You may find yourself at a point where you’re ready to tear your hair out. Work is a nightmare. You’re fatigued, this current project has your stomach in knots, and you really need to get out of there for a while if you want to retain your last ounce of sanity. Your job probably won’t pay to send you on an all-expenses-paid trip to a private island, especially not when things are busy. When you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to examine your priorities. Better time management skills can free up a few more hours of your day, and while you can’t get that vacation, maybe you can squeeze in a trip to the spa.
You may not be able to choose how many hours a day you spend at work, but you have the ability to decide when your day starts and when it ends. Cramming everything in after work and before bed will push everything into a time constraint, which could be adding more stress to your life. On the subject of stress, lack of sleep is a major contributor. You need enough sleep, and you need to get things done. Even if you intend on reading in bed for a little while, institute a bed time for yourself.
Consider waking up a few hours earlier. Do the gym before work. Take yourself out to breakfast once in a while. Walk the dog, spend time with your children, or leisurely enjoy your coffee with a good book on the porch. Starting your workday having already accomplished some important things, so you don’t feel as though you’ll need to rush through them later.
Spontaneity is great, and planned spontaneity is an excellent compromise. Scrambling to scare up a spare hour you can spend at the bar with your friends won’t lead to as fun of a time as you thought, especially if you’ll come in to work hung over the next morning. By planning with your social circle a few weeks ahead of time, you can all request the same day off. You can still live in the moment on that day, as long as you’ve all planned to have that day open.
If a project needs to be completed in two work days, but the project is four days’ worth of work, don’t volunteer to do it. If you’re regularly biting off more than you can chew, you’re going to fall behind. You’ll be taking work and research out of the office, and this is going to interrupt your home time. On the other hand, you shouldn’t procrastinate. If you’ve been given a two day project, don’t take four days to do it. Always set realistic goals for what you can accomplish at work.
You’re afforded vacation time because your employer knows you’ll need it. If you aren’t planning on going away for a long trip, don’t use it all up in one stretch. Give yourself the occasional four day weekend, and try to plan your vacations according to when you’ll need recovery time. If you have a large work project coming up, try to request a few days after the project’s completion date. Spreading these days out will give you a few days of complete freedom – enough to recharge your batteries and get in some quality rest and relaxation. When things get hard, you’ll know when you can expect your next meaningful break.
Ultimately, the balance between your professional life and your personal life comes down to the choices that you make. You can’t expect that things will fall in your favor without your intervention, and your employer won’t be generous enough to cater to your personal needs.
Tess Pajaron is an experienced Community Manager working at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to read and blog about careers and self-improvement hacks.