Parenting and lifestyle blog LifeByVal. Pinterest image of woman sitting on swing.

How to Achieve Your Best Work-Life Balance

Work-Life balance is something almost every working mom dreams about. We work hard to help provide for our little ones, but we also work hard so we can afford to spend time with them as well. 

The biggest regret many people have in their old age is not having spent enough time with their families. And I am determined not to be one of those people.

Here is some advice on how I found my work-life balance, and how you can too.

Re-defining Values

Before having kids, my ultimate defining value was being an awesome employee. Sure I loved being the dependable, loveable, funny family member and friend, but I was most motivated by recognition on some professional level.

I worked through nights and weekends. I always took on way too much because I wanted to be better, faster, and brighter than anyone else. Doing this all made me feel important. Maybe some of you can relate to this.

Then, I fell in love, got married, and became a mother. And suddenly, everything was different.

Before, I had thought that the money I made was enough to keep my family happy. I figured that even though I would not always be around, at least my kids would have their dad or another family member to spend valuable time with.

I didn’t think I would be missed, even though I figured I would always miss them very much. Still, my need to provide outweighed my need to be present.

But after having kids, my values completely changed. No longer was I certain that working endless hours was the way I wanted to live my life.

After struggling to accept the changes in my value system for a few years, I slowly started to work towards aligning my schedule with these values.

Although I recognize that being able to  meet the needs of your child is necessary, I equally came to believe that spending time with them is also one of those needs. Just as certain as they need food and shelter, they equally need to have quality time with the family unit as a whole.

After struggling to accept the changes in my value system for a few years, I slowly started to work towards aligning my schedule with these values.

Over the last 5 years, I have quit three very time-demanding or travel-intensive jobs in search of something that was much more flexible. This flexibility came with some tradeoff in certain areas, such as traditional career progression or employer benefits. But having my own business has fulfilled some of the void and settled most of my anxiety about these “issues”.

Surprisingly, even with work stress relieved, I still ended many days frustrated about not feeling like I had effectively connected with my family. There was something in my work-life balance formula that was missing.

But finally, with some soul-searching, therapy, and self-development, I have found the secret to this balance as it means to me and my family.

A secret trifecta is most important for you to create a life that you want for yourself and your family:

  • Setting Value-Based Priorities
  • Priority-Driven Time Management
  • Effective Use of Time Management Tools & Resources

Let me tell you a bit more about how it all comes together for me, and if done right, can do the same for you. And at the end, I will list some additional resources that helped bring a bit more clarity into my world.

Setting Value-Based Priorities

Parenting and lifestyle blog LifeByVal. Image: Clock on book by rose.
Photo by Myriam Fotos on Pixabay

For years my priorities were career-driven. Having a career satisfied a personal sense of pride about myself and my contribution to society. But most importantly, it helped me do what I needed the most—begin preparing for my future kids.

After having my son, I experienced an identity shift I had not anticipated. Experiencing this shift in the midst of postpartum depression created a ton of confusion and insecurities.

It would take a few years before I embraced the shift in my identity that was most true to myself—and that was a shift from independent career woman to working mom.

For you to live the life you want, you have to know what is truly most important to you, in its exact order.

During this transition, I was perpetually unhappy with my schedule. I had a hard time giving up my workaholic attitude and would simultaneously beat myself up for not spending enough time with my family. It was an inner battle that I couldn’t win without acknowledging changes in my personal identity and adjusting accordingly.

Between my therapist and the help of self-development gurus, I realized the need to re-define my priorities in a way that felt right for me. When I did that—accept that my top priority was being present with my family—the many pieces of the puzzle of my life fell into place perfectly.

For you to live the life you want, you have to know what is truly most important to you, in its exact order. For me, it is quality time with family and friends, a healthy working life, and time for just myself. It may look like I am putting myself last, but in reality, the first two priorities feed into what I need to be happy. They serve to bring me joy.

So first, define your top 3 priorities. Then put them in the order that feels perfectly right to you. And acknowledge that sometimes one priority may be higher because it feeds into another one. 

And if you are having a hard time setting your priorities, think about it this way: when you are unhappy, what is the main thing contributing to all those sad thoughts and feelings. For me, I was most unhappy when the day ended with me not seeing my boys and husband enough. That showed me where true happiness and balance would lie for me.

Figure out what is most important to you, and then move on to the next step. 

Priority-Driven Time Management

After figuring out your priorities in their exact order, you then need to determine how to schedule your time for each priority.

Because I work full-time, I know there are a certain number of hours that I will be away from my family. That meant I had to carefully juggle all other awake times.

Now, I know I love spending time with my family between 6 and 8:30 PM. And that’s mostly uninterrupted time where I don’t work on my part-time business, or blog, or anything else. Maybe I may have to clean up behind them a bit or finish making a meal that took a little longer than plan, but I try to keep those interruptions very short. 

I also go to sleep when my family is going to sleep, rather than working until 10 or 10:30 PM. Instead, I work on my business and blogging from 4:30 to 6 AM, and then roll into getting my kids ready to head out.

Try to create a schedule best aligned with your own priorities. If it feels right, then you are on the right path. 

On the weekends, I have stopped working on Saturday (outside doing short bursts of chores like laundry and cleaning). And on Sunday, I work from 4-8 AM on my business and blogging. The rest of the day is focused family time. 

Those periods also include a total of 2 to 4 hours available for time alone with my husband or out with friends, although outings happen about once every other month.

This schedule is working for me because I first identified the non-negotiable periods (full-time job and concurrent school hours) and then blocked off my number 1 priority—preferred family time that worked for us the best.

It was then time to firmly blocked off periods for the second priority—my career life. After this, I loosely interspersed for me to do things I like (sketching, meditating, or listening to music, books, or podcasts, etc.). I could firmly block of this time, but right now my top two priorities feed into my third, so this schedule works for me.

Try to create a schedule best aligned with your own priorities. If it feels right, then you are on the right path. 

It may take a couple of tweaks to get it just right, but that is okay. Adjust your schedule where you think it should change and see how it works for a week.

Soon you will hit your perfect sweet spot and it will all be worth it.

Effective Use of Time-Management Tools & Resources

After figuring out your value-based priorities and aligning your schedule to those priorities, the last piece of the equation is to effectively execute your schedule. It would make no sense to complete the first two steps without making sure that you are living your life in line with them.

You need to learn how to become a fervent and diligent protector of your time against unnecessary interruptions from others…and yourself.

This also means learning how to adjust without resentment for necessary interruptions, like dealing with unexpected kid-related messes or actual work emergencies.

To help me stay on schedule, here’s what I did. 

How to Effectively Use Calendar Applications

Compartmentalizing events in an organized way that works for you is an effective first step in controlling your schedule. To do this, I use two calendar applications (apps): Gmail (to manage 3 calendars) and my full-time Outlook calendar.

I manage four distinct calendars.

  • Personal Calendar – a Gmail calendar for tracking events that require my physical absence from work (like medical appointments and school meetings
  • Boss Lady Calendar – a Gmail calendar in my government name for business-related events (like scheduled work blocks) and personal events (brunch with friends)
  • Family Calendar – another Gmail calendar to track recurring extracurricular activities for my kids, house chores work blocks, and planned family events
  • Full-time Job Calendar – an Outlook calendar used to track all events related to my full-time job (meetings, trainings, field activities, etc.)

Having separate calendars are handy for a few reasons. For one, you can share a specific one without including unnecessary information. For example, I feel comfortable syncing my Personal Calendar with my Full-Time Job calendar, especially since I often look at these with my boss and colleagues. I definitely wouldn’t want my Boss Lady calendar events to be viewed alongside my Outlook one.

It is also helpful to view only one type of calendar at a time, without the distractions of the events in the others. This reduces the feeling of overwhelm and can help you remain focused on your specific block of time—you don’t need to worry about that training you have tomorrow (which you have already prepared for) while double-checking your family night calendar plans.

It may seem like a lot if you are accustomed to managing only one calendar at a time, but I promise you the learning curve is very brief.

Adding information to a specific calendar is as simple as one additional click when creating a new event but most of the time. Plus, if you schedule and stick to your planned time blocks, then typically you will only need to add items to your work calendar during full-time work hours, and then to your Google calendars all other times.

Another helpful feature is the use of a calendar widget (if you use a smart phone). Using the phone’s calendar widget to display events from both my Full-Time Job and Personal calendars helps me to stay on track during full-time job hours.

And then I refer to my other event calendars using the Gmail widget during all other hours. (I have separate screens on my phone for full-time job life versus part-time business and family life, and will talk about that more in a future post.) This way, I can focus on my scheduled block of time without agonizing over events from other areas of my life.

How to Make Notification Settings Work for You

Photo by Cristian Dina from Pexels

After reading the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, I followed Nir’s suggestions regarding the notification settings on all my devices. (There were other important takeaways that helped me on this journey, so I highly recommend this book).

I turned off all notifications on my phone except for my work email, messages, phone calls, voicemail, clock, and anti-virus app. For my work email, I only allow notifications for emails from people on my favorites list—which actually only includes my boss and one key co-worker.

For text messages, like with email, only those notifications from specific people are allowed. And since most of my socializing takes place on other chat apps, text messaging has become mainly an “only in case of an emergency” option for those trying to reach me.

Notification settings are adjusted similarly on every single piece of technology I own, from laptops to watches.

Taking control of your notifications means taking back control of your schedule. I no longer let my schedule be ruled by the unrelentless pings of various apps, so staying on track has become much easier.

Use Voicemail-to-Text Transcription Services to Save Time

A good friend of mine told me about voicemail-to-text transcription services years ago, but I never thought about it much until I was absolutely desperate. I began dealing with distracting phone calls from persistent individuals that have the phone etiquette of a pre-voicemail era (re: call consistently without leaving messages). Plus, many companies still leave voice messages.

It became a chore to stop and listen to an entire message to figure out what someone needed. Most of time, it was absolutely something that could have waited.

In comes YouMail.

The app greets each person by the name that shows up in my internal phonebook or by the incoming call ID. Unexpectedly, this feature has apparently shocked others into getting that I was actually unavailable, and reduced random calls from one particular person a bit.

YouMail then captures a recording of your caller’s message and translates it to text. Then at scheduled moments, you can quickly scan to determine if someone really needs your attention right away, or not.

This has saved me tons of time (and my sanity).

How to Effectively Organize Long-term Tasks, Daily Lists, and Projects using Trello

I discovered Trello after an invitation to join a team on it to review an important grant. Immediately, I was hooked.

Trello allows you to create what they call a “board” with tiled lists that you create specific cards for. And each card can have an internal checklist, detailed notes, deadlines, and other useful features.

For the board referenced during the workday, I have To-Do, Doing, and Done lists (as recommended), as well as a Home Repairs list (which is temporary until the home repairs are finished). I also have a separate board for my business with a Weekly Marketing Activities List, and a separate list for each professional development course (with due dates to ensure completion of each card on a list by a specific date).

Trello is a great way to organize your life when you have multiple projects to track (like a full-time job, family life, and business). I refer to my business board during times blocked off on my calendar for my business, and my general board during my full-time job hours.

I can rest easy knowing that everything that I need to do can be found by referencing Trello and my calendar widgets on my phone.

How to Effectively Manage a Minimalist Bullet Journal System

I fell into the Bullet Journal (or Bujo) hype a few years ago. At first I spent hours creating calendars and time-trackers by hand, considering designs for my book, strategizing organization. Until I realized I could no longer maintain that level of dedication without burning myself out.

Instead, you should try using a bare skeleton version of a Bujo.

For me, all of my long-term, repetitive, and daily task considerations are on Trello. So each day, I identify 2-3 main priorities from Trello to accomplish for my full-time job, and then another 2-3 for my everything else (family, business, and social life). I write those priorities down in my Bujo by creating a brief title of 3 words or less for each one—in other words, a very short version of a daily log.

I also use my Bujo to take notes for meetings, jot down notes for my blog or marketing plan, practice random sketches, and general journaling. It is not as beautiful as it used to be, but it is super functional.

I am keeping track of pages using a Table of Contents page at the beginning for finding information I may need to refer back to, but I no longer create future and monthly logs.

But this minimalist version perfectly complements my schedule tracking system—using Google Calendar as a broad view of daily events, Trello as a project task list, and my Bujo for daily priorities and note-taking. 

Life can seem pretty overwhelming when you have a lot going on, especially if you are trying to randomly complete tasks while working on multiple projects.

It is extra frustrating that it takes so much time to re-focus when switching back and forth between too many items. And with an unstructured day, unexpected interruptions undoubtly creates anxiety from feeling disorganized and inefficient.

All of this contributes to disrupting your work-life balance (which has traditionally one of my biggest struggles as a mom), creating personal unhappiness and even friction in the family setting. Rather than remain unhappy, disgruntled, and disconnected, make finding your personal work-life balance sweet spot an important goal for you and your family.

Additional resources for creating your best work-life balance are:

You can use these resources to help you create blocks of time that work with your priorities and goals. Determine your value-based priorities, create a block schedule driven mainly by those values, and use tools and other resources to help you keep on schedule. Using this secret trifecta will go a long way tin helping you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

What about you? Are you going to be using any of these tips? Or do you have some of your own to share?

Comment below and let’s discuss!

5 thoughts on “How to Achieve Your Best Work-Life Balance

  1. […] Being intentional with spending quality time with the family on a consistent and frequent basis is important for both you and your kids. Family time has time and again contributed to the positive development of children both mentally and physically. If you need some guidance on creating space for quality time in your schedule, I have a post that can help you achieve your best work-life balance. […]


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