Achieving optimal work and life integration is one of the great life challenges we all face. Theoretically, it’s possible……. But can it — will it — ever happen? It can and it takes a lot of planning and up front effort to make it all come together. Here are seven ways you can start out with:

1. Declutter. Minimize your workload by getting organized. Cut down on communication waste — send an IM instead of another email. Organize similar meetings and tasks together so you can focus on one thing at a time. Get your inbox down to zero. Use the Pomodoro method to focus on work, then take brief breaks before refocusing.

2. Ask about telecommuting. For those with a 9-to-5 gig at the office, there might be a chance to telecommute. Even working from home for one day a week can help. For example, it can reduce the stress caused by traffic. Ask!

3. Schedule dedicated time with others (and yourself). Whether you’re in a relationship, married, or have a group of friends, it’s essential you schedule everything. If you schedule an appointment for a haircut, what about an appointment for a date night? This will help decrease the odds you’ll have to cancel. The same concept applies to you. Set aside time to unwind at the spa, run a marathon, catch up on Netflix — whatever you love doing by yourself, give yourself that gift!

4. Plan for vacations. If you’re a freelancer, you know how stressful it can be to take time off work to enjoy life. Taking time far away from work can help rejuvenate your spirits and improve your productivity, allowing you to return to work with more energy. Figure out what it’ll take (in terms of time and money) to take the vacation — or multiple trips — you want. Have a plan for what you’ll do as soon as you return.

5. Wake up earlier. Mornings are a staple of productive types. That doesn’t mean just rolling over and answering emails. Try waking up earlier than usual and spending a set amount of time (as little at 15 minutes or as long as a few hours) doing other things: going for a jog, making breakfast, reading a book that’s not work related, writing your thoughts and commitments for the week in a journal.

6. Get involved in a project outside of work. If your job is wearing you down, think about hobbies, pursuits, and meaningful passions. Look for opportunities to volunteer, ways to expand your education, or find outlets that allow you to express creativity in a non-work setting, like building furniture or taking an improv class.

7. Cut some slack. Those shirts that say “Beyonce has the same 24 hours in a day as you” forget that she has a huge team of experts and professionals helping her! Instead of trying to do it all, be honest with your time, demands, and priorities. Make a list of things that are important to you, like seeing your kid’s ballet recital, and make that moment happen. You might not make every event due to work commitments, by making it a priority to do so, and that will help motivate you.

Even if work seems to overwhelm your life (and your sanity), there is so much value in building in a healthy interaction between time spent at work and time spent living.

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