It’s easy to get into workaholic mode. You’ve got meetings to prepare for, projects to create (or in my case, lessons), emails to send, and a million other to-do items. I know. I’ve been there myself, and I often don’t even realize it until my friends start calling about how MIA I’ve been.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m an advocate of hard work. Hard work equals success, and success is not for the lazy. But it is important for us twenty-somethings to also take some time for ourselves.
A few weeks ago, I met a group of friends to listen to a band playing at a local venue. I had been to see the band almost a year prior, and forgot how much I loved their style. Between the good friends, conversation, and awesome music, I could feel some of my pent-up stress just melting away. I had to remind myself when I left: I need to remember to do things like this more often.
It’s not easy to find that balance. Soon to be starting my fifth year in my career, I’m still struggling with this. I love what I do, but I notice that I’m much more myself and relaxed when I also take time for activities I enjoy.
Here are some tips I’ve compiled to make it easier to find the balance between work and play:
1. Set a schedule for how late you plan to be at work.
It is so easy to lose track of time when you’re working on something and you’ve got a deadline. Set a schedule for how late you plan to stay at work. If you’re required to be there until 5:00 but usually stay much later, compromise somewhere in the middle. Then be sure to stick to it. If you mean to leave at 6:00 PM, leave at 6:00 PM. Don’t tell yourself: just one more thing. That “one thing” can very quickly turn into a dozen.
2. Leave work at work.
Unless you work from home, leave your work at work. If you absolutely have to take things home, prioritize them in manageable chunks. I’m in a profession where I typically have evening grading to do – it’s just a matter of determining what needs to come first. If you work from home, separate your work space from your living space. Don’t touch that desk until you “go back to work.” If your mind is always occupied with one more thing that needs to be done, you’ll never find that good balance between work and play.
3. Make plans with the people in your life.
Ah, the good ol’ college days where I could spontaneously text my friends one random evening and we’d all be able to get together. Now 26, I am not able to do that anymore. We’ve all got lives, and busy ones at that. I take the time to schedule plans with my friends and family. The upside of this is that it also gives you something to look forward to!
4. Take time for your own individual activities.
For me, these activities vary. It really depends on my mood. Some days I’ll read a book, or binge watch Netflix. Maybe I’ll go for a run through the park, or hit the weights at the gym. Or for me it might mean playing the piano for an hour or archery target practice at the range. Pay attention to your moods, and choose an activity you enjoy. Don’t have a lot of hobbies? Find a new one. These are good outlets, especially when you are stressed about something work related. Doing something you like helps balance your overall life attitude.
5. Don’t feel guilty!
I can be easily guilt-tripped. Sometimes I think: I really should have finished that unit plan I need to have done in 2 weeks instead of spending 45 minutes browsing Barnes & Noble. You can’t feel guilty for doing the things that make you you. You’ll be more productive in the long run by allowing yourself to enjoy life. Obviously you can’t overdo it – that’s what vacations are for, and that is a post for another day. But taking 45 minutes on a weekday or meeting friends on a Saturday night might be just what you need to relax. Don’t feel guilty about it. You work hard and deserve it.
In the end, finding that balance between work and play is all up to you. Being a twenty-something is all about discovering what makes you unique, and that includes both work and play. Enjoy your life for all its aspects.