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Using Time Management to Find Balance

This lesson is a part of an audio course Achieving Work-Life Balance by Russell Clayton

In our previous lesson, we talked about why we should pursue a work-life balance. In this lesson, we will begin learning strategies that will help us get there.

We'll begin with the classic work-life balance strategy of Time Management. Now, this is NOT a new strategy when it comes to balancing life. In fact, time management is probably the most obvious of strategies when attempting to balance work and life – this is because TIME is a major component of the work-life balance equation, and it's most often cited as the reason for lack of balance. As we will discuss in the other lessons, time isn't the only factor – energy and emotion is a big part of the pursuit of balance as well. But in this section, we will focus strictly on time.

I want to start off with a quote from author Alan Lakein that aptly describes this lesson:

"Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life….or master your time and master your life."

Time is a big deal – each 24-hour day, we find ourselves in a real-life 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle – trying to fit the pieces together the right way so that we can call our clients, complete and turn in that report to our boss, pick up our children from school, spend time with our spouse, pick up the dry cleaning and find time to eat and sleep. Whew! It's exhausting saying all those things, not to mention actually trying to do them all in one day!

Well…the good news is that I found a magical way to add an additional 3 hours to each day! OK, so that's NOT really the case. But what I have found – and what I want to share with you in this lesson – are a few strategies I have used in my own life to better manage my time.

The first time management strategy I use in my own life is to stop multitasking. The thing about multitasking is that it seems to make sense on the surface. Why do one thing when I can do 3 things at once? But did you know???? According to the Harvard Business Review, when we multitask, it takes us on average 25% longer to finish each task than if we would have done each task separately? A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology puts that number even higher. In that study, the researchers found that when multitasking, we are 40% slower than doing each task one at a time. Wow!

So the recommendation is to do one thing at a time instead of multiple things at once. Easier said than done, right? The key to making this happen is to manage interruptions and distractions. Most of us don't like interruptions – in fact, interruptions cost U.S. workplaces over $500 billion per year! That's a huge number to try to comprehend, so let's bring that down to the individual level – you and me. Interruptions lead to inefficiency and cost us minutes…which add up to hours. At work, for example, this adds up of interruptions can mean the difference between leaving work on time or leaving work an hour and a half late.

Do this to manage interruptions and distractions:

  1. Turn off your email for 45-minute blocks of time. This limits distractions.

  2. Set up "time-lock" times where you allow no interruptions except for true emergencies. Add this time – maybe it's an hour or two hours – to your online workplace calendar and make your intentions about this time known.

  3. Just say no! This one can make us feel uncomfortable. I used to say "yes" to everything until I realized the drain on my time that it was causing. Now I have learned the power of strategically saying "no." This is NOT a free pass to say NO to everything – that's not realistic. And there are certain things that you have to say yes to at work and in other roles. But I'd like to encourage you to think of things that you can strategically say no to.

Finally, when it comes to time management, I want you to consider outsourcing. That is, what are one or two things in your roles that you can have someone else do? For example, at home, I have outsourced my lawn care. I was reluctant at first – I am an able-bodied person who can cut his own lawn – why would I pay someone else to do it? Here's why: by outsourcing my lawn care, I have gained back approximately 2-3 hours per week. I can now use these hours to spend with my wife and children. I know many other people who outsource their grocery shopping to a company like Instacart or Shipt. That's a great way to get an hour back each week.

This costs money – I have to pay the lawn care company to do this – and you might not have it in your budget to pay for lawn care. Thus, the caveat here does NOT break the bank and go into debt outsourcing so that you can have more time – that is a bit counterproductive.

Your task before listening to the next lesson: consider which time management strategy you might like to utilize: reducing your multitasking, eliminating distractions to work more efficiently, or outsourcing to buy back time.

In the next lesson, we will talk about building our emotional intelligence in order to help us balance work and life.

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Written by

Russell Clayton

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