When was the last time you finished a novel? Or went on a long walk? Or slept in just because you could? As parents, we love our kids and want them to feel happy, nurtured, and supported, yet we tend to neglect our own feelings of happiness. We often feel guilty about taking time for ourselves, or find the idea unrealistic.
Although being a parent may be the most rewarding, important thing you do, it's not the sum total of who you are. You still have dreams, needs, and interests that go beyond your children. It's not only okay, but absolutely essential to your well-being to have some time for yourself. Give yourself permission to go for a daily walk, head to the gym, read a book, or spend time with friends to help find balance and reduce stress. Think it can't be done? Below are a few tips for creating a healthy work-life balance.
Work-Life Balance Tips
- Get clear on your priorities. "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities," said Stephen R. Covey, organizational management guru. Think about what is most important in your life and what you hope to achieve. Condense your thoughts into two or three concise statements that become your personal mission statement. As you plan your calendar, ask yourself if your daily activities reflect your values. Sure, carpooling, picking up the dry cleaning, and making dinner have to be done whether they reflect your values or not, but being clear on your priorities helps you maximize the free time you do have.
- Minimize time wasters. Limit the time you spend engaged in activities that have little value to you. These are different for each person, but might include surfing the Internet, watching television, or checking messages. Give yourself a time limit and use technology purposefully, both at work and at home. The more efficient you are at work, the less likely you are to bring it home - freeing up more time for you and your family.
- Simplify and streamline daily tasks. A reasonably clean house reduces stress and chaos, but the days of a white glove approach to housekeeping are long over. Build simple strategies for keeping the dust bunnies at bay into your routine. Do a "10-minute tidy" before dinner or bedtime with your children when everyone pitches in to pick up shoes, books, and clutter. Organize your home so everything has a place and teach your children to put things away. Schedule one or two days per week for laundry. Sort the laundry the night before and start a load when you first get up. Chances are, you can have a couple of loads washed and dried before you head out the door. Plan meals in advance, try to limit shopping to once a week, and have your children help prepare the meals. Use pre-cut and washed fruit, vegetables, and salads, as well as quick cooking pasta and rice to get dinner on the table quickly.
- Establish a consistent bedtime. You look forward to reading in bed for a few minutes, but last-minute stories, snacks, and general dawdling drag bedtime out interminably. Establish a consistent schedule so homework, teeth brushing, and bedtime stories are completed within a reasonable timeframe, allowing you time to unwind in the evening.
Achieving perfect work/life balance is probably unrealistic, especially when your children are very young. But even a few small changes can make a big difference in the time you have for yourself and your overall satisfaction with life.
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