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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Reclaim your time with these 15 tips for better balance

Finding a balance between work projects and personal pursuits can be challenging, but these practical strategies can help.

Reclaim your time with these 15 tips for better balance
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

When there are a lot of ongoing projects and deadlines to meet at work, it can feel as though you’re never caught up or have time to spare for yourself. However, finding a way to manage your time to have a healthy balance is important for your mental and physical well-being.

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Below, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members offer some practical strategies to help you reclaim and manage your time. They share methods they’ve used to carve time out of their hectic days and how you can use them to achieve that balance for yourself.

1. FIND ‘HACKS’ FOR YOUR PERSONAL WELL-BEING

With so much energy spent on finding productivity hacks for work, I encourage people to focus on other areas in their lives where they can get time back. Well-being is crucial to productivity and balance, and there are many avenues that allow us to take better care of ourselves in less time — from app-based meditations and bite-sized workouts to convenient healthy food and grocery services. – Tom Futch, Freshly

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2. FULLY DEFINE YOUR PROJECT SCOPE

It really does come down to understanding what is being asked for the project. In essence, the brief is the holy grail that holds the clarity around expectations, time, outcomes, and the team. Then trusting the team with a healthy dose of verification and following the brief. This will help you sleep better at night. – Jeff Rutchik, freemanco.com

3. SEPARATE THE IMPORTANT FROM THE URGENT

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What is important and what is urgent are often very different things. Find a way to balance both that allows you to maximize your productivity and also protect your mental health. Whether that means setting boundaries, time blocking, strategic planning or just learning that it’s okay to ask for help, find what works for you and commit to it. – Misty Larkins, Relevance

4. TAKE SHORT BREAKS

Humans are not meant to work nonstop all day, despite what your schedule might suggest. It’s critical to take breaks and prioritize wellness, for your own well-being and the quality of your work. Go for a walk, get some fresh air and take a snack break. Even a short break counts and can make an immense difference. It gives you a chance to pause and prioritize your to-do list with a clear mind. – Ryan Simonetti, Convene

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5. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

Time management and planning are the best way to find work and life balance. It always comes down to planning. Find one day a week to place everything you want to accomplish on your calendar, if it is a priority it goes on the calendar. Then color code it and you will see where your time is going and then will be able to put your effort into the right place to balance out your week. – Eric Brown, Imperio Consulting

6. CREATE A CLEAR CHAIN OF COMMAND

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By creating a clear chain of command, hiring well when it comes to management and being organized and structured on a daily basis, your time should only be infringed upon when there is an emergency. If you’re constantly reclaiming your time, you haven’t set up an infrastructure where it’s respected by others in the first place. – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32

7. LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN AND BODY

Use your natural sprint inclinations. If you’re hot on a project, stay on it. If you need to take a break because you’re mentally done, shut things down. We need to listen to our bodies and when our brains and bodies are in the mood to keep going, we should keep going. Find your asynchronous working style! Engineers have been working this way for years! – Meagan Bowman, STOPWATCH

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8. REFRAME YOUR PRIORITIES

Use reframing to take choose where to allocate your energy. When you find yourself saying, “I do not have the time to do XYZ” replace that with “XYZ is not important for me.” If XYZ happens to be exercising, family time, sleeping seven to eight hours each night or anything else that can compromise your energy, mental well-being and relationships, you can choose more wisely how to control your time. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

9. STOP MULTITASKING

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This might be controversial, I don’t believe in multi-tasking. There have been studies that tout multi-tasking erodes up to 40% of your productivity. That fact, and the feeling that comes with it, makes balance an impossible concept. Giving yourself the room to focus and methodically get through everything on your plate one at a time, ultimately helps you feel less frazzled and more accomplished. – Kathy Leake, Crux Intelligence

10. FOCUS ON HIGH-YIELD TASKS

Focus on $1,000 per hour tasks. Hire and outsource everything else. This can be done with full-time employees or part-time contractors. Those that do it best have also found a balance between hiring onshore and offshore. It may take some time to find the right employees to fill each task and role, but the subsequent time savings will be well worth the effort. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

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11. SET CLEAR PRIORITIES AND SAY ‘NO’ TO EVERYTHING ELSE

I love the book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown as it takes this topic head-on with many examples on how to do this. For me, I prioritize what is most important to get done for the week, quarter, and year. Then I use that information to prioritize my time and energy. Saying “no” to all the good things not on the list is where the challenge lies. – Chad Engelgau, Acxiom

12. LEARN TO IDENTIFY WHEN YOU’RE OUT OF ALIGNMENT

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An important fact: Balance is elusive. We are constantly in a state of moving through our life paths. There is not a space that is going to stay 100% balanced. That is the beauty of life. We are always growing, learning, and experiencing. The key is knowing when you are out of alignment from your area of expertise where you find joy. Routine journaling is a way to help alignment and balance. – Leigh Burgess, Bold Industries Group, Inc.

13. TRIAGE YOUR PROJECTS

Clarity is key. By triaging what projects you need to get done, being clear on what’s important is the focus. Determine what needs your attention; if it isn’t obvious, dive deeper to find out what is most important from a time management perspective. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training

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14. SELECT JUST THREE TASKS TO BE DONE EACH DAY

I believe in order to attack your to-do list and stay on track with deadlines, it is vital to identify three, and only three, tasks that need to be done today. Even if you are working on a larger project, break it down into manageable bites that can be completed in a single day. Not only will you be closer to your final goal, but your mental health will benefit from the structure and organization. – Ashley Sharp, Dwell with Dignity

15. BLOCK OUT YOUR CALENDAR

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I find that blocking time on my calendar drives the right behavior for me and others. If you appear to be available all of the time, people will assume that you are. I am also flexible with other parts of my day so I am able to provide options. For example, I attend my son’s sports events after work, but I am willing to take an early morning call instead. – Paola Doebel, Ensono

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