Life is like a cocktail: without the right balance, it just won’t make you feel good. And if there’s too much work poured into that mix, you might even fall off your stool. Here are some tips for getting the recipe right.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but the best time managers have an excellent grasp of what’s deeply important to them, and they build their schedules around it. Examine what’s meaningful to you now – whether it’s family, partner, passion project or friends – and put it at the top of the list. Edit down everything that’s closer to the bottom.
Schedule ‘me time’ moments as strictly as essential work meetings. If you have a massage or facial, book the next one while you’re there. Block it out in the diary and stick to it – no compromise.
Research shows spending just 20 minutes outdoors a day can help lift your vitality, so grab every opportunity you can. Keep a swim or gym bag in the car (complete with freshen-up wipes for a quick shower on the run) ready for a bonus circuit breaker. Walk between appointments whenever time allows. Lunch-hour training sessions also leave you time, later on, to socialise and chill.
Love doesn’t pay the rent or we’d all be cuddling puppies for a living, but if your Monday morning commute feels like the final journey of a death row prisoner, something needs to change because research shows those continuous stress hormones are seriously debilitating. No hope of a different job? At least start some constructive conversations with colleagues and managers to see if your current situation can improve.
Know your boundaries. If your plate’s full, respectfully decline beyond-the-call-of-duty requests from co-workers, charity organisations, schools and friends. Tell them you’ll step up when you next have time. Try to take on only things you can be fully present for, both physically and emotionally. The path of over-commitment is strewn with well-meaning burnouts, and besides, nobody wants a grudging, guilt-motivated helper.
Pump your body and brain with energy-boosting nutrients to maximise every moment. Many health professionals advocate a Mediterranean-style diet, packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and beneficial oils, for physical and mental wellbeing. And stay hydrated, glug down at least two litres of water a day to feel vital and alert. The sharper you are, the quicker you’ll fire off your work tasks and free up your time.
It’s known that lack of sleep increases stress. Make sure you aim for a baseline of eight hours, and be firm with yourself. Among sleep’s greatest enemies are your electronic devices and the blue light they emit. Remove them from the bedroom, or if you can’t bear to be apart, use the inbuilt setting – or an app – that softens the light hue after a certain hour.
Disconnect properly at the end of each working day, ready for downtime. Some people clear their mind with a beer in a bar before heading home, others listen to music on the commute, or walk or run home. Write your to-do list for tomorrow, then put it out of your mind while you focus on being off-duty.
Too much screen time outside of work can clog your tired mind with surplus information. Take frequent breaks from your devices; swap them for a book or magazine, real-life conversation, or just unplug and let your thoughts roam. Clearing your mind at least once a day is powerful mental medicine.
Leisure time doesn’t need to be goal-focused. If something serves no sensible purpose and yet makes you smile widely, it needs to be on your list – even if it’s guilty-pleasure TV or simply dancing around the lounge room. Having said that, a UK 2013 study found that listening to uplifting music could improve cognitive functioning and alertness –so busting a few moves never hurts.