that highly sought-after promotion. Perhaps you want to learn to speak Italian so you can visit Italy next summer. Set a timeline. Know what you need to do. And do it.

Get your eight hours

Some nights, you might be stuck working late. Nights turn into weeks, and before long, lack of sleep becomes a habit. After a certain point, you're harming yourself more than helping. Lack of sleep prevents you from being alert during the day, which translates to less work being completed during business hours. It creates a vicious cycle if you're not careful. Unless you have an immediate deadline, set a time each night to stop working and when the time comes, close the laptop, put away the notebooks, and stop for the night. You'll thank yourself the next day.

Take time for yourself

In the commotion of everyday life, it's easy to forget to take some time for yourself every now and then. Everyone needs down time, or else it's a matter of time before you're burned out at work. If it helps, actively schedule this time on your calendar so you don't forget. Do the things that make you happy and help you relax, such as yoga, walking in the park, or even sitting on the couch watching reruns of "Lost." It can be difficult to just let go, especially if your mind is used to running a million miles an hour thinking of all the things you could be doing, but it's important to relax every once in a while. Allow your mind to rejuvenate itself. It'll pay off when you're fresh and energized on Monday morning.

Laura can be reached at communications at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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