You did it. You graduated from college with your degree, transitioned into a corporate nine-to-five gig, and gave up on your passions. While you were in college, you looked forward to a time when you’d be able to spend your evenings reading the collected works of T.S. Eliot or take up a yoga and meditation regimen. But you didn’t transition as smoothly into your post-graduate life as you would have liked. Instead of feeding your passions in the evenings after work, you find yourself collapsing in front of the television or spending your evening scanning Facebook for the hundredth time. Suddenly, your entire life revolves around your job, and it’s got you feeling hopeless. Falling into this cycle can quickly create a lot of wasted time. With more than 40 hours of your week dedicated solely to work, it’s important that you make better use of the hours at the end of your day. Staying productive after the daily grind is important to keep you motivated. Just because the workday ends at five p.m. doesn’t mean your day has to end at five p.m.
Separate your work life from your home life. The first step in creating a healthy work life balance is a mental one. It can be easy to constantly obsess over work, to stress out about tomorrow’s deadlines, and to check your email long after the workday has ended. Just as it’s good to focus your mind completely on work while you’re there, it’s also beneficial to focus your mind completely on yourself and your personal goals during your after-hours time. Remember, stressing about all the things you have to do tomorrow isn’t going to make tackling them any easier. Your bad thoughts are only going to eat away at your few precious hours of free time. Whenever you begin thinking about your career, start doing something productive (read a book, do the dishes, exercise) and put all of your focus into whatever you’re doing. Stressing out about work (or anything, really) is an unhealthy practice that can eat away at the quality of your life. Focus on what’s important to you during your free time.
Keep a calendar specifically for your personal life. Just as you might have a calendar to keep track of meetings and deadlines at work, you should also keep one for personal obligations. It’s good practice to map out your day hour by hour to make the most effective use of your time. Just as you wouldn’t clutter your work calendar with dinner dates and backpacking trips, you shouldn’t clutter your personal calendar with work items. It may be helpful to create deadlines for things that align with your personal goals. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, but have never had the motivation, then use your personal calendar to map out a manageable writing schedule. Having a calendar specifically for your personal life works as a great incentive to fill up your free time with events that are meaningful to you.
Take steps to motivate yourself. Once you make the commute home, prepare dinner, clean, and perform the rest of your daily tasks, it can be tempting to log onto the internet for a couple hours before bedtime. This behavior can quickly turn into a nasty habit. Instead of crashing on the couch each night, figure out what’s important to you and take steps to motivate yourself. Do you love to run? Put on your running shorts the moment you walk in the door each evening. Wish you could get back into oil painting? Transform a corner of your apartment into a makeshift art studio. Always wanted to learn Spanish? Make some flashcards to practice while you clean up after dinner.
Make a point to accomplish something meaningful long before you log onto the internet or crash on the couch each evening. You can still enjoy the internet and television without eating up all of your free time. Spend a few minutes on Tumblr before tucking in for the night, or designate Wednesday evening as your unofficial movie night. Once you begin to spend less time on the web, you’ll likely be surprised by how much more productive you feel.
It’s normal for working individuals to feel as though a full time schedule leaves no room for personal goals to become reality. Remember, even though the workday ends at five p.m., the evenings and weekends are still yours to spend how you choose. Change your mindset, change your actions, and transform your free time into something meaningful every day.