Can I Excel at My Job, Enjoy a Social Life, and Get Enough Sleep?
“Can I excel at my job, enjoy a social life, and get enough sleep?” We’ve all asked ourselves some version of this question, and our answers typically fall somewhere between a self-defeating no and derisive laughter at our own foolishness. There are too few hours in the day; something has to give. Adding to our challenge are the permeable boundaries of an always-on culture, where our work, sleep, and social lives bleed into some indefinable clump of time we call a day.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to excel at your job, enjoy a social life, and get enough sleep. The solution is simple: schedule your time judiciously. In practice…not so simple.
You have 168 hours in a week. Let’s figure out how to use them.
Getting Enough Sleep
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, a working-age adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, meaning sleep will take up roughly 56 hours per week. Ouch. But sleep is important, and we need to do it every day, so it should be the first thing we schedule for.
The best thing you can do to improve your sleep is be consistent. If you need eight hours and have to get up at 7 a.m., then be in bed by 11, and be there at that time every day of the week. A consistent schedule will help your body and mind adapt. Once you adjust, you’ll barely have to think about a sleep schedule. Your circadian rhythm will do it for you.
Wait, we hear you say, aren’t we trying to enjoy a social life, too? An 11 o’clock bedtime may not always work with that. Fair point. You may need a cheat day, but be sure to limit your cheating to once a week (or, better, once every two weeks). You have to make sure you don’t cheat so often you break your new habits.
You have 112 hours remaining.
Excelling At Work
After sleep, work will probably be your most consistent activity. A standard job will occupy 40 more hours of your week, which seems to leave you plenty of time to socialize. But we all know that’s not the case.
Work doesn’t always end at the office door. There may be another email to check, a presentation that needs final touches, a project milestone in danger of missing its deadline. So, we sacrifice our free time to our to-do lists. This is one of the reasons Americans put in more hours than workers in other industrialized nations.
Your scheduling goal should be to excel at work while there and then completely disengage from it. Otherwise, you may sacrifice sleep or socializing to compensate.
If “easier said than done” just ran through your mind, you’re right, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accomplished. Here are some work habits to help you out:
- Prioritize your tasks every day. Schedule the most important first, the second most important next, and so on. If some tasks aren’t complete, they should be the least important and can wait.
- Don’t procrastinate. Just don’t.
- Limit the time you have to perform any task.
- Break large projects into smaller tasks to reduce stress and improve goal management
- Learn to say no to extra projects or scope creep. If no isn’t an option, ensure the new task’s turnaround time gives you time to fit it in.
- Bundle piecemeal projects. For example, don’t try to answer emails when they come in. Set a specific time to tackle them all at once.
Remember to set realistic goals based on your abilities and schedule. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people overestimate their work hours by as much as 10%, and the longer they work, the more they overestimate. Trying to measure up to someone’s overblown legend is self-defeating.
You have 72 hours left to have some fun.
What A Chore
But those 72 hours won’t be exclusively dedicated to fun. There are groceries to buy, a home to clean, a checkbook to balance and—did that chip in the windshield grow into a spider crack? Come on!
Daily errands will devour your remaining 72 hours unless you keep them in check. To do that, don’t let errands arise spontaneously but plan them out. Keep a running grocery list, and do all your shopping on a particular day. Set aside a specific hour to do daily chores and a weekend morning for house cleaning. The unexpected will still happen, but planning for the expected will save you time.
You may also consider outsourcing chores. There are services for everything, from laundry to meal preparation to clothes delivery. Take advantage of them to free up some extra time in your week.
Enjoying Your Social Life
At this point, you have about 12 hours left, two decent-sized evenings to socialize. But your friends have jobs, chores, and sleep requirements to juggle, and their schedules may not be in sync with yours.
You know where this is going, right? Make a plan!
Don’t try to make plans spontaneously; schedule a time to hang out in advance. Having the outing written on a calendar will give it an air of obligation.
And don’t fall into the trap of planning to plan something. At the end of your outing, agree on a date to meet up again. If possible, try to create it a standing date—for example, meeting for drinks the second Tuesday of every month.
They say time is money, but that’s not true. You can always make more money, but you have a limited amount of time per day, per week, per month, per life. Time is far more limited resource, and one can’t earn more of it. Bad habits siphon that resource away, so plan ahead and use your time to its fullest. In return, you’ll excel at work, enjoy a social life, and yes, even get enough sleep.
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