Keeping Life and Work Apart

Posted April 19th, 2011 in Tribune

Cable Beach, Western Australia

Many of us recently had a short holiday to celebrate Easter. Regardless of how you feel about the religious significance, it’s important to embrace a well-deserved break once in a while.

I’ve written before about managing the tricky balance between work and life. It seems, however, from what I’ve been reading on Twitter and hearing from people, there were still plenty who worked over the Easter weekend.

Sure — some of us may have had strict deadlines to meet; still, it seems that many others enjoy playing the martyr, working the weekend because we’re possibly just badly organized.

A trick I learned a while ago is to have an occasional “time audit.” You may already use a sophisticated time-tracking system for your professional output; however, this is more an audit of how you spend your day every day. The idea here is to write up a table, with the columns denoting the next seven days, and the rows representing various broadly defined activities.

For an example, you may use activity headings such as:

sleeping
travel to/from office
client meetings
project work
family dinner
web surfing

What I tend to do is write the activity headings in once I’ve actually done them — and remember to keep them broad.

At the end of a week-long trial (and remember, maintain your habits as you usually would spend them), add the rows up, and see where those 168 hours of your life went. Typically, most people still manage to shock themselves — with plenty thinking they work far less than they actually do.

Now, look at your activities, and see which ones really are less important to you, and see how you can change your weeks to incorporate more of the high payoff activities. These would include high profit work, exercise, family time, AND sleeping (very much a high priority).

Make this audit a habit to undertake every six or so months, and you’ll soon tame the time beast!

This post first appeared as part of Issue 442 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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