Finding a Healthy Balance Between Life and Work

Photographers and landscape painters have a term they call golden hour. It’s that time near sundown when the sun’s light is at the perfect angle to show striking contrast and definition in the things they’re shooting or painting. Because of the angle of the sun to the earth, and the amount of atmosphere the light passes through at that time of day, the light takes on a softer, golden look, casts yellow-orange highlights on faces and walls, and turns long blades of grass into shafts of light. This beautiful light is so fleeting that artists work frantically to capture as many images as they can, chasing the light until it’s gone.

In a way, each one of us is a photographer. We also IMG_2810have a golden hour—a time so precious that we rarely want to interrupt it—when we, too, scramble to absorb as much life as we can. It’s a daily struggle.

The term for this struggle is an idyllic phrase called “work/life balance.” It’s this idea that we should find some way to give as much or more to those we love as we do to those who pay our bills—the hope that, after all the time we’ve spent away from home, we’ll still find time to tinker on our hobbies, meditate or even exercise.

The truth is, workdays don’t offer much balance in our lives. We spend far more of our waking hours away from home than we spend doing the things we’d prefer to do. Still, one of the reasons we work is to enable us to do the things we truly love with those who matter most. That’s what makes those few hours after we arrive at home and before we go to bed so precious. The rest of our day is a marathon that we carefully pace, but those few fleeting hours become a desperate sprint.

That is the time we spend absorbing life and capturing moments. It’s when we share a dinner, listen to the events of the day, help with homework, attend recitals, watch soccer games, read stories, share a treat, and tuck children into bed. It’s our golden hour—and each day we urgently chase it until it’s gone.

This frenetic race against time is what motivated Benjamin Franklin to plan daily in his little black book, and it’s the reason most of our daily planners have our signature Prioritized Daily Task List. Because we don’t have much time after work, we need to prioritize the tasks we hope to accomplish within the time we have.

Your Prioritized Daily Task List makes it much easier to get the most out of your day. As you plan each morning, write everything you’ll need to do for work that day on your task list. Then leave a space and write everything you need to do at home. Don’t worry about any particular order; just get it out of your head and onto paper. Once your tasks have been written down, decide which items are priority A, B, or C. Then sort each segment by urgency—1, 2, 3, and so forth. Now start with A-1, and move through them all. Prioritizing your tasks in this manner ensures that, even if you can’t finish your list, you will always work on your most important items daily.

Nothing you want in life just happens. Everything comes at the cost of time and effort. The few minutes it takes each day to plan and prioritize your efforts is vitally important to your success.

After all, your golden hour only lasts so long each day. Make the most of it.

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