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For most of 2019, work-life balance challenges were limited mostly to white-collar workers that occasionally worked from home or answered emails after hours. However, for most of 2020 these challenges have impacted nearly every household in the United States. From homeschooling children while working from home to not being able to go into the office because childcare is not available, the struggle is taking its toll.

What is work-life balance?

Simply put, it is the amount of time a person gives to their professional and personal lives respectively. In a perfect word the two areas of our lives would truly be separate and balanced which would help us to manage stress, avoid burnout, and achieve goals in both areas of life. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Competing priorities combined with the pandemic have made balance of work and life become very difficult for many Americans. But the following tips will help you to regain balance by focusing on controlling what you can.

Time Management

Every day of every week gives us 24 hours to eat, sleep, work, parent, and learn. Not every minute of every day is under our direct control but how we manage the time that we do have is. If you focus on the following two areas, you will be amazed at how much more you can accomplish in a day and how much less stressed you will be as a result. (1) Identify your biggest time sucks and (2) identify what time of day you are most efficient at accomplishing certain tasks and make the necessary adjustments.

For example, if your creative juices flow best in the morning, set the alarm for 4am and tackle that writing task before the kids wake up. Or, if you spend the first 30 minutes of your day thumbing through your social media feeds, make it a goal to take some of that time back use it for one of the “must do” tasks on your list.

Eliminate Multi-tasking

Many people believe that multi-tasking is a skill that allows them to be more efficient in life and work, but it is the opposite that’s true. According to a study published in the Journal of American Psychology, multi-tasking will reduce productivity by as much as 40%. The result of trying to do everything at once is that nothing will get done (or get done well). Live and work in the moment and you will find that you have more time and less stress. Be where you are!

Free Time Does Not Have to Be Free

Just because Tuesday afternoon is empty on your calendar, doesn't mean you have to say "yes" when your co-worker asks you to go to an event. In fact, some experts suggest plotting your entire day on your calendar to gain maximum productivity. Deep Work author Cal Newport writes:

“Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.”

Plan When Your Workday Will End

Sometimes when you feel surrounded by work, it’s because, well, you’re surrounding yourself with work. Whether you are working in a home office or a traditional office, mark the end of your workday on your calendar and stick to it. Step away from your desk and head for the door and switch over to the next non work-related task on your list.

2020 has been a challenge for all of us. However, these small changes in how you manage your life and schedule can have a big impact on your mental well-being and allow you to get more done in less time.