I’m about 3 1/2 months into my New Year’s Resolution of finding a healthy work-life balance. And over this time, I’ve learned a lot about my productivity levels, the best time for me to work on particular projects, what I find distracting, and my leading procrastination loopholes.
Yes, it’s a slow process. And yes, I wish there was a quick fix. But as I was talking with a friend over the weekend, she helped me feel a bit better about this gradual transition.
She equated my resolution of work-life balance to a weight loss goal, and she told me to think about people who go on a diet. (Stick with me here…)
Dieters often drop the weight quickly by using the most recent dieting trend. And while their process is quite fast, they also tend to gain the weight back in a short amount of time.
Those who take the process in slow incremental steps, however, not only have a healthier weight loss generally, but they also manage to keep the weight off for good.
In other words, it’s diet vs. lifestyle change.
When I think about this idea in terms of my own journey toward a healthy work life balance, I see a lot of similarities.
While it’s easy to want the “quick fix,” and even easier to get frustrated when I don’t find an immediate solution, it’s also important to remember that those fast changes don’t often last.
Rather, it’s the slow, incremental lifestyle changes that really make the difference.
So for my three month New Year’s Resolution update, I want to share some of the most important productivity and balance lessons I’ve learned thus far. I hope you find them as useful as you work toward a healthy work life balance, too!
6 Key Components For A Healthy Work Life Balance
Know When You Work Best
For the longest time, my most productive hours were in the early morning, and my afternoons were reserved for mindless tasks.
Over the last several months, however, I’ve discovered that this general “rule of thumb” has shifted a bit.
Yes, I am productive in the morning, but only when doing certain tasks.
In the early morning, my creativity is at its peak. This means that when I try to do research, read articles, and grade papers during this time, I find myself getting easily distracted.
In fact, I’ve found that I do my best blogging work between the hours of 7-9 a.m.
After that, I generally need about 30 minutes to shift gears, so I spend time answering emails.
From 9:30-11:30, I’m at my peak focus for reading. And then it’s time for a lunch break.
After lunch, from about 12:00-2:00, I have my writing and research hat on, followed by a few hours of course prep and grading at the end of the day.
In other words, while I initially believed that early morning was the only time I could get my most demanding work done, I’ve found this simply isn’t the case.
Rather, I just needed to get more specific about my productivity levels.
What You Can Do
So how can you put this information to use?
Take some time to record when you’re most productive.
Ask yourself, “Are there certain times of the day that allow me to focus on specific tasks?” If so, make note!
Don’t be afraid to try something different from the “norm.” And I’m talking about different from your norm, as well as the workforce generally.
If your golden hours are in the mid afternoon – that dreaded time when most people face the afternoon slump – go with it! Do what works best for you.
Once you figure out your schedule, then it’s time to start practicing time blocking…
Do you battle the afternoon slump? If so, check out my post filled with strategies to beat those sleepy hours, and then get my free cheat sheet to power through the afternoon with maximum productivity!
Time blocking has always been my favorite time management strategy. But as I’ve discovered my peak times of productivity vary for different tasks, time blocking has become an even more valuable tool for work life balance.
Similar to how I described my day above, time blocking simply means taking your day’s todo list, and breaking it into manageable chunks. And remember, leave mini brain breaks in between your tasks, as this ensures proper rest, and helps you get to everything on your list without feeling overwhelmed.
If time blocking is a new strategy for you, please be sure to check out my post, the number 1 time management strategy: time blocking, where I walk you through the process from start to finish.
Then, download my free time blocking template, which you can use every day as you make your plan of attack.
Understand Your Sonic Environment
This was a big discovery for me.
While I’ve always known I’m easily distracted from people talking, the sound of the television, music with lyrics etc. I never paid much attention to how noisy my brain is all the time.Hey brain! Please stop talking; I'm trying to work here. #productivity #distraction #focus #mindfulness Click To Tweet
When I’m working on a high demand task, or something that is particularly challenging, I’m prone to distraction. I find myself thinking about – well – pretty much anything other than the task at hand.
What I should have for lunch. How I should phrase an email. What size bolt I need for a table I’m putting together (the current thought running around my mind this morning). Honestly, my chatty mind just starts going and I can’t shut it up.
What’s more, sometimes I don’t even realize I’m wasting time, because I’m so absorbed in those very thoughts.
So what does this have to do with my sonic environment? Let me explain.
I’ve discovered that in order for me to stay focused, I need to have a noise machine running. Full stop.
I need that constant low frequency whooooosh of sound to help me cancel out both the outer sonic environment, as well as the constant chatter inside my head.
I now have a noise machine in both my home and work offices, and it has made a world of difference.
If you find your inner chatter distracting, I highly recommend trying a noise machine. Amazon has tons of options, and there are free websites online as well. Simplynoise.com is one that I use when I’m traveling. (I like the “brown noise” best.)
When I have the option, however, I prefer an actual noise machine. If you’re interested, this is the one I have both at home and the office; I find the low frequency particularly soothing.
Proper Furniture Matters
While it’s great to have the option to lounge on a comfortable couch, and it’s fun to have a change of scenery and head to the coffee shop for a few hours, it’s also imperative to have furniture that suits your needs
I’ve found that I need a supportive desk chair and a big desk where I can spread out my papers, books, computer, planner, etc.
What’s more, if I’m working on something off the computer – grading papers, editing an article, reading a book, etc. – I do much better at a table completely separate from my computer. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to get distracted by – well – anything on the internet.
So find the type of furniture you need, and invest in it. (Check out Sunpan Modern Home http://www.sunpan.com/usa/ for some great options.)
Finding the proper, supportive furniture will make for a much more productive day. This, in turn, helps you to finish work earlier, and ultimately head home to enjoy your night with the family.
A healthy work life balance, people: that’s what it’s all about.
Embrace Your Creativity
Over the past month, I’ve absorbed myself in the creative process. I’ve learned about the importance of taking time to create, pursuing the inspiration as it comes to you, and allowing room for imperfection and play.
Essentially, I’m learning to embrace the idea: “What happens if I try this? Let’s find out!” while pushing aside the fear of failure that often lurks in the background.
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of creativity not only for work life balance, but also for healthy living in general, be sure to check out my posts How to Live a Creative Life, and Break Through Your Creativity Block With These 10 Strategies.
Then, download my free creativity workbook to help you get those creative juices flowing today!
Keep At It
This last piece of advice is a bit more abstract, but it’s also perhaps the most important.
As you work toward your productivity goals and strive for a healthy work life balance, don’t give up.
Here’s the deal, some days will be better than others. And speaking from personal experience, when you’re just starting out on this journey, there might be more bad days than good.
But as I better understand my peak productivity times, allow myself to stop when the work day is done, and embrace the process of creativity and expression, I find myself moving much closer to a healthy work life balance.
And if I can do it, so can you.
How do you practice work life balance? Do you practice creativity on a regular basis? Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year? How’s it going? Let me know below!