How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

I’ve always had a lot of things going on in my life and I’ve learned to become a work-life balancing master. In high school, I took a full course load, took college credits, volunteered, and worked full-time. In college (both undergraduate and graduate school), I took a full course load (read about how I graduated…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 1, 2018

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I’ve always had a lot of things going on in my life and I’ve learned to become a work-life balancing master.

In high school, I took a full course load, took college credits, volunteered, and worked full-time.

In college (both undergraduate and graduate school), I took a full course load (read about how I graduated in 2.5 years with two undergraduate degrees), volunteered, lived on my own (I moved out a few days after I turned 18 and later bought a house at the age of 20), and worked full-time.

In graduate school I did all of the above plus I started my current business.

Because of my past, I often receive questions about how I’m able to do it all. Some like to tell me that I must have no social life, I’m all about working, or ridiculous reasons for why my life must suck.

However, I am able to do it all because I have improved my life balancing skills and I know how to manage tasks efficiently and effectively. Yes, it IS possible to balance work and life.

 

There might be pain in the beginning when trying to balance work and life.

Okay, I won’t lie. In the beginning stages, there was definitely a lot of pain.

Managing everything all at the same time was tough, but it takes time to improve your work-life balancing skills.

There were countless days where I only received three or four hours of sleep. Actually, that happened for a few years. In the beginning stages, I was absolutely horrible at managing my life and work. I would procrastinate, forget what I was even supposed to do, engage in time sucks, and more.

However, I am much better at managing everything now, and all of my hard work paid off. If you have a major goal you want to reach, then balancing many areas of your life all at once may be needed.

Below is what I did and currently still do to make everything work and flow smoothly:

 

I have a schedule and to-do list to help with work-life balance.

I don’t know where I would be without my schedule and to-do list. I have a fairly bad memory, and I forget things almost immediately. Without my to-do list, I would be completely lost and I would spend way too much time trying to remember what I’m supposed to do.

My to-do list and schedule keeps me on track, and it also keeps me motivated. I also enjoy crossing items off my to-do list because I am a huge nerd.

 

I make sure the timing for everything works out perfectly.

When I was in college, I always made sure that the timing for all of my classes worked perfectly with my work schedule. This required some research and planning, but it was well worth it in the end.

I made sure all the classes I took ran together well. This meant no wasted time in-between classes, and just enough time for me to work my normal 8-5 job so that I could start my 5:30 p.m. classes without any wasted time after work as well.

You would be surprised if you stopped to think about how much time people waste. I know people who sign up for college classes and just take whatever they think they need without thinking about their schedule. This might mean having hour or longer breaks each day between each of their classes. I also know people who take a class, go to work, and then come back for another class (wasted driving time), and more.

I’m not in college anymore, but I do still make sure everything is timed perfectly. I guess it’s a habit of mine that will never die.

 

Don’t try to multi-task everything.

Some people are good at multi-tasking, whereas most are not. There is proof out there that multi-tasking can actually result in you wasting time. This is because it takes time to get yourself ready every time you stop and start a task.

I recently read something that said whenever you start and stop a task, you are wasting at least 25 minutes. That adds up over time!

Instead, choose a task and stick to it for a certain amount of time. Don’t try to do work, while talking on the phone, while watching TV, while doing dishes, while also Facebook stalking in the background all at the same exact time.

 

I outsource certain tasks.

Even though there are several tasks I COULD do, I outsource them. I have multiple websites, and I have staff writers and virtual assistants for a few of them.

This could also apply to household tasks. This may sound silly, but I am guilty of procrastinating by cleaning occasionally. I hate cleaning, so that really says something. If you don’t have the time to do certain household tasks, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning your home, etc., then you may want to see if there is any value in hiring out some of these tasks.

You need to place a value on tasks and see if your time is better spent elsewhere.

 

I have a specific order for completing tasks.

For me, I like to order the tasks I have to do. I like to do more complicated or urgent tasks first so that I can clear my schedule and the rest of my day or week can be a little bit more carefree.

Others like to do the easier or quicker tasks first so their to-do list isn’t as long. Some days I do that as well. There is no right or wrong way of arranging your tasks.

 

Eliminate time sucks.

There are so many time sucks out there. I am guilty of wasting time, but I am improving.

Some time sucks you may want to eliminate or cut back in include:

  • Social media. Pretty much everyone is guilty of spending too much time on Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Twitter.
  • TV. Now that I work from home, I definitely watch a little too much TV. If you are guilty of this, you might want to eliminate some  channels (maybe completely get rid of cable and switch to Netflix?), or completely get rid of your TV.

 

Are you a work-life balancing master? Why or why not?

 

 


Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. This sounds pretty similar to our strategies. One thing we’ve also found useful is to get up early. Even though we don’t need to leave for work until 8:30, we get up at 6 every morning and put 1.5-2 hours into blogging.

    We’re doing this because a couple of months ago we noticed that our creativity was waning at the end of the work day. We’d sit down to do some blog work at 8pm and stare at each other like zombies!

    By prioritizing our personal project in the morning it means we can give it our full creative energy. It also means that in essence we’re trading an hour of zoned-out exhausted TV watching in the evening for an hour of super productive early morning action. We just go to bed earlier. Works for us!

    1. Yes! I used to do the same when I had my day job. It worked very well, which is funny because I’m not usually a morning person but I always loved working on my blog that early.

  2. Whenever I work, I make sure that facebook and twitter are off bec. I couldn’t finish the job when I hear some sound coming from direct message. TV is also not fine with me, but music helps me relax my mind and get that boredom away so I can finish my job completely.

    1. I can’t listen to music when I’m working. I start singing and dancing! haha

  3. Amy

    I’m far from the “master” level of work-life balance! I actually think I could never work from home, because I would (a) gain 15lbs from all the snacking I’d do, (b) turn on the TV just to “check” the news every hour, and (c) get very little actual work done. I admire your discipline!

    However, I’ve begun keeping the TV off and closing the Facebook tab when I’m blogging, and have noticed that it makes a huge difference with my focus.

    1. I thought I was going to gain a lot of weight from working at home as well. But I didn’t! That’s mainly because I have really limited the amount of snack items in my home ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. You’re a well oiled machine, Michelle! Really great suggestions, I can totally see how you’re able to get so much done. I believe it’s so important to emphasize efficient and effective work hours…you can “work” for 8 hours and not have a lot to show for it OR you could bunk down for half that and really get stuff done. That’s what I like to do and it allows me to spend my extra time doing things I actually WANT to do!

    1. Thank you Charlotte!

  5. This is definitely a challenge for me. I’m trying to figure out now the point at which I can afford to outsource vs. the point at which I can’t afford not to.

    1. I still have a challenge with this as well. I could outsource more but it is hard to.

  6. Whooo! I’m thrilled about this post! I’m doing everything you are! And you’re rocking life so I must be close to rocking life as well. Maybe there’s a tipping point? LOL but regardless, I’m happy that what I’m doing can make me as productive as you are. Maybe I just need to cross a bit more of my list each day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Thank you Mackenzie!

  8. You sound a lot like me – I was overly involved in HS and college and even now too. Finding balance is a must and like you my to-do list(s) and schedule really help keep me on task and on track to get everything done. I still make time for my friends and family and occasionally for a relaxing day by myself. I’m planning a post kinda about this type of thing too. We seem to always be on the same page with post ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Great minds think alike ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I’m so glad you shared your personal experience on this topic! Have you read Lean In? It’s great re women’s issues and work / life balance topics. For me, I really like not multi-tasking. I get so much more done by focusing on one task at a time.

    1. I haven’t read Lean In yet, but I need to!

      Yes, multi-tasking doesn’t really work for me either. Many people can’t do it and it just leads to a ton of wasted time.

  10. i love having to do lists, then at the same time i dont do everything. i refuse to do some stuff. this way i am always on top of things

  11. kammi

    The scheduling thing is HUGE. I couldn’t get as much done if I didn’t schedule a LOT of my stuff, and I am BUSY all the time (as in, I expect max five hours of sleep every day on ‘normal’ days). I’ve always been that way and I get cranky if I start getting too much sleep (unless I”m sick with the flu, etc). Also, being goal oriented. I come from a generation of early risers and I find that I get a LOT done that way. Also, when you plan ahead (like making meals in advance; my mother would be done with cooking lunch some days by 7 in the morning!) you find you have more time throughout the day. I like feeling like I get a lot done; I only watch about two hours max of television for the week (that would be Jeopardy, which I’m addicted to), but I don’t mind if I get less on some days if I”m doing something. Weekends are also an opportunity for me to get caught up on work, or plan ahead so that I don’t have to think about certain things during the week. I also don’t own a smart phone or any of that stuff and I still hoard my reading time so making the most out of my spare time is a big deal to me.

    1. Cooking ahead really helps. For lunch each day, Wes and I usually eat chicken, vegetables, and brown rice, and I can precook all of that for the week which is a lifesaver!

  12. It sounds like you’ve got it figured out ๐Ÿ™‚ at work I have lots of lists of all the things I need to do otherwise I would forget them! I am guilty of wasting time on social media and watching rubbish on the tv – especially if I’m tired and it’s been a long day. I could get more done if I was more efficient, but I’m working on it!

    1. Yes, it is hard. Right now I want to turn on the TV because I haven’t watched any TV in daaaayyys. I just moved the remote further away so that I wouldn’t be tempted LOL

  13. I think you’re secretly a ninja, Michelle! =) Using my time effectively has been a bit of a struggle. I used to think being able to multi-task was great until I read those studies! Prioritizing, making a list, following it, and focusing on one thing at a time is a good method. I like crossing things off, too!

    1. Haha I wish I was a ninja! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I’m not a work/life balance master…yet. I have gotten much better within the last year. I have always had a to do list. I started watching less TV and procrastinating less. I just need to work on the social media aspect. I currently have twitter open in a tab as I type this smh.

    1. Haha I hope you become a master soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. These are great tips regardless of your goals. I know I have always done my best to schedule everything back-to-back-to-back, but a lot of people lose so much time in between events!

    Emily
    Life of Emily

  16. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver

    I am trying to get better at balancing work/life! Since starting the blog, I actually have had a great reason to manage my time better, and now I schedule things out so that, like you, no time is wasted. I leave a little time here and there to account for social media sucks, but I try to balance those time sucks with a little blog promotion, so it doesn’t feel like a total waste ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Great tips! I like to knockout tasks in groups–meal planning for the month instead of the week, picking outfits for the week in lieu of just the next day. I also forgive myself if I don’t 100% follow my well laid plans. Be organized and flexible!

    1. Sounds like you have a great method. Good job Alisa!

  18. Kristina MaComb

    I’m in the same boat with procrastinating and forgetting. I remember something clears as day one second and struggle to remember the next. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Yeah, I hate whenever I forget things. I ALWAYS have to write it down. Saves so much time.

  19. Thankfully, I’ve never really gotten sucked into Youtube. I can’t even imagine how much time I would waste!

  20. I am still getting better at multi-tasking. I like to think that I am getting better at it. Its a thing that the women in my family have def. had to master with their careers and families. I did once hear that multi-tasking makes you do a bad job on whatever you are working on since it draws attention away from the actual task.

  21. I am always working on eliminating time sucks! I just get drawn into conversation with people all day somehow, which is really weird since I work alone!

    1. Haha I enjoy talking to you so don’t eliminate me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Addison @ Cashville Skyline

    Your level of productivity is definitely inspiring, Michelle! I suffer from a few of the time sucks that you’ve mentioned, but I’ve also found that I only have so many productive hours in every day. For example, I’m far more productive in the morning than in the evening. I always had a hard time working past 7 at my old job, but I loved waking up early and knocking things out before work. Kudos to you for finding the right balance! Fantastic to meet you at FinCon, by the way!

    1. Thank you! It was great meeting you and hanging out with you as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Wow you definitely had a busy life too. Good job!

  24. Yeah, wasting time just makes me mad! I have no patience either haha.

  25. Ha I’m sure children will impact my schedule. But that’s why I’m doing all of this, so that one day hopefully my income will be more passive and a schedule won’t matter as much.

  26. I’m not a master yet, but I’m working on it. I also LOVE to stay really busy, and I adore to-do lists and schedules. In fact, I don’t want just a simple to-do list, I’m making a whole huge organizational binder of tasks for my new blog I just launched, lol. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s getting better. Thanks for making me feel like less of a nerd ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Wow an organizational binder is a great idea!

      1. So it’s not TOO nerdy then? lol. It has my calendar, daily tasks lists broken down by time of day (in the morning I link-up, in the afternoon I reply to comments, in the evenings I write new posts etc), weekly task lists, post idea lists… All stuff that probably should be organized online, but I prefer paper so my brain gets at least a LITTLE time away from the screen! Still creating it, but it is so helpful already.

        1. I think it’s a great idea. I wish I was as organized as you!

          1. I thought you were the work-life balancing master?? lol. Don’t be jealous of me though–You’re the one with the highly successful websites. I’ve just got a pretty binder ๐Ÿ™‚ And getting off of FB on paper sure isn’t the same as getting of FB for real!

            1. Haha I am not the organization master though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Veronica Lee

    Other than pooping and reading at the same time, I’m not much of a multi-tasker! LOL! I get distracted too easily and always end up doing something else that isn’t my main priority.