Because our attention spans are shorter, Morgenstern says we need to schedule with that in mind and “break down our work into smaller pieces to fit the smaller windows of time within which we can focus.” For example, if you have a six-hour project, break it into a series of six one-hour steps. “It’s easier to resist distractions when you have something specific and measurable to focus on for an hour at a time.”
Computer systems developer and blogger Chris Skoyles advocates a non-traditional approach to using a calendar to improve your work-life balance — using two calendars.
While you’re using your first calendar to track your daily schedule, you use the second as a diary to keep tabs on how you’re faring in achieving your goals for the year.
If your goal is to spend an extra 200 hours with the kids or at the gym, break it down into weekly or monthly blocks to make it less formidable, he suggests on his Lifehack blog. In your second calendar, mark down how much you’ve achieved each day or each week. You can write down anything associated with your goal, such as researched diet plans or brainstormed fun kids activities. Writing down your achievements at the end of the day rather than crossing them off a to-do list as you go along has more benefits than you might think,” he notes.
Skoyles, who used this method to train for a marathon, has found goals become more attainable and you more motivated when you see ongoing progress. He suggests each week you check your progress and find room for improvement.
“If you haven’t written anything for a specific goal in a couple of days, is that a sign that maybe you need to work extra hard on that goal? Or maybe that goal wasn’t as important to you as you first thought and it’s time to reassess. If you’ve been cruising along nicely but haven’t seen much improvement, is now the time to think about taking things to the next level?”
Villalobos recently accomplished a personal goal and a step toward balance when she finished a two-day art workshop that she had wanted to take for years. It took getting control over her calendar, scheduling play time and retraining her brain. “Your calendar becomes your promise to yourself, and you need to honor that promise.”
Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit worklifebalancingact.com.