If your resolutions for 2013 include achieving a better work-life balance, your calendar holds the key to your success.
But, to pull off your goals, you’re going to need to turn the traditional way of thinking upside down.
Most people schedule their work commitments on their calendars and squeeze in family, friends and fun around it. Instead, schedule your work around your personal life, say Michelle Villalobos and Jessica Kizorek, speakers, personal branding consultants and co-creators of Make Them Beg, a professional self development program. For example, they suggest you block out gym time, reading for pleasure time, coaching your kid time and date night. Even a person with almost no flexibility in his or her work schedule can block out 15 minutes for a walk rather than eating lunch at their desks.
“You have to plan for play. Otherwise work expands and there’s no time for play,” Kizorek says. Today, it’s easy to stay a little later at the office or work through lunch because there’s always more to do. Using your calendar effectively can help you with boundaries.
Villalobos says once you put “play” into your schedule, it helps to get people who are important in your life to keep you committed. For example, she blocks out three hours twice a week on her calendar to paint. She has asked her boyfriend to help her stick to that schedule.
Realistically, there will be times when you have to reschedule a fun activity because of work demands. “At least you know what you missed so if you don’t do it, you move it to another day,” Villalobos says.
If you’re in a relationship, experts advise letting your partner participate in creating your calendar. A friend of mine sends his spouse an electronic invite to his poker night signaling that she has the night free to schedule her own fun activity.
Scheduling everything may seem rigid. “That’s the opposite,” Villalobos insists. “By putting things on your calendar, you can focus on what you need to do in the moment. It allows you to be far more present.”
With more people converting to electronic calendars or hovering between paper and online options, how we coordinate our schedules is in flux. But for balance, it’s often better to track personal and professional in one place.
Sharon Teitelbaum, a Boston-based work-life coach, says to calendar all important life events including birthdays. It may sound like common sense to calendar your son’s birthday, but people forget and schedule business travel, she has found. She also advises putting work events in your calendar as far in advance as possible and tasks that lead up to them. “You don’t want to agree to host a dinner party the weekend before a work retreat.”
For many busy people, the traditional way of scheduling needs to change from calendaring a due date to creating a timeline. If you have a big project you need to have completed by Feb. 15, Teitelbaum says break it into weekly tasks leading up to that date. “People vastly underestimate how long things take and the number of interruptions they have to contend with,” she says.
Julie Morgenstern, who created the Balanced Life Planner for Delray Beach-based specialty retailer Levenger, says that even on a daily basis people don’t plan realistically. “By bravely recognizing the limits of each day and how long each to-do on your list will take, we can see in advance what will or won’t fit into our calendar, and become more strategic,” she said.