26 One-Sentence Rules That Help Me Actually Achieve Work/Life Balance
When it comes to ~productivity~ as a goal in and of itself, I’m sure that we all know by now my feelings on the matter: it’s annoying. “Efficiency” and “productivity” are dangerous metrics by which to measure one’s worth, and it’s certainly not a noble or moral thing to be the kind of person who wakes up at 4 AM to make sure all of their emails are answered before they go for a bike ride. (In fact, I would argue to the CEO who wrote that piece that his tendency to wake up several hours before dawn is not “inspirational” for his employees, but rather more likely “deeply stress-inducing.”)
That being said, if we remove the moralizing from our personal schedules and professional output, it’s easy to agree that making the most of what you have is generally a good thing. If we can find ways to do our work more intelligently, it will give us more time to spend doing the things we love, trying new stuff, or just fucking relaxing and watching Netflix, because that is also a highly-valid activity choice. I personally find that, if looked at through the lens of “I want to increase my efficiency to have more free time with the people and things I love” and not “I want to become a more efficient human factory,” a focus on working smarter can be healthy, instead of turning you into the kind of person who flexes via articles in business magazines about how much shit they get done before the morning paper is delivered.
Because that’s it, right? The goal isn’t to just become this Ball-Busting CEO Of Your Own Life, it’s just to live your life in a better and more intelligent way for you. For example, I am the kind of person who will always do her best work in the evening, and that’s just fine. I’m not interested in finding infinite new ways to hack myself into morning person status simply because it more neatly dovetails with a narrative of productivity. I have to be at work for business hours, and that’s already enough of a battle — I’m not going to kill myself trying to become something I am just naturally not. I can find a middle ground, and find a work/life balance in my own way. And these are 26 of my best little rules for doing so.
1. Plan at least one activity you’re looking forward to for each day, even if it’s something as simple as “walking down the street and grabbing an ice cream around lunch time.”
2. Set a reminder for your fun activity on your calendar, just like you would for your work stuff.
3. Take the time to actually decorate your workspace in a way that makes you feel motivated and aesthetically happy.
4. Embrace the time of day at which you do your best work, and save your most creative/mentally-demanding work for that time, even if that means the evening before next day’s meeting.
5. If you feel bored and itching to do some work on a weekend day, get some extra work done for the week ahead so you can have a more flexible/relaxed week.
6. In general, don’t force yourself to segment your time into “weekend days” and “week days” when it comes to getting everything done, if that’s not how you naturally do your best work.
7. Queue up one intelligent thing for yourself to read while waking up in bed, instead of just mindlessly scrolling through social media.
8. Light a candle at your desk in the morning and put on some soft music, to allow yourself to come into the day more naturally and gently if it’s difficult for you to get started in the mornings.
9. Force yourself to talk about things other than work when with coworkers, even if all you want to do is gossip/complain about work issues.
10. Time yourself on the tedious things you really, really dislike getting through each day.
11. When you finish your big, boring task, give yourself a few minutes to stretch, walk around, or even just read a fun article that has nothing to do with work.
12. When you feel yourself slipping into a routine of “work, eat, and pass out” on weekdays and “party” on weekends, force yourself to start socializing/doing non-work things at least once during the week.
13. Find at least one activity that doesn’t involve hangovers that you can actually look forward to on a Tuesday night.
14. Whatever time of day you tend to get most easily distracted, log off of all social media and put your phone out of reach so that you can’t just click over and lose 10 minutes to scrolling.
15. Always have a sweater/blanket at your desk for when it randomly gets freezing, which will derail even the most dedicated activity.
16. Schedule things like meetings and calls in groups whenever possible, so that you’re not constantly getting distracted from your work and having to settle back into whatever you were doing.
17. Create playlists to go along with certain tasks, like EDM for some things, jazz for others, etc.
18. Set goals in terms of time the way you would with money or work: what do you want to have time to do this evening, this week, this summer, and how do you get there?
19. Force yourself to actually write down the things that are a good use of your free time, and the things you often regret doing: for instance, you might want to be making more time to cook a meal from scratch each night, and less time for mindless “catch-ups” over drinks with acquaintances.
20. Always have a cute notebook and pen at your desk that actually make you want to write things down.
21. Set specific tasks for yourself that require you to actually get up from your computer and move your legs a little bit, even if it’s just walking a few blocks down and picking up your dry cleaning or something at the grocery store.
22. Don’t let your first comment to a coworker in the morning be about work — take at least a moment to address each other first as humans with interests and passions and lives, and then as coworkers.
23. Put your deadlines in your calendar one day early so that you give yourself more of a buffer to look back over the work and fix anything you might have missed.
24. Schedule out and calendar-invite the social activities you’ve been meaning to do but putting off, just like you would your work events.
25. Set reminders to call people.
26. But silence your goddamn phone.
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