Whether you’re an entry-level worker or an executive near the top of the organizational chart, you might feel as though you devote far more time to work than you do to your family, friends, hobbies, or personal interests. While there are a variety of approaches you can take to gain more work-life balance, much of the problem stems from inefficient time management. By implementing these prioritization and time-management tactics, you’ll find that you have more time to spend on the activities that feed your soul without sacrificing important career demands.
Embrace the Power of Prioritization
As a busy professional, you must develop a way to prioritize your tasks that works for you. Simply making a task list without any system for prioritizing tasks will leave you feeling frazzled and overwhelmed.
Evaluate your to-do list and think about the single most important thing to achieve that day. Many time management experts suggest the 1-3-5 method: choose one major priority, three medium-sized tasks, and at most five smaller tasks to prioritize each day. If you try to prioritize 10 or 12 major, time-consuming tasks each day, you’ll find that you’re not getting things done. Instead, prioritize the tasks that are truly the most important and the most urgent, and focus your energy and attention on crossing those items off your list.
Scheduling Takes Prioritization to the Next Level
Make your most important task your top priority and schedule adequate time in your calendar to focus on it. Schedule some time to work on your second and third most important tasks as well. If you end up finishing your top three priorities, you can fill up remaining time with your fourth and fifth priorities.
It’s important that you allow adequate time to work on each task, as well. Allotting yourself an hour to finish a report that will likely take three hours to complete won’t cut it. It is, however, acceptable to schedule a few different blocks of time over the course of several days, or even a set amount of time each week for longer-term projects that become monotonous if you try to do them all at once.
One major benefit of prioritizing and scheduling your time is that it reduces your tendency to attempt multi-tasking, which experts say doesn’t really work. What actually happens when you try to multi-task is that you end up wasting valuable time from a phenomenon called context switching.
The idea behind context switching is that it takes your mind a few minutes (or longer) to get back up to speed with where you last left off on a project or task, because you switched your focus to something else. In fact, it’s estimated that it takes an average of 25 minutes to adequately resume a task after an interruption or context switch. Imagine the hours wasted when you switch back and forth between tasks dozens of times per day. No wonder you feel like you never get anything done!
It doesn’t matter where you fall in the organizational chart; it’s important to have some balance between your work and personal lives. Work-life balance is all about having time left at the end of the day – or time away from work, whenever that may be – to spend quality time with your family and friends and participate in activities that feed your soul. When you implement better systems to manage your time and avoid wasting time due to context switching, you’ll find that even though you still have just 24 hours in a day, it feels like you have more time to do the things you enjoy.