For the modern woman, sometimes it can feel like there are never quite enough hours in a day. Whether one is working from home, in an office, in school, or at home taking care of kids, the after-work hours become sometimes a blend of trying to relax but then play catch up with tasks you often can’t get done during a work day. Still, we all have choices on how to spend our down time, and most of us want to do so in a way that feels life-giving instead of gone before you know it.
Whether you have an endless to-do list or just trying to better effectively maximize your time after work, here are some practical ways to help you be more intentional and thoughtful with that time.
Set a timer
Growing up, my mom had an evening tradition of what she called “the fifteen minute pick-up.” She would set a timer on the stove for fifteen minutes, and we would tidy up the house before beginning our bedtime routines. While we often complained at how lame this was, as an adult it is a tradition I use now to help maximize my after-work hours.
When I finish the work day, I will set a 20-30 minute timer to tidy, putter at home, or finish items on my to-do list I couldn’t complete during the workday. And, you know what? It is amazing how much you can get done in 20 or 3o minutes!
Folding laundry, making a grocery list, taking care of that pile of dishes in the sink, or finally sending that email—the practical use of a good, daily timer can help you tie up the day’s loose ends and move on to the rest of your evening.
Create a routine
While I do not really like the word balance, I much more prefer the word rhythm. Relying on several solid daily routines can offer daily life a good structure and rhythm to it.
I cherish my morning routine. I get up early and start the day with my coffee and sitting in peaceful silence. I then spend time reading, writing in my journal, or praying. This routine helps me feel more grounded and connected to myself.
Likewise, I enjoy my evening routine. I put on a pair of favorite pajamas. I apply my nightly face creams and moisturize my hands and neck. I may diffuse some relaxing essential oils and I enjoy a few pages of a good book.
Establishing life-giving routines is one more way to intentionally take care of yourself and also maximize your after-work hours, preparing yourself to give your best in the days that follow.
Write out priorities
Do you ever struggle with thinking something is a high priority, when in actuality it is not? In a culture that prioritizes productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done instead of stopping to consider what is most important among many things.
A practice I have found helpful in my own life is prioritizing all the items on my to-do list at the beginning of the week. Determining if an item is low, medium, or high priority helps me better navigate my time over the course of the week.
Once you figure out where each item falls, then it gives you a structure and focus on where to start. For home projects, begin with your high priority items and, when finished, move to the medium-level and lower items. For work-related projects, you can start the next workday feeling more prepared about the order in which things need to be done. Even if you don’t start the project, planning the order of priority can help feel accomplished even if you’ll be completing the tasks later.
Power down your phone or social media
It does not take a rocket scientist to realize we live in a culture where many of us are overly connected to social media and our phones. Still, many of us would admit that sometimes our social media use is a way to distract us from other important things going on in our lives.
Creating some boundaries around your phone and social media use are practical ways to more effectively use our after-work hours to feel recharged instead of drained. Consider setting a timer for how long you let yourself play games or scroll on social media. After that, consider keeping your phone in another room or setting a time each night when you “power down” and turn off all social media. It can be uncomfortable initially, but you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens.
What ways do you maximize your after-work hours? Are there specific practices that are most helpful for you?