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Michelle Hainer

Michelle Hainer

June 29, 2015

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How to Get a Life

In the course of a day, I run into friends from different circles—from Wall Street types to creative freelancers and entrepreneurs. No matter what they do for a living, when I ask how they are, their response is always the same—“Busy!”

There’s nothing wrong with a full schedule—so long as your to-do list hasn’t gotten you so stressed that you’ve forgotten how to have a life. Unfortunately, that’s the sad truth for more than a quarter of the American workforce, who say that they’re burned-out from being too busy, according to a recent study done by the Families and Work Institute.

It’s not surprising. Now that technology has made it possible for us to be on call 24/7, it’s hard not to multitask whenever possible. But consider this: If you are constantly doing five things at once, aren’t getting enough sleep, and can’t remember the last time you did something just for fun, how good do you think the quality of your work really is? In order to get ahead on the job, you have to stop leaving yourself behind. And you can do so without looking like a total slacker. Step one: Move away from your desk. Then try these tips.

Make yourself a cheat sheet. Clear your mind of all of your looming tasks by jotting them down before you leave the office. But don’t take the list with you. Whatever is on it can wait until the next morning—when you’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle it.

Limit the after-work events. With all of the happy hours, launch parties, and client schmoozefests, work can take up not just your days, but your nights, too. Whenever possible, say yes to just two after-hours functions per week. While it can be hard to turn down the free food and booze, your mind—not to mention your waistline—will thank you.

Get a hobby. Okay, it may sound corny, but finding something you really like to do outside of the office will make you much more engaged in all other aspects of your life. Join a wine-tasting group, take a fiction writing class, or learn to knit. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a talent you never knew you had.

Take yourself off the clock. It can be hard to turn work off, especially if you have a boss who expects you to answer her e-mails within 10 minutes of her sending them—even the ones she fires off at 3 a.m. But in an act of self-preservation, try turning the iPhone off when you leave work at least twice a week. Use that time to do something that’s just for you. Go to the gym, get a manicure/pedicure, eat a meal that doesn’t come out of a vending machine. If you’ve had a relaxing evening, getting out of bed the next morning might almost be bearable. Almost.