I’m a workaholic with a social life. I’m sure that sounds like an oxymoron but I assure you, it isn’t. I wear many hats in my house. I am a Technical Writer, a Blogger, a Software Developer, and in my spare time, I write fiction. And that’s just the stuff I do to earn a living.
The hardest thing I ever had to learn was how to balance work with my personal life. With all the things I do, the most important is the life I share with my husband, children, family, and friends. I love to get together with my family whether it’s a big celebration or just a quiet evening of talk. We may still need to practice social distancing, but even a carefully distanced gathering is better than nothing.
I know there are people who live to work, but I think it’s much better to work to live. There has to be a balance between work and the rest of your life. I’ve spent a long time trying to achieve that balance and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.
So what are the keys to striking that all important work/life balance?
This first tip applies to your entire life. If you take away nothing else from this article, remember this. You have work priorities and life priorities but you must keep them separate. If everything is equally important, you’ll never get anything done! After all, you can’t do it all at once!
What should come first? Work life or personal life?
That’s up to you, I suppose. Clearly your job is important. If you lose it you will have a hard time paying the bills. But if you neglect your personal life, there’s not so much point to the work life, is there?
A while back, I wrote a post on my personal blog about how making written to do lists will improve your chances of remembering the things on the list. So, let’s start with that.
Make your Lists and Check ’em Twice
Label one Work. Use this list for the tasks you have to complete in the near future for work. Projects, daily tasks, and try to include the amount of time you think each of those tasks will take.
Label one Personal. Write down the daily tasks you have to complete in your personal life. Also include things like lunch with friends, a date with your partner, or a girl’s night out. Again, keep track of how long you think these things will take.
Every night before you go to bed, select the most important items from each list and make a combined list for the day. Write down the things you have to do before work, the things you have to do at work, and those that you are saving for after work.
When you are at work, focus on work. Keep the work list where you can see it, and as each task is completed, check it off, draw a line through it, or do something else to make it clear that the job is done.
There are two kinds of task that you should put at the top of the list: the things due soonest go at the top. Also consider the easiest, quickest tasks. As you whittle down the list, you’ll find that it is easier to confine work to work hours, and to completely focus on the social tasks when you’re outside of work. In other words, get that work done and you’ll have a clear conscience when you’re home or out.
The list for your social life works the same way. Finish the tasks that are due by a particular date (like paying bills!) and then the small personal work items. Once you’ve done that, you need to prioritize the social events like weddings, baby shows, family functions, etc. I’m sure you can find plenty.
Oh, and don’t forget the time in your schedule for self-care. I don’t mean only things like taking a shower or getting your hair done. I mean taking a leisurely bath, where you can soak your body and free your thoughts. Remember the entertaining things like reading and watching movies and TV shows. Remember too that you need to spend some time playing games with your kids or reading the occasional bedtime story, if you have kids.
Focus personal time on loved ones, close friends, and family. Trim the fat and get rid of the toxic friends, those who leave you feeling weary and depressed. Being a workaholic with a social life doesn’t mean wasting time
You know what hours you are expected to work. The key to this whole thing is keeping work and social life separate. This doesn’t mean that if you have friends at work, you can’t see them outside of work, but it does mean that once your work day is done, stop working. I confess that this is the one that has always been hardest for me. Even now there are times when I work until late in the evening because I’ve become so focused on work that I forget to stop. Don’t laugh! It can happen to you too if you’re not careful.
This is a bigger danger for people who work from home, by the way, because there is less to differentiate between work and home when you’re already home. I spent over ten years commuting from my home to New York City, a trip that took two and a half to three hours each way. By the time I got home, I was clearly in a different place and I could easily put work out of my thoughts.
Now that I’m working from home, it’s way too easy to turn on the computer to play a game and then find myself working instead. I try not to, but there it is.
No matter where you are physically when you are working, you need to make it clear to your friends that they shouldn’t call you at work except for emergencies. Tell them what hours you are working and ask that they not call to chat during those times.
I have started using the “Do Not Disturb” feature of my phone to automatically reply to people on my favorites list with a text. I tell them that I am working right now but will call them back as soon as possible. The advantage to this is that the phone doesn’t even ring to tempt me. When I take a break, I check my messages and answer the ones that are important.
It’s all About the Balance Baby
Set those borders before it’s too late. When you start a new job, make it clear that you work hard during work hours and that you expect not to be disturbed by calls from the office that aren’t emergencies.
Your job may pay the bills, but your social life nourishes your soul. Follow my suggestions and you too can be a “Workaholic with a social life.”
Your time away from work restores your psyche. You have to relax and socialize with your friends and family to be able to do a good job at the office. I used to think that if I just worked a little bit more, I would do better and make more money and become rich and famous. Bullshit! Working harder and longer saps your creativity and the work will always expand to fill as much time as you give it.
A completed to do list is satisfying but so is a completely relaxed and happy weekend. Try to experience both in your life and see how much happier and how much more productive it makes you. Remember, we humans are social animals and need that interaction to succeed in life.
It takes trial and error to find the right balance between work and ply. If you like your job, that’s great. But no matter what, even if you are a workaholic, be a workaholic with a social life. I know it can be dine because I’ve finally achieved it myself so you can too!
Let us know what you’ve tried and how it works for you by commenting below.
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