Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Striking the Balance

By the balance, I mean the one between work and life. That’s a very difficult balance to maintain, and these days if you lose it you’ll probably fall on the side of work. It shouldn’t be that way.

You can strike the balance, the right balance. It takes some effort, some planning, and a whole lot of discipline. But it can be done.

How? Read on for a few tips.

Set Boundaries

If you really want to achieve that elusive work/life balance, you need to set boundaries. I’ve always tried to compartmentalize my work and personal lives. Even when I was freelancing full time. Work stayed at work, and my family, friends, and wider life were my focus when I wasn’t in the office.

The most effective way to do that is to set a specific time when you’re off the clock. Once that time rolls around, you’re in your personal zone. That time is your time. Not the time for work, Not the time for worrying about not being productive. Time for you.

Don’t check email. Turn off your computer, phone, or tablet. Sit back and relax. Spend time doing what you want to do, no what you think you need to do or those tasks that you feel guilty about not doing. Spend time with the people who are important to you. Or, do nothing at all.

Building Habits and Breaking Down Old Routines

Setting the boundaries is easy. You’ll find that it will be difficult at first to actually stay within those boundaries. Remember that you’re building a new habit while trying to break an existing, familiar routine. Expect to backslide.

But instead of jumping in and saying It’s 5:00 p.m. Time to clock off and then immediately checking your work email, start by staying within your boundaries once or twice a week. Then build from there. Remember that you can’t form a habit is quickly or without some work. Or, sometimes, a bit of pain. You’re in the process of elbowing out the familiar in favour of something new. That requires time for you to mentally to reset.

Budget for the Bleed

By that, I mean times when work will invariably bleed over into your personal zone. It happens to all of us. Expect that, but don’t stress over it or get angry about it.

Instead, try to minimize or anticipate those occurrences. Look at your work schedule over the last year or two. Pinpoint when you had to work longer hours or when things came up. There’s often a pattern to be seen.

Also, if you’ve been doing what you do for a while, you should be able to anticipate when a project will require you to work a little later or a little extra. You might not predict that perfectly, but you should be able to come close most of the time.

When that happens, or when you see it happening, inform your family and friends. Let them know what’s coming down the pipe so you don’t disappoint them. But remember to take time off when you can. You’ll need to, if for nothing else than to recharge and refresh.

Gaining the elusive work/life balance isn’t difficult. It just takes a bit of time and a bit of effort. Mostly, though, it requires you to want to achieve and maintain that balance. All you need it to have the discipline to make the change. Take your time. You’ll get there in the end.

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