A few years ago, I did a graduate school project focused on work/life balance, a concept I now think is much better re-framed as work/life integration. My primary research was at a design firm, where I gave people I interviewed a stack of index cards to sort as they saw fit and then craft into a cohesive story. The cards included words that related to the idea of work/life balance…things like: SLEEP, TIME, GROWTH, FAMILY, MONEY, CHALLENGE, CHILDCARE, SKILLS, ETC. Everyone told a very different and equally fascinating story, but one thing really stood out in every single one: a focus on TIME. It sounds obvious, but it’s something we don’t talk about much. As our lives and careers evolve, the limited resource often isn’t opportunity or skill or experience or connections…it’s TIME.
The notion of time as a scarce resource comes up a lot among parents. Actually, it comes up a lot among people. At work, a friend recently lamented the fact that she needs to sleep for eight hours a night. “I could get so much more done in a day if I didn’t need to sleep so much.” (WHAT?!?!) A new dad told me a few months ago, “I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to stay ahead now that I have a huge responsibility outside of work. I used to be able to outwork people (work more/longer), and I can’t do that anymore…nor do I want to.” Executives complain about not having enough white space to think. And when I talk to friends about health + wellness, the response is often “I wish I had more time to cook…exercise…go on dates…etc,” but I just don’t have any TIME.
There is a lot of truth in this. Time is a limiter (I’ve been having one of those “I HAVE NO TIME” weeks), but there are things we can do to make it feel a bit less scarce. We can organize around impact, we can schedule in some “unmoments,” we can be proactive about spending time on the things and people that matter most to us, and we can look to others for ideas. I recently saw two examples of how people are scheduling their days to optimize their time, and I thought I’d share them for inspiration:
Oh yeah, and not to be underestimated…we can be easy on ourselves and simply pat ourselves on the back for what we DO get done, and not what we DON’T.
Do you feel stressed about time, or are you at peace with how much time you have to do the things you want/need to get done? What do you do to make sure you’re spending your precious hours on things that matter to you?