How to Effectively Balance Work and Friends

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It’s an age-old dilemma, and one we’ve all faced—you have work to do, but your friends are all getting together for happy hour in 20 minutes, and they want you to join. It’s almost as if you have an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other, each making a case for what you should do like in those cartoons. Get the job done, or spend time with your friends and finish your task in the morning?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Not to fret, we’re here to help you wade through the murky morass that is a healthy work/life balance, and find some common ground in the age-old battle between work and having a social life. Read on, and get some tips, so the next time half priced wings at the place near your office are calling, you’re prepared with what to do. 

Work Doesn’t Always Come First… Neither do Friends

We’re coming out of the gate swinging because we firmly believe the key to professional success is not working all the time. It’s a great way to burn out and lose track of whatever goal you’ve set your sights on.

You probably already know this, but your brain needs downtime. It’s during downtime that it indexes and processes new information to form new ideas and theories—that’s partly the reason why some of your best ideas occur in the shower because your attention is elsewhere in the moment. In America, however, there’s a mentality from both the worker and sometimes the organization, that the more you work, the more it shows and the farther you go in your career. Which, sure, we entirely are on board with putting your nose to the grindstone to complete an important project, but keeping that pace all the time would lead to a pretty dull lifestyle. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t nurture relationships with people, they tend to fade away. So if you’re always working, you’re not putting your time and attention into maintaining relationships with people who matter in your life.

What this all means is that you shouldn’t automatically put work first if social obligations rear their heads. We love accomplishing all that’s on our to-do lists each day, but if something can be put off until tomorrow for you to have an impromptu hang out with people whose company you enjoy…well, why not go? We don’t recommend you do this consistently, or when you have a pressing deadline looming, but one priority shouldn’t automatically win out over the other. Balance is the key.

Understand the Structure of Your Day

Everyone is different, and we know people whose most productive hours are between 5 and 7 am in the morning (no, seriously, some people are productive during that time.) The point is sometimes it takes a while to get into the groove of the work day, and before you know it, it’s 6 pm, and you’re 15 minutes late meeting a friend for an after-work walk. These things happen, but you can avoid the awkward choice between blowing off work or a friend by getting smart about how you structure your day.

If you’re productive in the morning, schedule the bulk of your workload to occur then, and use the afternoon for meetings, responding to emails, or catch up. If you don’t hit your groove until the afternoon, make that the time you work. If you’re an afternoon type of person, you should probably hold off on planning a lot of things after work, and lean towards scheduling lunch or breakfast sessions during the work week.

The point is, if you can understand the structure of how your day works best for you, you can plan out how you spend your working and personal hours. There doesn’t have to be overlap and awkward decisions with a bit of planning.

Build in Time to Your Schedule for Fun

Here’s the deal: work and fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, we hope that they’re not—but sometimes you have to separate the two in order to get some distance and clarity in both so that you can reset or relax a little bit. If your workload is heavy, and you’re the type to live and die by your calendar, the best advice we can give you is to build in standing dates with friends and loved ones into your life. That can be as easy as a recurring happy hour with friends, or group exercise classes you enjoy with a work out buddy. Not everyone is happy with a flexible schedule in their lives. If you’re the type of person who enjoys knowing where their time is going to be allocated for the day, communicate that to your social circle, and start to get things on the books. That way there’s no stress if an impromptu hangout occurs—if it’s not on your calendar, you don’t have to feel bad about not going.

The key here, if this sounds appealing to you, is to make sure you do schedule in downtime on your calendar. Don’t use your calendar as an excuse to work all the time. That is no way to live!

Well, what do you think? Have an easy tip that can help solve the work/life balance equation? Let us know in the comments below!

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