3 Work Life Balance Strategies That Will Free Up Your Time

You’re busy.

Work, projects, people, goals, health, hobbies…

They all demand your time.

Right now, I’m guessing that some things in your life are more demanding than others.  Is it your work or your family (or both)?  Are you obsessed with a hobby, or relentlessly striving for something you really want to achieve?

Much of what you do is probably important to you, and some of it won’t be.

But one thing’s for sure...

It's stressful and frustrating when you try to fit everything in.  And even when you do manage to, there's still that nagging sense that you haven't given it enough attention.

You need to apply a few well chosen work life balance strategies.

Why? Because...

Everything you do has a price

We all have 168 hours each week to use as we choose.  Every one of those hours spent doing one thing means one less for everything else.  

Now, much of the time this is ok.  A bit of give and take, sprinkled with a few poor choices, is inevitable in choosing what to do.

The real problem is when those occasional poor choices become habitual poor choices.  

You get used to doing things a certain way (or not doing things as the case may be)...

  • You've got into a habit of working long hours, or maybe you like to get home early.
  • You have no time to work out, or is your exercise regime  affecting your relationships?
  • Your relationships are suffering through lack of attention, or maybe some are all consuming.
  • You have no time for yourself, or perhaps you have too much time to yourself.

Sooner or later, too much, or too little time, for any one part of your life will impact on everything else.

Do you find it difficult to balance everything you have to do with everything you want to do?

These three work life balance strategies will help get things on an even keel...

1. Appraise your commitments

Identify every role, goal, project, task, hobby, relationship and regular commitment that, at this point in your life, you think is worth some of your time.

These commitments aren’t just for the ‘have to’s in your life; they include the ‘want to’s’ as well.

What are your current commitments?  Make a note of them all.  

For instance, here's my list:

  • husband
  • father of three
  • son
  • brother
  • friend
  • employee
  • business owner
  • home owner
  • dog owner
  • band member

When you look at yours, what do you notice? Which are you giving too much time to?  Which are you not giving enough?

Print this personal time management appraisal sheet to help you work that out.

Get a second (or third) opinion if you’re still not sure.  Take it with a pinch of salt though.  Well meaning they may be, most people in your life will have their own agenda.

If you want to be really thorough you can take this to the next level by listing your responsibilities and commitments within each role.

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You may have time for anything, but you haven’t got time for everything, so you need to...

2. Keep the best, dump the rest

Okay, that title is a bit glib, but it’s one of the most effective work life balance strategies for keeping your commitments in check.

For each one, ask yourself...

“Is this still worth the amount of time I’m giving it?”

If so, keep it.

If not, reduce the time you give it, or or even cut it out completely.

Imagine cutting even just one "lesser" commitment from your life.  What impact would that have?  What would it free you up to do instead?

You may end up with fewer things on your plate, or you may not, but you’ll have a much clearer idea of what is worth doing.

To cut a commitment what do you have to do?  Whatever it is and whoever you tell, it helps if you know how to be assertive.

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When you know what to do, you need to decide how well to do things.

The solution?

3. Set limits

Setting boundaries on open ended commitments is one of the key work life balance strategies to master.  It places more value on the time you give to each one.  It also means your other commitments aren't affected.

In short, you feel more in control.

Applying them isn’t always possible (or even advisable - try it for a romantic dinner and you'll see what I mean).  But there are almost certainly a heck of a lot of opportunities where you could do so.

Sometimes there are clearly defined limits on the amount of time a commitment requires; some are ‘fuzzier’; others are simply messy smudges on the pages of your life.

It’s those open ended commitments that you need to ring fence...  

  • Working for others
  • Working for yourself
  • Relaxing / socializing
  • Exercise
  • Hobbies

They’re all potentially endless, unless you put boundaries in place for them.

As an example, let's consider my band commitment.  Out of the five of us, I'm probably the one with the most on his plate with a full time job and three kids.

I love it, but I'm probably the one with the most to "lose" in terms of the affect it has on everything else in my life.  So it's me that calls time on our practices, otherwise we'd keep on playing.

More limits on what you do mean you can give more appropriate amounts of time to what you think is worth doing.

How to set limits and stick to them

  • Plan how much time you will give to the open ended commitments you want to do today.
  • Manage them.  Use a timer to keep you in check.  If other people are involved and it feels appropriate, discuss the time frame you have.
  • Record.  Keep tabs on how long you spend on different commitments.  This will confirm how much time you actually give compared to how much you think you give.

Time limits don’t always have to be rigidly enforced, not should they be; their benefit lies in their role as a guideline to help you balance your work and life commitments, not as a stick to beat yourself with.

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A healthy work life balance is only possible when you are prepared to do what it takes to redress that balance when it dawns on you that there is a problem.

Doing what it takes means cutting some commitments, and that's tough when people put pressure on you (or you put pressure on yourself).

But the pay off will be worth it.  So take a deep breath, make that list and carve out some time for what matters most to you.

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Strategies