While so many people talk about the importance of a work-life balance, few are able to provide real, actionable plans to help people achieve a happy equilibrium between their home and work lives. Articles all over the Web talk about goal-setting and monotasking, but such vague concepts rarely help busy workers form a schedule that benefits their jobs, their families, and themselves.
You can have both productivity and happiness — if you plan out your days just right. Here is a foolproof schedule to help you reach the balance you’ve always needed.
Early to Rise
The most successful people in the world have always been morning people. Virgin’s Richard Branson, Disney’s Bob Iger, Starbucks’s Howard Schultz, and Vogue’s Anna Wintour are among the many successes who attest to getting up with the sun. However, the reason early birds have an advantage is not necessarily what most people expect: Early risers don’t usually jump immediately into work. Instead, they use their extra time preparing physically, mentally, and emotionally for the workday ahead. By devoting the morning time to leisure activities, early birds can more easily find balance in their lives. Here is your ideal morning schedule:
- 6:00-6:30: Wake up. Try to avoid hitting the snooze button; as soon as you open your eyes, you should be upright and smiling. While you blink the sleep out of your eyes, try to think positively about your life and the day ahead.
- 6:30-7:30: Exercise. If you don’t have a standard fitness routine, experiment with different types of exercise to find one you enjoy. Running, yoga, and Pilates are all excellent morning workouts.
- 7:30-8:00: Eat breakfast. Try to get the most possible nutrition from your first meal — pack it with protein, fiber, and carbohydrates to keep you full and energized for most of your day.
- 8:00-9:00: Enjoy. Spend time doing something quiet and relaxing that you rarely have time for, like reading or writing. If you must, you can begin preparing for work by sifting through news or emails, but you should avoid doing any strenuous work during your morning leisure period. The goal is to be in a positive, relaxed mindset before you head to the office.
If you strive to get ahead in your career, your day should be packed with action. Hard workers tend to be the only ones who make it to the top, and hard work requires more than the standard eight-hour workday. Both Benjamin Franklin and Donald Trump attest to devoting at least 9 hours every day to active work — but these represent the schedules of successful people at their peak. In order to get to their position, you may need to extend your workday to 10 or even 12 hours some days. Still, it’s important not to regularly overdo your active time; overwork has been linked with a number of health problems, including lowered immunity, frequent body pain, constant fatigue, and premature heart disease. Here is a healthy schedule you should follow most days:
- 9:00: Work. Different fields will have different requirements for the beginning of the workday. You may have meetings straight away, or you may want to review the day’s schedule. No matter what, try to have high energy as soon as you step into the office.
- Every 50 minutes, take a 15-minute break. Studies show that taking breaks allows you to maintain mental stamina, increasing productivity and preventing burnout. Eat a healthy snack, go outside, or do something else that doesn’t require mental acrobatics.
- 1:00-2:00: Lunch. Your second true meal should also be exceedingly heavy on macronutrients, like protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Avoid the allure of the vending machine or the fast food joint down the street; bring homemade lunches that use fresh, whole ingredients to give yourself the most energy.
- 2:00-7:00: Work. Strive to complete one or two major business tasks every day, like completing an important project or attracting a significant client, even if it means staying late. You will feel fulfilled at the end of the day when you can point to something you fully accomplished.
After work is done, you should reward yourself with an evening devoted to recuperation and leisure. As soon as you clock out, you can enjoy a cocktail at your favorite happy hour spot or head home for a light dinner. You don’t need to have a rigorous schedule for this period as long as you know that you should not be working strenuously after you clock out.
Early to Bed
Because your body and mind need a full eight hours of rest to function at peak performance, you shouldn’t be in bed any later than 10:00 p.m. For the most restful sleep possible, you should avoid screens, bright lights, and food for at least an hour or two before you rest your head. Then, after a sound slumber, you can get up at 6:00 a.m. and start the next workday.