Many of us work too much, and it’s hard to find the time for the after-hours activities we enjoy. Is it possible to balance the teeter totter of work and life? Maybe not, but here are nine tips to help you try:
1. Be 100 percent where you are. It’s easy to keep thinking about that project you’re working on long after you’ve left the office. And we’re all guilty of sneaking out our phones to check work email during dinner. But by doing so, we let work take up more space than it should in our lives. Make an effort to leave work in the office, physically and mentally. Decide when you are shutting off and then actually do it.
2. Be more organized at work. One major reason many of us bring work home is because we constantly close out the day in the middle of a project, which makes it difficult to mentally leave it behind. Set up tasks on your calendar to finish projects or get to a stopping point each day, and prioritize what’s most important. That way, you leave the workday feeling complete and ready to relax.
3. Find hobbies. Many people simply don’t know what to do with free time. If you haven’t had hobbies since high school, it’s time to find some. Explore sports, crafts, outdoor activities, or reading as a way to unwind. Take a class or attend a seminar about a topic that interests you. You might even learn something new.
4. Plan your week. Not allotting time to handle chores and cook can make for a rushed work week. Cook a batch of food for your lunches on Sunday, and designate a half-hour each day to work on chores. That way you’re not overwhelmed with housework on the weekend, which frees you up for more leisurely pursuits.
5. Enjoy your family. When you’re focused on work, it’s easy to grow distant from your family. Small efforts—such as eating dinner as a family during the week—make a big difference.
6. Learn to say no. If you’re feeling like you’ve over-committed to coaching soccer, singing in the choir, and volunteering at the library, then back off of a few things. Life is too short to commit to meaningless extracurricular activities that you’d rather avoid. Assess your activities and if anything starts to feel like a chore, decline politely.
7. Institute a digital free zone. It can be hard to turn off the computer, tablet, and smartphone, but doing so will help you clear your head and connect with others. Designate one room or small space in your home where you can’t update your Facebook status, answer a work email, watch a YouTube video, or tune into the nightly news.
8. Exercise. Keeping your body fit and healthy is key to being happy in work and at play. Find exercise that you enjoy, and fit it into your routine. Consider finding activities you can do with your family, such as taking a walk together. While fitting the time into your schedule may seem difficult, you’ll find yourself with more energy to be productive at work and home with a regular exercise routine.
9. Be selective with your errands. Sometimes we can spend all of our free time running errands or doing chores. Perhaps you can hire a cleaner to come every few weeks to do the deep house cleaning or hire the kid down the street to mow the lawn. You can order almost anything online these days rather than spending your free time picking everything up in person. Even on a tight budget, you may find outsourcing some of these tasks worth the time you’ll have for yourself.
Maintaining a balance between work and life takes effort, but it’s a conscious choice you need to make.
This article was originally published at usnews.com on May 29, 2012.