By Noël Rozny
Web Editor & Content Manager
One of the toughest adjustments I had to make as a college grad was learning how to balance a career, friends, family, and personal time. Having a 9-to-5 job meant my schedule was suddenly more rigid, leaving less time to spend with the important people in my life, not to mention get to the gym, pick up my dry cleaning, and buy cereal.
But don’t fear: It can be done. It just takes a little active maintenance and creative scheduling on your part. Here are some tips to help you balance your new career with the other (and equally important) parts of your life.
Realize Some Imbalance in Inevitable
If you break down your life into four main categories: work, family, friends, and personal time, the ideal weekly mix would be to devote 25% of your schedule to each. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Instead, you’ll find one thing generally demands the majority of your attention, whether it’s a big project at work, taking care of a sick family member, or helping your best friend plan a bridal shower. And that’s ok. They key is to realize that some imbalance in always going to exist, as long as it doesn’t become permanent. Here’s where a little diligence is required on your part. You need to be monitoring your time on a monthly basis to make sure you’re not letting one aspect of your life completely take over. Which brings me to my next point …
I know, it sounds cheesy, but trust me, it works. Color code your personal calendar for work deadlines, special events, social obligations, etc. This makes it really easy to take in your week (or month) at a glance and see if one set of obligations have cannibalized your calendar. If that’s the case, you can strategize and rearrange your schedule to get things back into balance. For example, if you use purple to schedule appointments with your personal trainer and purple hasn’t shown up on your calendar in months, it’s time to make your personal health and wellness a priority again.
When it comes to the important people in your life, communicating your schedule is key. If you know you’ve got a huge project coming up at work and that you’re going to be pretty unavailable for a few weeks, let your friends and family know. If you’re going to be staying late at work a night here or there, give your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse a heads up. The more you can communicate, the less likely to have scheduling conflicts ( i.e. your girlfriend promised her parents you’d pick them up from the airport the same morning you’re supposed to give a huge presentation at work). The same goes for your boss – if you need time off for travel, family visit or other special event, don’t wait until the last minute to bring it up, so he/she can schedule around you.
Don’t Forget Yourself
When work, family and social obligations collide, the first thing to go is your personal time. It may be weeks before you get a chance to open your mail, run to the dry cleaner, or veg on the couch with a book or your favorite trashy reality TV show. This is where that color-coded calendar I mentioned earlier comes in handy. As you’re scheduling all of your obligations, make sure you pick a day (or at least a morning) that you spend entirely on you. It might seem selfish, but in reality, giving yourself time to recharge your batteries will make you far more effective in the other areas of your life.
Just Say No
Here’s the thing about graduating from college and moving forward in your career: there will always be people, projects, appointments and tasks trying to get a slice of your time. So one of the most important things you can do as you become an adult is learn to say no (and not feel guilty about it).