In my entire adult/professional life I think one of the biggest challenges has been balancing my personal and professional life. I was a salesperson from the beginning of my career and then when I quit I moved to Canada, started my blog and embarked on this double life of employee/new immigrant by day and blogger by night/evening/weekend/when I could. The more time passed the more time I invested in the blog, then Instagram came along, then stories, then now YouTube videos etc etc you get the idea! At some point it was hard to accomplish all the tasks I had in front of me. And so it’s from experience that I can share with you today 5 tips on how to learn to balance your personal life and your professional life.
Advice number 1: learn to say no
This is advice that can be applied to all aspects of your life because knowing how to say no can really help you be happier and in this case it helps you save time. For a long time I was afraid to say no simply because I didn’t want to take the risk of missing out on something. But with time and experience, I learned that I had to say no at the risk of doing things by halves. If you want to be everywhere, you can’t allocate the same energy and the same time to all projects and some will be neglected. Saying no has, in my case, brought a notion of power, strength and control. Instead of saying yes to everything I can select and say no to things that don’t pass the controls: too much time for little return, no room in the schedule, no interest or whatever.
Of course this situation is a luxury situation: we don’t always have the possibility to say no, for various reasons, need of experience, beginning of activity, not enough income. But it can be part of the goals to reach. I remember when people around me used to tell me that they refused projects, it seemed so impossible and unrealistic, “what do you mean they have so much work that they can afford to say no? It was also a piece of advice from my father: “if you don’t feel like it, it’s better to say no, sometimes when you see that things are going to be complicated, you’ll end up spending more time on it than you’ll gain”. We forget, especially at the beginning, that our time is valuable because we have it to spare!
Advice number 2: plan time off
When you love what you do, it’s a bit difficult but I assure you it feels good! As for me, I always try to keep my Friday off except in exceptional cases to have a real 2-day weekend since I work on Sunday. Setting up a rest time in your calendar really helps to frame and ensure that you won’t let your rest time go by the wayside because of one thing or another. The risk of never resting is to lose interest in what was once a passion. Take time to slow down, to rest, to do things without a professional objective just for pleasure. It can be a walk, a dinner at a restaurant with friends, a movie or something else. For years I was busy with the blog on top of my jobs and I had to juggle all that, so being able to do that now is really much more enjoyable and less exhausting.
For several years now I’ve made a rule to myself: I avoid having my phone with me as much as possible if I have company, I’ll take my few pictures or stories discreetly at first and then it goes in the bag! But what helped me to go to the next step was to be in a couple. Almost 2 years ago when we started dating (watch out for the grandmotherly expression I love!) I had just been laid off and my world was completely upside down, I was discovering the autonomous management of schedules, I didn’t have enough projects to have a 35/40 hour week, but at the same time I wanted to do everything, to plan everything, so I found myself spending my life on my computer without ever having the desire to take a break. Because of the fear of time passing, because of the need to do more and more to justify my value. But it was exhausting and counterproductive. Having him by my side taught me to unplug and say to myself: stop, this time is for us. And even today I can say to myself: okay I’ve finished everything I had to do, I don’t need to touch my computer for 2 days, I can enjoy it with him.
Advice number 3: know your deadlines and priorities
This may make you smile because it’s obvious… knowing your deadlines and priorities is essential in your professional life. And yet! It’s something I had a hard time managing, every time I was asked to do something I thought everything was for now. And because everyone has their own definition of urgent, you really have to ask questions and get the details straight. I have managed to organize myself better, not to overload my schedule, to see my agenda and my tasks over the coming weeks rather than day by day. I also use Notion which allows me to get organized, to have a visibility on my projects. It takes a little time to master the tool but it’s worth it. There are many tutorials on Youtube to help you!
A better knowledge of your priorities will also allow you to take full advantage of your time off without the pressure of telling you that this or that is not finished.
Advice number 4: manage people’s expectations
This goes a little bit hand in hand with the previous tip but it is important to note it as well. Communicating around you when people will get feedback, when they can expect delivery of this or that project will free you from multiple follow-ups, misunderstanding in your exchanges and frustration. I remember having several exchanges on this subject in my former job and it’s true that once I started applying these tips … it was much more pleasant since I wasn’t bothered all the time to get news. Being pro-active can only help you balance your professional and personal life. Words from someone who didn’t do it before and does it now haha!
Advice number 5: reward yourself
Let’s finish with a simple advice: make yourself some gifts! Let me explain. When you spend hours, days, weeks with your head in the sand for a project, you have to reward yourself and make yourself happy. I gave the example, in the Youtube video, of the shoes I bought when I found a job quickly when I returned to Toronto in 2017 and the ones I bought when I got my permanent residency. But rewarding yourself can take any form: a little French treat that costs a little more than the price of a regular snack in Toronto, a trip, a party! It doesn’t matter as long as it makes you happy and you feel exceptional and rewarded. Sometimes after a big day just treating myself to one of my favorite cookies (at Craig Cookies), walking around with music is a victory and a reward! Everyone interprets it in their own way.
I hope these tips help you balance your work and personal life better. If you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment or join me on Instagram!