The last year of my life was a huge lesson in balance. I was juggling a job in a doctor’s office (which I left in February), freelance writing gigs for local papers, writing projects and assignments for my Masters program, house hunting and wedding planning. In the past few months, I’ve had to also balance a 20-hour a week internship with YourTango.com, my thesis, unpacking and settling into a new house, and my growing and changing freelance career.
I have 5 great tips on how to find balance when you feel pulled in 7 gazillion directions.
- Prioritize. It depends how you work best, but sometimes it’s helpful to do the most important tasks first to get them out-of-the-way. Sometimes, though, it’s more motivating to accomplish a number of small things off the bat. You’ll feel productive as long as you’re prioritizing and doing necessary tasks before anything else, i.e. that work assignment before tweeting.
- Make lists. I sometimes make lists of lists I need to make. I kid you not. But you know what? It works. I enjoy lists because they structure and outline tasks for me. I will sometimes include things like “take shower” and “walk dog” on days that are especially overwhelming because crossing those little things off the list really does help. Try making lists if you don’t usually do it– you’ll be amazing at how much more balanced you feel because you’re not worrying about remembering everything.
- Schedule breaks. It’s not glamorous, but it is necessary. Tell yourself that you’re turning your computer off at 5pm and you’re going to take a bath and read instead of working until midnight. Depending on how you work, you might want to schedule a couple mini breaks during the day and/or a bigger break on the weekend. Telling yourself that you can run out for coffee at 3 will help you chug along during the day, and reminding yourself that you have a massage schedule on Saturday will push you through the week. And let’s be honest– everyone needs a break once in a while to let the brain breathe.
- Cut yourself some slack. Seriously. What else can I say? Stop berating yourself for not being in 5 places at once or doing 10 huge tasks in an hour. You’re only human. And I promise the world will not implode if you let yourself off the hook and leave a few tasks for another day.
- Eliminate something. Along with this is Learn to say no. Don’t take on too many things at once (like I should really talk, right?) and don’t be afraid to say no when you’re asked to do something that you frankly cannot fit into your schedule. If you’re finding that you can’t get to a client’s project when you planned to because you have a number of little projects distracting you, figure out what can be cut and cut it.
How do you balance your life? Are there any tricks or tips you have for me?