Today’s post hits a bit closer to home than my other posts from this month, especially for someone who is constantly juggling different priorities and often finds it hard to make it work. It’s the side of productivity that we normally don’t talk about when we think about constantly being “productive.” It’s something that often feels out of reach. This week, we’re talking about maintaining a productive work-life balance in the age of “busy” and “burnout.”
I opened this month’s theme over on my Instagram with the caption “April Goals: Don’t be busy, be productive.” And it really seemed to resonate with you all! But in our quest to be productive in all aspects of our lives, both in our work and personal time, it can be really easy to lose track of the line where being overly productive becomes just being plain old busy. It can be really easy to shift from being overly productive to burning out. It can be really, really easy to lose the productive work-life balance we all strive for.
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A reader recently contacted me asking what my most effective measures are in achieving a good work-life balance. He correctly pointed out that I seem to have a lot going on! After all, not only do I work full-time, but I have a side hustle (this blog) that also feels like a full-time gig sometimes, but I still manage to make time for other things, too. And when we live in an age where it seems like everyone has a side hustle, or a million things they need to get done in their personal lives, it’s almost like there isn’t enough time in the day.
I found myself typing out what ended up being wayyy more than any normal person would (probably) want to read in an email. So I naturally edited it, but I kept the rest, and that formed the basis of this blog post! And if I’m honest? I felt more dedicated to and inspired by this content than I have for the entire rest of the month!
Below you’ll find a pretty detailed account of the steps that I take to ensure that I can maintain a productive work-life balance. But it’s important to remember that these tips won’t work for everyone. We all have different priorities, different goals we want to reach, different ways we value our free time and our work time. And that’s okay! I encourage you all take as much or as little of this as you’d like and put what you can into practice, and maybe pass it on to someone who may be struggling. After all, the goal is always to make navigating the trials and tribulations of adult life just a little bit easier!
Maintaining a Productive Work-Life Balance for Millennials
Know your priorities but don’t over-prioritize.
Here’s the truth: over-prioritization is the death of productivity. Why? Well, that’s simple! If everything in your life is a priority, then how can you actually say that you have priorities?
We can’t do it all. It’s physically not possible, at least not all at once, and definitely not all in one week. One thing to consider: over-prioritizing also leads to the interesting conundrum of having conflicting priorities. Think about it! You can’t prioritize taking on extra shifts at work to make more money at the same time that you try to prioritize spending quality time with friends and family. The key to a productive work-life balance is ensuring that you’re not overloading your plate with priorities that simply won’t be feasible in the long-term! After all, we’ll just end up burnt out, exhausted, and seriously falling off the goals wagon.
So here’s what I want you to do: take a few minutes to think about what you really want your priorities to be for the next month, both in and outside of work. Not what they are now! But what you’d really like to hone in on. I’ll give you a hint: you should have maybe three things max!
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My priorities haven’t changed much over the last couple of months and as a result I’ve achieved a level of consistency that I’ve never reached before! In work, my priority is always to deliver a high quality product to my clients in a timely manner that won’t have me working long hours of overtime. As a result I always finish my work early and ask for feedback regularly on my performance, so I’ve had the opportunity to work on additional projects that, had I had less of an intense work ethic, I would only have been able to wish for!
In my free time? I have three overarching priorities: my blog, my health, and my social life. These are the things that drive me, that make me feel fulfilled and like I’m using my free-time in a way that not only leaves my feeling energized and accomplished, but also like I’m really making an impact on other people’s lives. The result is that not only do I feel like I more well-rounded, developed person in these areas, but I’ve also reached milestones that I never thought possible before!
Because my priorities in my work and in my personal life don’t conflict, I find that I very rarely get burnt out or feel over-worked or “busy” anymore. But having my priorities sorted is only the first step, the next is making sure I have an environment set up where I’ll be able to achieve those goals.The key to having a productive work-live balance is choosing a few, non-conflicting priorities in both your work and personal life. Don't prioritize that overtime pay at the same time you're prioritizing spending time with your family… Click To Tweet
Give yourself deadlines to get things done, even if no one else is.
Every Wednesday (and occasionally Thursday) I publish a brand new blog post for you all to check out! I also send out an email to my newsletter each Wednesday in tandem with my blog post to keep my email subscribers updated on the latest happenings on Signed, Logan. I’ll post various things on social media (primarily Instagram) throughout the week as well. At work, I try to finish my to-do list for the day at least an hour to an hour and a half early so that I can help my team mates out with other projects.
Did anyone impose these deadlines on me? No. Do I have anyone breathing down my neck each week reminding me that I need to get my blog post done and scheduled by Tuesday night? Nope! Are my managers and supervisors asking me where my work is at 3pm each day? Also no.
So why do I do it?
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I know that if I don’t have a deadline for when I need to have my work finished, regardless of what work it is, then I won’t finish it. It’s something that I’ve come to accept about myself and it’s why I work hard to create an environment that encourages me to meet my goals.
But let’s say that you don’t have a blog, how exactly would you give yourself a deadline to get something done? Well, that’s easy. Give yourself a deadline each day of when you’re going to get your work done while you’re at your 9-5. This is especially important if you work at a company with a “it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get this done so long as you get it done” mentality. Tell yourself that you’re going to finish your work by X time each day! And give yourself a cut off time when, regardless of how much work you still need to do, you’re going home.
Having a productive work-life balance means setting boundaries so that you’re not over-prioritizing work at the expense of the rest of your life! Giving yourself these deadlines is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you a) don’t overwork yourself and b) remain productive during your time in the office.
Create a weekly schedule based on your priorities and deadlines.
Alright, so now we have our priorities, and we also have our deadlines. We know we’re trying to foster a productive work-life balance so that we don’t burn out after a week or two. What’s next?
One of my favorite things: creating a schedule.
If you’ll notice, so far we’ve been working backwards from the big picture to the day to day. We start with our priorities or overarching, long term goals. Then we set deadlines or milestones that we want to hit to meet those goals. And now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of productive work-life balance: the day-to-day of our lives. After all, burn out generally hits when we’re trying to do too many things all at once instead of working towards goals in a realistic time frame. This is where your schedule comes in!
By far the most effective way I’ve found to schedule my goals and deadlines is to block off days dedicated to working on specific priorities. This way I don’t become overloaded each day while I try to maintain a productive work-life balance. Let’s think back to my priorities: my blog; my health; my social life; and high quality, timely delivery of work at my 9-5. Based on that, here’s what my schedule looks like for most weeks:
- Work: While I generally try not to put myself in a position where I need to work overtime, if I know there’s no way around it, I’ll front load my week (Monday-Wednesday) with the overtime hours so that my schedule relaxes in time for the weekend.
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- Health: Most of the time, I devote Mondays to my health. I make it a point to always make it to the gym on Mondays, go grocery shopping right afterwards, and then I’ll meal prep for the week before showering and going through my skincare routine. I’ll go to the gym at least two more times throughout the week, but those visits I’ll schedule around my other priorities.
- Blog: Tuesdays after work I devote to my blog. It’s my last day to get everything done before my work goes live, so I’ll generally block off the entire night to working on copy, creating graphics, editing photos, etc.
- Social Life: For the most part, Wednesday through the weekend isn’t scheduled out. I know I want to see friends, I know I want to spend time with my boyfriend, and I know I need to go to the gym two more times to meet my fitness goals. This part of my week hardly ever looks the same as the week before!
Do you have to do it this way? Not at all! But make sure you consider the environment in which you’ll have the most productive work life balance based on your priorities. If you’re someone who can easily jump back and forth between tasks to get things done, maybe consider scheduling your time based on hour of the day instead of day in the week. But if you’re like me and work more effectively with large blocks of time dedicated to one thing, focusing specific priorities on specific days may be for you!
Get ready to leave some of your old habits at the door.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is that in order to get everything accomplished in my free time after work, then some things needed to go. So some of my old, unproductive habits? Yeah, I left those behind months ago.
For me, 2018 has been all about being intentional with how I spend my time. And the result is that I’ve been more productive — and I’ve had more free time to spend with friends — than ever! But I didn’t get here overnight. In all honesty, the biggest thing that got me here was cutting out some of those time-wasting habits that kill my productivity.
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Now, ya girl loves Netflix, but you’d be hard pressed to find me watching Netflix on my own during the week. In fact there’s nothing on my personal watch list right now! Does this mean I never watch Netflix? No, but I do reserve it for my quality time with my boyfriend after a long day at work, and we almost never watch more than two hours of TV a night. All that extra time I have as a result goes towards keeping up a productive work-life balance!
Do I still mindlessly scroll through social media on occasion? Most definitely and way more than I’d like to admit! But we all have our vices. The fact of the matter is this: if you have goals that you want to achieve in your free time, something has to give. You can’t work long hours, and study for four hours a day for the GRE, and binge watch a season or two of The Office each week, and keep up your social life with friends and family without getting burnt out. And getting burnt out is the exact opposite of what we want to accomplish when building a productive work-life balance. This is why knowing your priorities is so important! And also why you need to be okay with dropping some of your more unproductive habits.Get ready to leave behind some old habits if you want to avoid burnout while building a productive work-life balance. You can't do it all, every day, without sacrificing your own mental health in the long run, and it's just not worth… Click To Tweet
Schedule some time to be unproductive!
Is the entire theme of this post, and indeed this month here on Signed, Logan, centered around being as productive as possible? Absolutely. So then is telling you to take some time to be unproductive contradictory? Absolutely not.
In today’s productivity focused day and age it can be tempting to go go go without ever stopping. But that’s exactly when we need to take a step back and look hard at the path we’re walking. After all, if you’re always being productive, are you really being productive at all? Or are you falling into the “busy” trap, where your productivity has become an aimless attempt to constantly do more?
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Boomers will often say that we work so that we can enjoy the time spent away from work. While this isn’t necessarily an assessment I always agree with, think of it this way: we embody productivity so that we can enjoy the unproductive time that it affords us. After all, being productive is about working smarter, not harder! And how is working 24/7 without a break smarter?
So don’t forget to give yourself some “me” time when you create your schedule! Maybe you’re binge watching the next season of Friends for a whole Saturday, or you’re taking a walk on the beach with a friend, or you’re taking that nap that your body has been craving. Creating a productive work-life balance is about more than just achieving all your goals, it’s also about taking the time to enjoy the little moments that we often take for granted. And those moments often come outside of the boundaries of our productive selves.Creating a productive work-life balance is about more than just achieving all your goals, it's also about taking the time to enjoy the little moments that come outside of the boundaries of our productive selves. Click To Tweet
How do you maintain a productive work-life balance? Let me know in the comments below!!