How do I balance after-work activities?
August 27, 2014 7:07 PM   Subscribe

How do I balance after-work activities?

Somehow in the past two months, I have managed to pack my after-work schedule extremely tightly. It's getting to be too much for me and I'm not sure how I can balance my schedule.

Monday: Group - 7-9
Tuesday: Rehearsal - 7-9
Wednesday: Sports league - 7-8:30
Thursday: Free. Usually go to the gym on this day.
Friday: Therapy

A major contributing factor is that I need a full eight hours of sleep a night to be my most energetic self and that almost never happens. Ideally I should be in bed by 10:30 but I'm usually in bed between 11 to 11:30. It shouldn't make much of a difference but consistently getting 7.5 hours leaves me feeling sapped of energy and exhausted. If I did honestly try to get into bed at 10:30 every night, I feel like I'd be scrambling after getting home to brush my teeth, do bare minimum tidying up and hop into bed.

All of these activities are really important to me. Is it possible to do all of these things and not be exhausted? Do people do that? If I do have to cut some of these activities out, how will I decide which and how many should go?
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Human Relations (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Can you save the tidying up for the weekend? As a single parent, I find that I have none time to pick up after us until Saturday or Sunday and then it becomes this ritual task to compensate for the week before and get set for the week ahead. If you live by yourself and are not a catastrophic slob nor a neat freak, then it may help to compartmentalize the cleaning up part of your life. Rinse dishes immediately so they don't fester, and ignore other issues until you have the time off on the weekends. Being busy every night is great, and I don't expect that anyone here can help you choose unless you let us know what kind of group and what kind of rehearsal.....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:59 PM on August 27, 2014

How long do you have to keep this schedule up for?

I often have a schedule packed this tightly. My secret, unfortunately, is to neglect sleep during the week and spend half my weekend sleeping. My other secret is to only keep it up for three or so months at a time, with a few weeks' break between cycles and a longer break after a few such cycles. Kind of like university semesters.

Here is a schedule I just finished up recently -
Sunday: Meal prep, chores, homework - Getting all this done with in one day helps me not worry about it during the week
Monday: Class 6-9
Tuesday: Violin lesson 7-8
Wednesday: Class 6-9
Thursday: Sports league 6-9
Friday: Nothing
Saturday: Spend time with family and friends
Violin practice daily. Exercise every other day.

My dinners are small affairs. I neglected other hobbies and general life things that I wanted to do. I am now taking a break from the above activities to catch up on these other ones. It was tough for me to accept that there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week - I still haven't fully accepted it - so I remind myself that though I can't do everything now, I can do most things eventually. As for how to choose what to do now: I think therapy should take the highest priority. Let go of the things you will be able to return to at a later date.

One more secret: half-ass things. I can't put my full effort into so many activities. Sports league was recreational so I didn't kill myself trying to win. I could have gotten more out of the classes but decided to just fulfill the minimum requirements for an A. I prioritized my physical health (well, the exercising part. Not the sleeping part), mental health (socializing) and music.

I am a regular, kind of low-energy person and there are some geniuses/naturally energetic people who can do more, and others who use drugs to accomplish the same.
posted by rebooter at 8:50 PM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it possible to do all of these things and not be exhausted? Do people do that?

Yes, but probably at the cost of their future health.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more people use a combination of uppers and downers to manage their energy levels than you might think -- e.g., caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, benadryl; prescription drugs like adderall, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and sleeping pills; and illegal drugs like meth, cocaine, marijuana, etc.

But there are some healthy ways you can make your life more efficient and wring extra time from your schedule:

1) Move closer to work or work closer to home

2) Streamline and simplify your morning and evening weekday routines so they take the minimum time possible

3) Move as many tasks as possible to the weekend and then batch process them: e.g., preparing a week's worth of meals in advance, laying out all your clothes for the week, etc.

4) Outsource as much as you can afford to: e.g., hire someone to clean your house, use a laundry and dry cleaning service that picks up and drops off, get your groceries delivered (and set up a standard weekly staples list), use a concierge service to run errands, etc.

If I do have to cut some of these activities out, how will I decide which and how many should go?

Prioritize in this order:

1) Activities that support your physical and mental health. So, keep your therapy and at least one physical exercise activity (sports league and/or gym day).

2) Activities in which you have responsibilities to people who will be hurt if you break your commitment at this point in time or where breaking your commitment will damage your reputation (personal or professional). So, assuming that "Rehearsal" is for an upcoming performance of some sort, don't drop this unless the other performers have enough time to replace you (but perhaps don't volunteer to perform in anything else after this).

3) Activities where you are maintaining/building social ties.

4) Activities where the activity itself is fun, but the other people there not so much.

Immediately dump anything you are just going to out of habit or a false sense of obligation or because of sunk cost fallacy reasoning of "well I've been doing it for X years already."
posted by Jacqueline at 9:02 PM on August 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

Any chance you could swap days around a bit? For example, three nights in a row of activities would be really tiring for me. If Tuesday was your free day instead of Thursday you could stay in and recharge a bit, do laundry and cook or whatever, and maybe not feel so burnt out midweek.
posted by emd3737 at 5:52 AM on August 28, 2014

When my schedule gets full like that (activity until practically bed time all or most of the days of the week) I definitely start to get burnt out. What helps me is to have my activities be linked to a certain time of year - so maybe your sports league is Fall only, and you only rehearse for events in the Spring. There might be some times when your activities overlap and you start to get overworked, but ideally after intense periods there are periods of relative inactivity (for example, maybe hell week of rehearsals is intense, but then you're not rehearsing for anything at all for a month or two.

Another option is to move some of your activities to the weekend - spending 2 hours doing something on a Saturday feels like nothing at all, when it might be exhausting after work on a Tuesday.
posted by fermezporte at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

For those curious, Group refers to group therapy and rehearsal refers to music rehearsal. The music rehearsal is a casual jam/cover session--not leading up to a performance.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:59 AM on August 28, 2014

I know that feel. I'm currently working three jobs and attending a 3x a week 90 minute weightlifting class. I know it will sound counter intuitive, but I find that if I miss the 10:30 bedtime window (I get up at 5/5:20) I actually feel more rested if I hold off and get to bed at 11:30. Basically trying to sync 90 min REM cycles with when my alarm goes off (I use to determine that).

I also take ZMA supplements at night to ensure a deeper sleep because I am a notoriously light sleeper (YMMV).

Make sure you eat. Eat regularly. Don't skip dinner because you are running from work to extra curriculars. An extra cup of coffee around 5pm also helps me.

The best trick I've found is if I have a 20 minute window of free time, I give myself permission to sit down, have a cup of coffee, lay down on the couch with a podcast, anything to just give myself a quick reset. 20 minutes of doing nothing can be incredibly restorative.

Honestly I can maintain a schedule like this for about 3 months at a time before suffering some severe burnout.
posted by picklesthezombie at 7:07 AM on August 28, 2014

I think there are people who do this, but I definitely could not. I think it's especially notable here that you're in therapy twice a week, which I assume means you are dealing with some pretty significant issues. When I was going to therapy twice a week, it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning otherwise. :) Point being, everyone is at a different place in their life, and just because you see other people doing something doesn't mean you HAVE To push yourself to do that too just to keep up. I can't tell you which activities to cut back on, but if you are constantly feeling harried and overcommitted, you probably know that something needs to change...
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:08 AM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a similar schedule for a while (4 nights of sports a week, only an hour each but closer to 1.5 or 2 hours when you include time getting there and back).

I managed OK because it was basically the only physical activity, recreation AND social activities I did, and I was pretty efficient with the rest of my time. I usually used my free weeknight for groceries and other errands, spent the rest of my free time before/after sports getting in my necessary introverting time, and weekends were for everything else: work, social stuff, bigger errands, or just downtime. I'm down to 1 night a week of sports at the moment and while it is a relief to have more free time, it's almost too much and I'm getting bored - I think 3 nights is my sweet spot.

How other people manage doesn't really help you though, since different people have different sweet spots for free vs. scheduled time. It also makes a huge difference if you're single/how actively you're dating, and any other time commitments in your life.

I'd suggest looking at what things are falling through the cracks, and see if you can be more efficient with anything - maybe you can grocery shop right before your activity that's close to a grocery store, or return your library book during your lunch, or fit in gym time in the morning on your way to work, or whatever. And it's totally OK to drop an activity for a while - you can always rejoin it later. It really depends on what you're comfortable with, and it sounds like you're struggling right now, so I'd suggest dropping one night and see if that helps. Or just skipping some weeks for some activities, if that's possible.
posted by randomnity at 9:52 AM on August 28, 2014

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