There are loads of articles on how to manage your time to achieve work-life balance, but a factor that’s often neglected is managing your energy.
Let’s face it: it’s impossible to give 100% of your energy and attention to more than one thing. If you give your all at work and come home completely wiped out, you won’t have anything left for your family or personal life.
Here are some examples:
A friend of mine is a working mom. In a recent conversation she said how she has to save some of her energy during the day for her “second shift,” when she is at home with her children, making dinner, cleaning up, helping with homework, and sorting out the adolescent dramas that go along with family life.
Another friend of mine who lives in a big city and works full time said she feels like her life is a treadmill: she leaves work in time to pick up the kids at daycare by 6pm (and is charged by the minute if she is late); by the time they get home it’s almost 7 pm and time for dinner, cleanup, baths and bedtime. After the kids are in bed she has a few minutes to clean, fold laundry, check emails, spend any time with her husband, and then it’s time to collapse into bed. In the morning she gets up to do it all over again.
Here are some tips on budgeting your energy so you still have something left for the relationships in your life:
Work according to your body’s rhythms: Charlie Gilkey wrote a great article on Productive Flourishing years ago that is even more relevant today: how to heat map your productivity. This means, figure out your most productive times of day (he tells you how in the article) and plan your day around that. Make decisions and do creative work during your most productive times of the day; do less mentally-intensive work, or exercise, during less productive times of the day.
Save some energy for later: The fact is, if you expend all your physical and mental energy at work, you aren’t going to have anything left to deal with home life, meals and cleanup, helping with homework, sibling drama, pet accidents and whatever else comes up on a daily basis in normal family life (not to mention the occasional curveball or emergency). Pace yourself throughout the day so you still have something left in the tank when you get home. Your day is a marathon, and you need to finish strong.
Avoid overcommitment: In last Monday’s post I gave you tips on how to avoid doing too much. You have to be firm with your boundaries, not only with other people but also with yourself. Be realistic about how much you can take on, and still do everything well without exhausting yourself.
Avoid unnecessary learning curves: If someone wants you to take on a role you’ve never done before, take a good look at your schedule before you agree to the task. Figuring out something you’ve never done before requires time and energy to cope with a big learning curve. There are plenty of people who like to coordinate events/ bake in mass quantities/ run a fundraiser/ foster homeless puppies. Pass the task on to them. You’ll have more energy for your higher priority responsibilities.
How do you balance your energy to be able to give enough at work and at home?