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Get Into This: National Take Back Your Time Day

Avoid long-term damage by prioritizing what's important: happiness and balance

(Image: Thinkstock)

It’s true: Some organizations come up with national awareness days that make many raise an eyebrow or chuckle, but this one is actually on to something. Today is National Take Back Your Time Day to support an initiative that fights against overworking, burnout and other work-related efforts that can negatively affect your health, family and social lives. Organizations across the nation are hosting events to build awareness and insight on the importance of balancing work and play, and how not putting happiness at the forefront can cause long-term problems.

I’ve been guilty. When I’m focused and really into a project or goal, I will go extra hard— sometimes working through lunch and/or dinner— without realizing how it affects other important aspects of my life until one day burnout shows its ugly face in the form of a not-so-nice Janell with one —or 10—too many pounds added on.

So, today, let’s all take our time back! Here are three quick ways I’ve challenged myself to do so:

Use tech and Web tools to kill two (thousand) birds with one stone. Tools are there to help, and many are free so why not use them? I’d love to add minutes to my day, and many help with scheduling, banking, filing, Tweeting … the list goes on and on. I encourage anyone reading this to research apps, free Web resources and other affordable tools that take some tasks off your plate, freeing you up for more important tasks or better yet, more leisure time.

Duh… stop wasting or misusing time. Workplace distractions, from the chatty coworker to too many meetings, should be minimized or eliminated. For me, reading and answering hundreds of emails first thing in the morning leads to a major lag in getting other more immediate things done. With Outlook, the email alerts pop up, distracting me from my writing and editing flow, so I stopped that. Also, I’m quite chatty and love to talk current events and funny NYC quirks of the day, but there’s a time and place for that. Focus is key. For you, maybe the hour-long daily meeting could be chopped up into 20-minute, tri-weekly meetings. Find ways to get rid of any extra elements that may hinder you from leaving the office on time.

Set healthy time boundaries and stick to your guns. Sure, you have to perform well at work to pay the bills, but sometimes, that drive and motivation can go overboard. I used to just let people turn in things a little late or give people a pass and take on work that I wasn’t obligated to do. I’d also agree to meetings and work-related events that maybe I shoudn’t have agreed to, simply because I had an issue with telling people no. That not only added extra stress and work to my plate, but my social life took a hit. Now, I always remind myself to do what I’m responsible for doing, be discerning about taking on other people’s responsibilities and treat my time like a valuable commodity. If you need more time with family, try having a meeting with your supervisor to discuss flex time, adjusted hours or redistribution of work. If you want to get fit, try adding a 30-minute workout to your calendar just like you would an important power meeting. Take that 20-minute walk or hour lunch to decompress. Learn how to set up your day so that you’ll have time for actually living.

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