Balancing Act: Can't find time for play? Try scheduling it

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If your resolutions for 2013 include achieving a better work-life balance, your calendar holds the key to your success. But to pull off your goals, you're going to need to turn the traditional way of thinking upside down.

Most people schedule their work commitments on their calendars and squeeze in family, friends and fun around it. Instead, schedule your work around your personal life, say Michelle Villalobos and Jessica Kizorek, speakers, personal branding consultants and co-creators of "Make Them Beg," a professional self-development program.

For example, they suggest you block out time for the gym, reading for pleasure, coaching your kid and date night. Even a person with almost no flexibility in his work schedule can block out 15 minutes for a walk rather than eating lunch at his desk.

"You have to plan for play. Otherwise work expands and there's no time for play," Ms. Kizorek said.

Realistically, there will be times when you have to reschedule a fun activity because of work demands. "At least you know what you missed so if you don't do it, you move it to another day," Ms. Villalobos said.

If you're in a relationship, experts advise letting your partner participate in creating your calendar. A friend of mine sends his spouse an electronic invite to his poker night signaling that she has the night free.

Scheduling everything may seem rigid. "That's the opposite," Ms. Villalobos said. "By putting things on your calendar, you can focus on what you need to do in the moment."

Sharon Teitelbaum, a Boston-based work-life coach, says to schedule important life events, including birthdays. She also advises putting work events in your calendar as far in advance as possible and tasks that lead up to them. "You don't want to agree to host a dinner party the weekend before a work retreat."

For many busy people, the traditional way of scheduling needs to change from just adding a due date to creating a timeline. If you have a big project you need to have completed by Feb. 15, Ms. Teitelbaum suggests breaking it into weekly tasks leading up to that date. "People vastly underestimate how long things take and the number of interruptions they have to contend with," she said.

Ms. Villalobos recently finished a two-day art workshop she had wanted to take for years. It took getting control over her calendar, scheduling play time and retraining her brain. "Your calendar becomes your promise to yourself, and you need to honor that promise."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman: balancegal@gmail.com


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