When we talk about work-life balance, we’re usually thinking pretty literally. After all, every hour we spend at work feels like an hour when life is on hold. We long for the personal activities that bring meaning to our days, like hobbies or spending time with friends and family. But too often, work saps all our energy and attention, so we feel like there’s no time left for ourselves.
But the truth is more complex than that. Work is a part of life, and for knowledge workers, especially those working from home, the dividing line between working and not working can be porous, or even nonexistent. We’re always connected, always online, and the next work email or urgent Slack message is only a tap away, ready to pull us out of whatever we’re doing in our personal time.
To find balance, we need to start by drawing some boundaries within the confines of our brains, and then extend those boundaries into our daily routines. Fortunately, with Evernote as your “second brain,” it’s easy to set up those boundaries so as few worries wander into your first brain as possible.
Here are three tips for using Evernote to find that elusive balance by creating a prioritized view of what really matters each day in your work and personal life. And surprise! They all come down to embracing Tasks as part of your flow.
1. A note for every project and tasks in every note
Unless you’re truly a workaholic, the root cause of work-life imbalance probably isn’t a lack of willpower. There isn’t necessarily “too much to do,” either. The real problem is that we haven’t sorted it all out. We feel overwhelmed by the huge pile of stuff facing us every day: team projects, workplace fires, family obligations, and all the little things we want to do in between.
So the first step in regaining control is to break each project down, organizing that unfocused pile into discrete, manageable pieces. Create a dedicated note—or build an entire notebook, if you need one—for each project or area of responsibility in your life. Then throw in everything you can think of relating to that topic: your ideas, research, links, images, anything at all. Build a habit of writing down, saving, or recording everything you want to tackle. Be sure to do this for personal projects, too. Soon you’ll have your whole life laid out in a way that keeps things separated but accessible, so you can focus on one project at a time without getting distracted by everything else.
Now identify the next steps for each of those projects, breaking them down into smaller, individual tasks. With Evernote, tasks can live inside any note, giving your to-dos context and making it easy to take action on them. When you put tasks inside your project notes, the things you need to accomplish sit alongside all the information you need to complete them, and it’s all right at your fingertips.
It’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out right away. Just identify one small step that would move each project forward. Then think about what comes next. The more you can slice your responsibilities into bite-sized morsels, the easier they will be to manage and the calmer you’ll feel.
Now your mind is less cluttered, your notes are more actionable, and your to-dos all have context, so it’s easier to move forward.
Power tip: If you’re using Evernote Personal, Professional, or Teams, you can manage all your tasks in a single organized view so you don’t have to go into each note to find them. You can also see a prioritized list of tasks right from your Home dashboard, alongside your most important notes, saved searches, and calendar.
2. Prioritize the things that matter
Have you ever done that thing where you spend so much emotional and mental energy trying to remember to do something important that it ruins your day? The problem is that you’re trying to juggle it all in your head. Let Evernote share the burden, helping you focus on what matters now without worrying if you’ve forgotten something important.
The trick is getting it all down in Tasks, and then prioritizing them. A giant, unsorted list feeds anxiety. Without a clear plan of what to do next, you can get stuck in a reactive frame of mind. Instead, choose a few key things to focus on each day. That helps you keep the most relevant tasks at the front of your mind. It also helps you take charge of your time, remain present, and end the day with a sense of achievement. Every task you complete, no matter how small, makes you feel more accomplished and capable.
What’s the best way to prioritize? That’s up to your individual style, but we’ve compiled a handy breakdown of popular systems to increase personal productivity that will help you set and manage your priorities. Try a few to see which works best for you. In the meantime, here are a few general principles to help you get started:
- Question each task: How urgent is it? How much impact will it have? Should this be one of the few things you can focus on today, or is there another task that will make a bigger difference in your life?
- Prioritize your tasks by adding due dates, and set reminders to give you a friendly nudge so the right tasks will always show up at the right time. Flag must-do items so you never lose sight of the tasks you should tackle first.
- Use recurring tasks to manage the things that have to get done repeatedly, like filing a weekly sales report or replacing the water filter every month. This takes some of the guesswork from prioritization and it’s one less thing to remember. You can make a task repeat at any interval you want, and every time you mark a recurring task as complete, Evernote will automatically reset it to the next due date.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate. A task may be important, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the person doing it. Assign tasks to others so there’s more time for the jobs that really need you (or vice versa). You can monitor their progress using the “Assigned” tab in your Tasks view, but you won’t need to spend every waking moment thinking about them.
Power tip: Set up another recurring task to review your upcoming to-dos at the start (or end) of each day. Make this a ritual. Not only will you build a roadmap for the day ahead, you’ll also establish a daily boundary between work and personal time.
3. Make time for yourself, and protect it
Getting your projects and tasks sorted out is only half the battle. It’s important that the tasks you choose reflect your commitment to work-life balance. Because if you do not claim your time, other people will.
- Make sure your task list includes personal to-dos, hobbies, passion projects, and dream goals, not just work or external commitments.
- Set up recurring tasks for personal time, like 10 minutes of daily meditation, or a weekly nudge to get outside for a hike.
- Consider using the due time setting to keep personal and work tasks separate. For example, work tasks could be due by noon or 5pm, but maybe personal tasks aren’t due until the evening. You can also set priority flags or add emoji to your titles to make it easy to see at a glance which tasks are which.
Remember that personal to-dos are not less important than your work tasks. Making time for yourself, and prioritizing it, is the best way to beat stress, free up your creativity, and gain perspective. Your work hours become much more productive, because you’ve conserved enough energy to give them the “oomph” they need.
Power tip: To reinforce the balance, schedule a block of personal time in your calendar, then link that event to a note in Evernote. Use the note to capture the specific recurring tasks you want to tackle during that daily, weekly, or monthly block of time. When your scheduled personal time arrives, Evernote can send a reminder to your computer or mobile device. With one click you can open that note, putting your chosen tasks front and center, with no distractions.
Putting it into practice
You’re not doing your job (or the rest of your life) any favors when you’re obsessing over the small stuff. But finding work-life balance isn’t magic, and it isn’t unattainable. It just takes deliberation, commitment, and a willingness to advocate for yourself. By preventing work from overwhelming the rest of your life, your personal time becomes less stressful and more fulfilling.
Get started right now. Create a note where you write your commitment to rebalance your life. Say why it matters to you, and what you hope to gain—more peace of mind, less stress, or a little more time for the things that make life fun. Then make a recurring task to review that note every month. Let it become your North Star, a regular reminder of what’s important and a simple guide you can always return to.
Evernote helps you sharpen your focus, streamline your processes, and create efficiencies so you can find a more productive balance between your busy work and personal lives. So don’t wait. Tasks are available now in the latest version of Evernote.