As summer comes to an end, I imagine that you are being ask to alter your work schedule, adjust to new school schedules and commit to a variety of extra-curricular and community activities. Unless you are conscious of how you are allocating your time and attention, December’s wintery winds will quickly be blowing upon you, along with additional layers of holiday stress and responsibility.
Self-Neglect = Unbalanced Work-Life
Where do you want and need to spend your time and energy? Are you prone to delve into tasks that hold you effortlessly accountable, like mandatory staff meetings and committees? Sometimes it is easier to spend your time saying yes to others than it is to devoting time to your long-term goals and private aspirations. When important aspects of our lives are unnourished, our lives feel unbalanced. Yet, even in our work-centric culture, carving out time for the things that matter most is doable with conscious planning and reflection.
Create a Master Calendar as Foundation for Work-Life Balance
To achieve work-life balance, consider creating a master calendar of your life during the fall. To get started:
Identify your (work and life) priorities until January 1
List work, caregiving and household routine tasks
Include activities for self-care and renewal
Assign an estimated time needed to complete each task
Be sure to include taken-for-granted activities, such as staff meetings, meal preparations, helping the kids get ready for school, your exercise regime, going out with friends and relaxing before bedtime. Just as importantly, identify your longer-term goals, assign them action items and estimated times for doing them. Keep in mind that your goals should reflect your unique life circumstances. You may not be able to train for a marathon, but you may be able to aim for a 5K.
Using a calendar template (I use Outlook), assign dates and times to your tasks. To keep the process manageable, schedule one or two weeks out and then a month, keeping in mind:
Are your priorities scheduled?
Do your activities contribute to your long-term professional and personal goals?
Have you scheduled time for projects that are due after January 1?
Have you scheduled adequate time for self-care and relaxation?
If you have more activities than time, where can you benefit from help?
Be creative about help to free up your time for other things. Can your colleague chair a committee? Can your spouse, partner or friend watch your kids while you exercise? Be sure to revise and update your calendar, and review it on a weekly basis. Let it guide – not dictate – where you place your time and energy.
Benefits Beyond Work-Life Balance
Maintaining master calendars benefit individuals who feel overwhelmed and burdened by too many responsibilities, helping them organize their tasks in reasonable ways that meet all of their needs. Perhaps more importantly, calendars help us focus on our long-term success while allowing us the emotional and physical energy to wholeheartedly enjoy the moments of our everyday lives.
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Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life and is the former director of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC). Prior to her current position as Faculty Ombudsman at Oregon State University (OSU), Robynn served as the Coordinator of Work-Life at OSU and the Director of Work-Life at the University of Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis in gerontology.