Three Easy Things You Can Do Today to Balance Your Career, Learning, and Life
I say 'easy,' because the things I'm proposing are decisions we can make. We can either decide to do them or not.
However, I realize that it may be an easy decision, executing may take some effort. But, what I'm proposing is not difficult. It's really not difficult at all. It just takes focus and planning.
For some of us, the COVID pandemic provides ample time to learn and practice getting better at things like writing, creating videos, or anything else you want to work on.
For others, the opposite is true now. You now have a second job - being teachers to you children.
Regardless, we all have the same daily, weekly, and annual constraints- 24 hours, 7 days per week, and 365 (sometimes 366) days per year.
Since no two situations are the same, I'm going to share what works for me - as well as a few areas I could improve on.
Block Your Time
For me, blocking my time is the one thing I consistently do and something I must do if I want to get things done and off of my to-do list. If you're thinking of making a career pivot and starting out with a side gig, doing this is essential, otherwise, overwhelm, and anxiety will hit hard. They're both going to hit you at some point if you spin up a side gig, but they'll drop on you like a ton of bricks if you're not disciplined about blocking out your time- not just for work, but for family, friends, and hobbies as well.
Life happens, but for the most part, set a schedule and stick to it.
What's a quiet time of day where distractions will be minimal? For me, it's early morning. The kids are asleep, as are most of the people I communicate with daily. My devices are quiet.
I also am a believer in doing the hard part first. Even though I enjoy writing and exercising, they both require some motivation most of the time.
By blocking off time in the morning, getting my daily writing and exercise done, I feel like I've already accomplished something. Not to mention, the exercise gives me energy through the first half of my day and sparks more creativity.
This is something I need to get better at. For me, FOMO is a bitch and can often get the best of me.
The reality is, most of the things we want to say 'yes' to will still be around later. There are some exceptions, though I can't think of them right now.
That workshop you want to enroll in? It will likely be available again in a few months. If it's not, I'm sure you can find ten more that are similar.
You're overloaded at work. Your boss or colleagues want to pile more on. Although it can feel like you're missing an opportunity by turning them down, your career will take a bigger hit if you drop all of the balls you're juggling. Almost as bad, you get everything done, but the quality of your work is shit.
When you say no, tell them why it's important to you- and to them- that you have to respectfully decline at this time. Ask if there will be another time to engage or be offered the project when you're able to knock an existing project off of your list.
Adopt Digital Minimalism
Again, another one of those 'do as I say, not as I do' pieces of advice.
Being disciplined with our devices and digital content is challenging. Really tough.
Social media companies have designed their platforms to exploit our psychology. In short, it's designed to be addictive - like cigarettes and drugs.
Yet, it remains unregulated. That's another topic for another time.
When you say 'yes' to that urge to check Twitter, Facebook, email, and now LinkedIn, you're saying 'no' to other things and others around you.
Check out your device's screentime report. Look at where you're spending time. It might surprise you - or maybe not.
Can you find ways to decrease the amount of time you spend next week? Total time? App-specific time?
What if you tried to decrease next week's device time by 25%?
Do the math. How much time would you get back in your life? Is it enough time to block off and focus on something else?
I just checked my report from last week, and I averaged 5 hours and 40 minutes of screen time per day. That's appalling. If I tried to decrease that by 25%, I'd have nearly an hour and a half each day to focus my time elsewhere- including being more present with my family.
When you say to someone you don't have time or brag about how busy you are, check yourself and your screen time. You likely have the time but choose to waste it looking at a device.
Cut out the news for a week - you'll get a lot of time back and will feel so much better.
Set a specific time or times throughout the day to engage with your most-used apps and set a timer. When the timer goes off, shut it down.
I think it's safe to say we all could be better at time management and protecting the most precious resource we have.
We all make decisions. When we pick up our phones, check email, watch TV, we're making a decision. We're choosing those things over something else: family, friends, learning.
What are you going to do this week to reclaim your time?