We all want to know how to best integrate our work and personal life. This article provides 7 tips that I have learned throughout my 15+ year career in Corporate America and while raising 8 and 10 year old boys.
1.) Have a plan and organize your day
Start the day by looking at your priority list and determining what is most important. This is a simple list I create in outlook that I am consistently updating and refreshing as new items on come. It helps me for the list to be in outlook as I am easily reminded of it each time I look at my calendar. A list in a journal or word document would work just as well. Each day I’ll try to focus on the top priority items.
For work related or personal related activities such as parent teacher conferences or kid pick-ups put it on your outlook calendar. At the beginning of each day or even a few days earlier anticipate and plan for the upcoming days. This will force you to mentally prepare for the days ahead.
Strategize how much you can realistically achieve in the hours available. We all have limited hours available in the day and time is our most important resource. As such it is important to use our time wisely. During crunch times which for my profession can be at month end and during the budget season I’ll stay up late if necessary to make sure I get enough work done to stay on track.
By having a mental plan, a priority list, and key meetings on my calendar I’m able to strategize and tackle key deliverables. There will always be unexpected requests and events that come up for both personal and professional but if you are on track or even ahead of regular deliverables you’ll be in a good position to tackle these unexpected events.
If something is truly unexpected and takes a lot of time, then sometimes it is wise to raise your hand and ask for help. Alternatively, sometimes items on the to do list can be deprioritized.
2.) Create a Routine as Routines Can Help Make the most Challenging Activities Achievable
Building routines can make even the most challenging of tasks achievable when breaking them into smaller pieces. I’ve been surprised of what I am able to accomplish by creating productive routines. Below is an example routine from my life, please feel free to update for your own purposes.
6:30am Wake up and prep kids lunch and breakfast
7:20am Take kids to school
8:10am Start work virtually
noon to 5:00pm work and meetings
5:10pm pick up kids from after school programs
6:00 to 7:00pm make dinner and eat with family
7:00pm – 9:00pm Either log back on and finish any important work or spend time with family
9:00 to 9:30pm Relax and get ready to go to bed
When my partner travels this is what a typical day looks like for me. When my partner is home then I’ll get approximately 40 min. back in the morning which I typically use for a quick work out or walk.
We are creatures of habit and by creating a healthy routine we are able to achieve a lot more than if we didn’t have a routine. We all went through a lot with the pandemic, but for me in late 2020 and early 2021 I both started a new demanding job as a Director of Finance (a promotion) and was responsible for virtual schooling both my kids while my partner was traveling during the work week.
Even just one of these would be a full-time job but I was able to successfully manage both important responsibilities by creating routines and sticking to them. Some days were certainly challenging but by maintaining a positive outlook and staying focused I was able to successfully accomplish a lot. We are all capable of a lot when we put our minds to it!
3.) Ask for Help and Make Sure You Have Adequate Support
One important lesson I learned while my kids were younger was that even though it may save money to do all the drop offs and pick-ups on your own in the long-run I’ve found that getting additional support has been incredibly helpful.
Help can come from parents, siblings, friends, or hiring a babysitter or teacher. Sometimes it can be easy to only look at the short-term impact but it’s important to think about the long-term gains. Investing in additional support and resources can make you less stressed, more focused, and more likely to succeed.
Help can also come from coworkers if you are working on a big deliverable or finding that your current way of approaching an activity is too time consuming. Gaining a different perspective is important and can help you see gaps in your current thinking.
I’ve found that collaboration is incredibly important. If you are not used to sharing your current processes, if you start you’ll find that it gets easier with time and each time you share. I’m grateful that my current team is incredibly collaborative and will gladly make time to strategize for process improvements.
While it is important to ask for help it is equally important to give back. Whether that means being generous with your tips at restaurants, offering to help coworkers when they are need, or helping your friends, giving to others is crucial.
4.) Simplify Tasks to Make Your Day More Efficient
Certain activities can be simplified to save you time. Meals are perfect examples. I’ll make dinners as simple as possible and if I’m focusing on important work deliverables it’ll be as simple as heating up a frozen meal or ordering out. Alternatively, if I cook at home I’ll buy precut vegetables or make meals that will take 20 min. of active time or less.
Plus I’ll stick to the same 4 or 5 meals and I’ve found that I have become more efficient over time in making these meals, saving me time to focus on other activities.
Try to limit how much time is spent on cleaning. Some strategies are waiting to the end of the day after all my work priorities and parenting responsibilities are completed before putting the dishes away and cleaning up the house.
Alternatively, if I prefer to go to bed early after a long day, I’ll clean up quickly at the end of the day and save more of the intensive cleaning for first thing in the morning.
Simplifying can also mean being mindful of much you commit to. Whether it is being thoughtful of how many items I say “yes” or being careful to not over schedule kids’ activities I’ve found that often less can be more. Especially at work, it can take more effort upfront to create a way to simplify an activity either through systems or seeking advice but in the long run you can actually save time.
I’m always looking for ways to simplify with the goal of saving deep concentration for the most important tasks.
5.) Prioritize Your Most Important Tasks
Whether it is preparing for a big presentation, a complex analysis, or something else, I’ll make sure I allocate sufficient time and energy for my most important tasks. This may mean not completing or delaying some less important tasks and that is okay.
For my most important tasks they will sometimes take multiple iterations where I revisit the work product each time with a fresh set of eyes. This increases the work quality.
By saving my energy and time for my most important deliverables I am able to achieve my goals and you can too.
6.) Build in Rest and Exercise as part of your Routine Whenever Possible…and get creative!
In my early to mid-twenties, I thought that staying up later showed that I was more dedicated and meant that I would be able to accomplish more. I’ve found that I’m a happier person and likely more productive when I have adequate rest. Unless I have a really important deadline, I’ll try to go to bed at the same time each evening and get rest.
There are plenty of exceptions especially during peak busy seasons at work. But as a whole I really try to prioritize rest. In addition, I also prioritize exercise which can be as simple as a walk outside.
One hack I’ve found is that during my kids sporting events (baseball, soccer, flag football) rather than standing and watching I’ll walk around the field. If I’m not able to get as much exercise in on the weekdays because of work and taking care of the kids, then during the weekends especially during the kids sporting events I’ll get in as many steps as I can.
Or while my husband is in town, and he is dropping off the kids I’ll get a quick walk in. Even these quick walks add up over time and plus there is an added benefit of getting outdoors and making me more relaxed and ready to tackle work deliverables.
7.) Be Flexible and Adapt to Evolving Demands and Schedules
Whether it is changing guidelines surrounding the pandemic, changing schedules based on my partners career, or unexpected work requests I’ve found it is incredibly important to be flexible. Our world is dynamic and continues to change and evolve and will continue to do so.
One thing is certain is that our plans will continue to change, and we have to be ready to adapt to these changes and make the most out of them. While it may take a day or so to adjust, as long as you are open and actively try to adjust then progress will be made.
Some recent examples are I originally thought I was going to go back into the office two days a week; however, with the recent increase in COVID cases those plans have been delayed. I’m grateful that I am able to work from home so while I was ready and looking to seeing coworkers it’s okay that plans have changed.
Another example is my younger son’s basketball team’s start date kept getting pushed due to COVID. Thankfully, his practice started a couple weeks ago and so far all has been going well. There are examples like this that occur consistently both at work and in personal lives and the more we are ready for these events to occur the less surprised we’ll be when they do occur and the more equipped we’ll be to adapt to these changes.
Be Kind To Others and Yourself
While it is great to have high expectations, I’ve had high expectations of myself my entire life as I went to a great school and have a strong resume, I also understand it is important to be kind to yourself. We are all trying our best and have to empathize and have compassion for ourselves and each other. Some days will be better than others and that is perfectly okay. As long as we are consistently focusing on our goals while also being kind to ourselves and each other I’m confident it will all work out in the end.
I know we’ve all been going through a lot with the pandemic and that is all the more reason to be kind to ourselves and to others. Compassion is incredibly important for ourselves and one another.
To achieve work life integration follow the below 7 tips:
1.) Have a plan and organize your day
2.) Create a routine
3.) Ask for help and make sure you have adequate support
4.) Simplify tasks to make your day more efficient
5.) Prioritize your most important tasks
6.) Build in rest and exercise as part of your routine
7.) Be flexible and adapt to evolving demands and schedules
Hope you have found these 7 tips helpful. Do you have others to share to make your work life integration successful? I’d love to hear more!