As a work/life wellness expert, I’ve noticed that, whether I am working with Fortune 500 executives or pre-school teachers, the problems people face are generally the same: We feel stuck, guilty or reactive, mostly because we have no plan for how to achieve a fulfilling lifestyle.
We tend to forget that a satisfying life includes many facets—work, family, friends, health, community and hobbies. Think of each of these categories as an individual slice of your life, and together they make a whole pie. When you remove a slice, your life won’t feel complete.
Can you fit all of these slices in so that you can live a life you love? Yes. Here’s how.
1. Set boundaries at work
Stop waiting for your company to give you permission to leave in time to get home for dinner. Instead, realize that it is your job to set limits at work. Operate as though you live by a train schedule, and leave at the same time every day. Make it clear that you will always stay late if there’s an emergency but that, on typical days, you’ll leave at a specific time. You’d be surprised by how quickly people adjust to it—and that they respect your schedule.
2. Stop expecting your life to look a certain way
You might picture an ideal work-life balance having a certain structure to it, like going to the gym before work, logging a certain number of hours at the office and then focusing on your relationships after work. But all of the different parts of your life can’t and won’t fit into a perfect formula. Once you accept that, you’ll be able to stop beating yourself up for the imperfect way in which the different elements of a fulfilling life inevitably come together.
3. Build your community
Whether it is your church or synagogue or your book club or your neighbors, think about what your community looks like and spend some time strengthening it. Don’t wait for a crisis to hit to realize you don’t have one.
4. Have at least one night out per week
Like a car needs gas, you need to fill up your own tank. Nobody can run on empty. Make sure you plan at least one night our per week with friends or a date. When we get out of our home environment, it rejuvenates us. You won’t see the same effect if you’re eating dinner next to the stack of bills on your kitchen counter or if your movie is interrupted by a crying baby.
5. Create goals
Make goals for each slice of your life, and as you achieve those goals, make new ones. If your goal is to get more sleep by going to bed by 11 p.m. each night, you can support that by choosing the earlier dinner reservation. If your goal is to start working on your business idea on the weekends, identifying that will help you know to factor it into your schedule. When you know where you’re heading, you can make decisions more quickly and more easily. Just ask yourself, “Is this in line with my goals?” The right choice should be clear.
6. Look for opportunities to learn more
Never let your skillset get stale at work or at play. In a rut at work? Inquire about transitioning to a new part of the business or helping out a new department. Feeling stalled in your relationship? Learn something new together. Sick of your gym routine? Try a new workout. Learning invigorates your mind and your body.
7. Minimize your commute
One of the easiest ways to create more time in your life is to limit the time you spend commuting each day. Do your best to keep your work and your home (and, if you have kids, their school) within close proximity to each other. Try to complete all of your errands between these three points; I call it the Golden Triangle. There’s a great hair stylist and doctor a whole lot closer to you than you think. Find them!
Samantha Ettus is a work/life wellness expert who reaches women through her corporate speeches and her nationally syndicated radio show. Her next book, The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction, will be released in September 2016.