Our twenty-something years seem to revolve around work and goal-setting. With milestones like surviving college, writing job applications, and starting new careers, our twenty-some years are dedicated to education and career success, with what feels like little room for play. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why should clocking hours at work take 100% priority over hanging with friends, catching up with relatives, traveling, and other interests?

The answer is simple: it shouldn’t.

Before you commit to another overtime shift, think again. Yes, money is important. We all have budgets to keep up with and bills to pay, but we also need to enjoy our lives. We shouldn’t live to work, we should work to live. Our jobs should complement our lifestyles, not completely take them over.

If you desperately need to find balance between work and play, consider these tips:

1. Prioritize vacation time.

Too many Americans do not use their allotted vacation time at work (55%, in fact). Rather than feeling pressured by your employer or the culture of your workplace to abandon your earned vacation time, utilize it instead.

There are so many ways to use your vacation time, whether it’s a staycation, traveling, or catching up with peers in your social circles. Prioritizing your vacation time ensures you set clear barriers between work and play. By taking your earned paid time off, you have time dedicated to enjoying your person life.

2. Monitor your overtime.

If you’re consistently working overtime, especially in a salaried role where you are exempt from earning OT pay, be sure you speak with your supervisor about schedule expectations. Monitor your overtime hours to see how often you’re working late and on weekends.

Depending on your job, you may not have a ton of negotiating power on this topic, but if you can speak with your boss about expectations, you might find s/he is open to making schedule adjustments. Working too much overtime, especially without time and a half pay, will undoubtedly spill into your personal time, leaving you little to no room to play. Advocate for yourself!

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3. Negotiate travel time on business trips.

If you’re super into traveling to new places to explore new cities and your company often sends you on business trips, see if you can negotiate travel time for yourself before or after your trip.

For example, my company often sends employees on domestic and international trips for conferences and meetings. They encourage employees to take extra time to explore the cities they send their staff to so long as the timing does not interfere with the purpose of the business trip. If you love to travel and your company has a similar policy, this is a great way to explore on your own, thus giving yourself more “you time”, even while traveling for work. It’s a win-win!

4. Schedule “me time.”

It seems silly when you think about it, but scheduling time for yourself is absolutely essential if you find that you’re working far more than needed. Scheduling time each day to read, watch television, see friends, shop, or just chill out will absolutely guarantee you time to play. If it feels necessary, schedule time for yourself to make sure you commit to you time.

You need to enjoy some rest and relaxation to keep healthy and happy.

5. Don’t bring your work home.

It is best practice to leave your work at work. Don’t bring your work stress or projects home. Your home should be a safe space where you enjoy your family and time for yourself. Bringing work home doesn’t give your brain a break. You need time away from your office, colleagues, etc. to recoup and re-energize with a fresh mind the next day. Leave your work at work and keep your free time all about your personal life.

Balancing work and play can feel nearly impossible, but these are great tactics to get you thinking about establishing a rhythm. Focus on your work at work and focus on your personal life in your free time. Using some (or all) of these tips, you should be able to find a great balance.

How do you find balance between work and play? Share your tips in the comments!

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