More Living a Life of Weisure - 15 Suggestions to Help You Keep the "L" In Your Leisure-Time
There were some excellent points brought up a few days back in a previous post about "weisure-time," a euphemism coined when we increasingly spend our leisure time engaging in our work. A few people indicated that it would be helpful to have some tips or suggestions as to how, if living a life of weisure was not desirable, to better manage our time so as to avoid it altogether. With that in mind, I’d like to offer 15 helpful suggestions to meet that end.
Before I begin, however, I’d like to point out that for many of us, a life of weisure is what we aspire to. Some of us just love our jobs enough to want to fill every waking moment with our work, regardless of how our friends and family feel about that. And for some of us, we might not have much choice, as our professional circumstances require that we work long after we’ve left the office, or possibly lose our jobs.
But if replacing your free time with business related activities makes you unhappy and you have some ability to change it, which is most often the case, then there are some ways to help lower the prominence of weisure in your life, and it all boils down to time management.
And while I’m no expert on the subject of time management, I do have a couple of things that give me some semblance of credibility in the matter. First off, I was once in college, and spent a great deal of time at least feigning being organized, namely in the interest of passing my classes. I’ve also held a few jobs where I was in charge of a number of administrative issues, so time management was an integral part of my duties. Finally, I’m a parent, and as anyone with children knows, being around kids and getting them where they need to be requires organization for the sake of your very survival. For the record, having children and a family also have a wonderful way of instilling us with perspective and reminding us of why we work in the first place.
But it has to come from us, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we can work towards achieving better balance in our lives, and here are some helpful suggestions to begin that process.
1. Define your role with your employer at the beginning, and then set your schedule accordingly. A life of weisure is usually something we evolve into. Most of us don’t seek out jobs knowing that they will require us to work 60 to 80 hours a week. They generally begin with reasonable working hours, and over time, we gradually build up to it. So set the proper precedents and work hard to maintain them.
2. Keep your job in perspective, and remind yourself why you’re working in the first place. This help you to define your goals at work as well as at home, then establish an acceptable amount of time exclusively for work or play.
3. Be organized (part 1). I realize this is a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how a little organization goes a long way. Set up a schedule and stick to it, letting others know that you won’t give in to exceptions. This also includes keeping your work space tidy. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted searching for something lost in the mess of my desk, not to mention the frustration and aggravation that ensues.. And lists can be your best friend.
4. Keep a journal of your time. History is a great teacher. By knowing how your time was spent in the past, you can gain a much better understanding of how to optimize your time in the future.
5. Learn to delegate. This is a complicated issue, because for some of us (myself included), the insecurity of wanting to know we’re needed turns us into martyrs who refuse to let others do our work, thus giving us the illusion that we are indispensable. In certain instances you may be the best person for the job, but for the most part, work can be shared with good results. If you still feel that only you should do the work, then you’re really not in a position to complain when it was a self imposed circumstance.
6. Learn to say no. One of the hardest things I learned at work was that I had a right to decline a task if it was with good reason. In fact, duties were often prefaced with an inquiry as to whether I had the time to do something. Of course, I foolishly said yes to everything, even when I had the right to say no.
7. Prioritize. Tackle the most important jobs or the hardest ones first. With the heavy hitters out of the way, you can almost find enjoyment in doing the lesser trivial things, almost like a mini vacation (I know, it’s a stretch). Also, group similar tasks together and do them concurrently to maximize efficiency.
8. Break up big jobs, if possible, and finish them over the course of more than one day. Chipping away at the stone helps make big tasks more tolerable. Don’t try to do everything in one fell swoop if possible. Also, breaking things up will often give you a fresh point of view when you return to it, which might ultimately help you do a better job.
9. Communicate. Be on the same page with other important people in your life. This includes your boss as well as your friends and family. We often are incapable of seeing how our lifestyles are affecting us and those around us, though your boss won’t hesitate to let you know. Like any relationship, constant communication will relay to you how your time spent is affecting your professional and personal relationship.
10. Deal effectively with distractions and interruptions. Unless you lock yourself up in your office (assuming you have an office) and unplug the phone, things are going to interrupt the flow of your work. The question is how to deal with them. When possible, take a message or promise to call back, whatever it takes to shorten the duration of the interruption. Also, don’t make yourself too comfortable during a distraction (I read somewhere it’s good stand up during a phone call) and keep the important task at hand in plain sight to remind you to keep it short.
11. Be organized (part 2). Set aside a block of time to return calls or respond to emails. Don’t try to take on everything that crops up, including phone calls, emails, and inquiries. Unless it’s urgent, which it usually is not, tactfully let people know that you will address certain things at certain times, and stand your ground.
12. Give yourself a cushion. Don’t schedule every working minute because things never work out exactly as you plan them. A break in time will give you a margin for error that can compensate for lost time due to complications.
13. Give personal or family time the credit it deserves. That doesn’t mean you have to pencil in time with your spouse in your calendar, but when you set aside personal time, give it the importance that its due. Don’t think of it as time that is easily sacrificed because it’s not as important as your working time. And try to do without cell phones for the few short hours that you spend outside of work. For most of us, there won’t be any negative consequences.
14. Consider compromising time in one place to have more in another. In other words, less time at lunch or in the break room might translate into more time at home (for some people this may not be desirable). This may not guarantee that you can leave work early (in fact, it probably won’t), but it might mean you won’t have to stay later.
15. Defend your own time. Others will feel that their needs are greater than yours. When you multiply that effect over many people, it can simply overwhelm you, and it’s a slippery slope when you start compromising your own time to attend to everyone’s issues. So let them know (again, tactfully) that it’s not okay to interrupt you and don’t accept the preface, “I know you’re busy, but…”
As always, if you have any of your own suggestions or experiences that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you.
In the end, the situation and the need vary from person to person. Only you know your own circumstances, so act accordingly. It’s your life, and the impetus ultimately lies with you to decide whether or not you wish to maintain the “L” in your leisure-time, or replace it with a "W."