10 Steps to a Better Work/Life Balance

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Let me first say that I am in no way an expert on work/life balance. I’m not a life coach or a counselor or a therapist of any kind. I’ve been through my fair share of sh*t (haven’t we all?) and get tons of questions about how I’m able to maintain a blog and my completely separate career all while living my best life. Well, here goes nothin’, kids. There is no balance. At least, I don’t think there’s balance. Each bleed into my life. Deeply. So deeply, in fact, that I’ve been sick for the greater part of 2016 because I’ve been stressing myself out and it’s been manifesting itself in a few different ways. What a bag of fun, right?

I’ve always needed to work on balance. But especially since I started this blog, life has been hectic. Like, constantly hectic. Maybe I’m just one of those people who thrives in chaos. The thought of living in a slower paced environment where everyone is mellow and no one bothers to wear suits actually stresses me out. So maybe I’m one of those chaos-thrivers. Even so, a girl needs to be able to manage and enjoy her life. Especially when it got to be as bad as it got for me. Getting sick was a wake-up call. Not a ‘quit your job and move to Tahiti’ wake-up call but I’m not ruling anything out just yet.

These next 10 steps helped change my life. Yes, dramatic but also completely true. It hasn’t been easy but I’m no longer sick. So… that’s something. The balance you find starts with you so some of these might work for you and some might not. Figure out the ones that do and incorporate those into your routine. These are the 10 steps that helped me. And if all else fails, go talk to someone. Sometimes all it takes is a completely neutral party to tell you that you’re doing just fine.


Clear the clutter // This book has changed my life. And not in a ‘here’s a product link so I can earn commission’ kind of way. An actual life altering book. I wouldn’t classify myself as a hoarder but I absolutely hold onto things longer than I should. Maybe because there’s a sentimental attachment or I think I’ll need it one day or I’m just too lazy to toss it out; either way, I’ve always lived with shit in boxes. Storage boxes, decorative boxes, you name it. This book explains why that’s detrimental to your health and shows you how to change your behavior in a way that most people can relate to. 10 pages in and I’d already started to declutter. The book suggests surrounding yourself, exclusively, with things that bring you joy; I took that to mean possessions and people… we’ll get to that part later. By the time I had cleared my space, I felt like my life was more clear. I found it was easier to stay on top of bills and emails, make plans with friends and not cancel, procrastinate less with assignments. Basically, I’ve been more motivated since decluttering my space. Major improvement.

Set a schedule // This goes hand in hand with keeping a decluttered space and mind. When I lived in clutter, I didn’t want to wake up and deal with it. My alarm would go off every morning at 630 and I’d sleep in until 730. Why. Stop it. Set a time and get up. Do not hit snooze. Get out of bed and attack the day. Set a time to eat lunch. Set a time to answer emails (although I tend to do this as they come in throughout the day, prioritized by urgency). Set a time to eat dinner. Set a time to workout. Set a time to do nothing. Yes, nothing. Scheduling downtime is not lazy, it’s necessary. Not every day has to be the same but every day should be scheduled. Now, I’m not saying you have to throw spontanaiety out the window but you must introduce some form of structure into your routine. Getting up, going to work, and getting in bed doesn’t cut it. You’re a grown up now and grown ups need to get shit done. They do that by setting a schedule. So make one. Now.

Schedule downtime for yourself // This might be one of the most important parts of the schedule you just created. Like I just mentioned, downtime doesn’t always have to be a lazy, pantless Cheeto fest, although right now that sounds pretty spectacular. I don’t even like to think of downtime as recharging because that suggests you’re just going to get right back up in the middle of the chaos. Downtime can be napping, blogging, reading, exercising, examining your pores in the 20x mirror… whatever. Just time you’ve scheduled for you. Not you and your roommate. Not you and your significant other. YOU TIME. The easiest way I’ve been able to do this is to set aside Sunday nights for myself. Simple and effective.

Eat breakfast // Take vitamins. Simple enough, right? But I never do it. So, I’m always running out around 10am to find something to curb my hunger meanwhile I’m distracted from work I could be doing. Make things easy for yourself (and your wallet!) and eat breakfast before you leave the house. I like to blend up a quick protein shake and drink it on my walk to work.

Make lists // Mainly so you can cross off the items in that list. One of the most satisfying experiences. Even if it’s a goddamn grocery list. Lists also house every last thought that roll across my mind throughout the day. Big or small, if they make it onto the list they always get crossed off. This way I’m not waking up in the middle of the night remembering I forgot to pay that bill or send that email. Girl, no. Make a list.

Drop toxic relationships and habits // If they fall into one of these 5 categories, cut ’em out, let ’em go, sianara sucker. You have no idea how toxic a relationship actually is until you get out of it. This is when you see a change. If you don’t feel like it’s right, it probably isn’t. I recently ended a relationship because it caused me so much anxiety. No, I’m not being dramatic. This is actually a thing. I let it go on until it started having an effect on my body. Yes, really. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got OUT. And I feel so much better. How does that even happen? I was living in clutter. Physically and mentally. I wasn’t dealing with that source of stress because there were so many other things going on. I didn’t want to deal with it. So I just let it live. But once I decluttered, it became that much easier not only to make the decision but to execute it. You’re not healthy for me. Literally. Bye.

Leave work at work // I know this is easier said than done. And from personal experience, I know that it is not always possible to do so. Like many of you, my 9-5 doesn’t always fall within those hours. Being “on-call” as necessary is one thing. Checking your Blackberry for the sake of checking it is another thing entirely. Stop tethering yourself to your job. It’s not necessary and it’s not returning the favor. It’s one thing to put in OT during the week. It’s another to be entirely emotionally invested in your job. Be proud of the work product you create, absolutely. But work should be work. The end.

Unplug // My phone was always the first thing I looked at in the morning and the last thing I was on before I fell asleep at night. I slept with it. In my bed. Just me, my dog, and my iPhone!? Crazy AF but it’s 2016, right!? Wrong. You know it’s awful for you. Read. Snuggle with your dog. Reorganize your bedroom furniture in your mind. Cry. Kidding. But get the damn hell off your phone. Again, there are always exceptions to the rule – maybe you’re a doctor and you have to sleep with your pager to know when they’ll need you to come in and save a life. That’s how it works, right? Thanks, Grey’s Anatomy. The point is to get your face out of your phone and live in the moment. Be in the now. Example: Within the last year I’ve seriously contemplated moving. New York, Colorado, Paris… somewhere that’s not here. For a lot of reasons but ultimately because I don’t want to be 40 and regrret that I only lived in my hometown (Washington, DC). The whole comfortability vs. complacency thing. Until recently, I didn’t realize another driving factor in this was legitimately, “What will people think if I just stay here?” And in the same breath I thought, “What in the actual fuck is wrong with you.” WHO. CARES. But because I was thinking in Facebook statuses and Instagram filters, I wasn’t thinking clearly and that was affecting how I actually felt vs. how I thought I should feel.

Exercise // Every day. No, I’m not crazy. Even if it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator. To keep unhealthy anxiety at bay you should be exercising 4x a week. But you should be moving every day. Figure out what works best for you, set a schedule, and stick to it. I like Crossfit and Kayla Itsines workout plan. Done. Bye. The End. Just do it.

Respect the rules you’ve made for yourself // It’s easy to get sucked into a social media frenzied dinner on a Sunday night with friends. How fun is that!? But in the back of your mind you know that time is better put to use by prepping for the week ahead. Don’t do it to yourself.

It takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So, don’t be surprised that on Day 3 of this new journey things don’t magically get easier. It’s going to take time to get used to your new routines. Just realizing that something has to change is a good enough place to start. Go you.


Do you have tips that work for you? Share the wealth and list them in the comments section below!

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  • Alissa
    May 16, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Girl, YES. YES YES YES. This is such a good read and it’s all so true. I really need to work on the iPhone in bed thing but lately, life has been busy/emotional but I’m learning a lot of the same things you just shared! Lists are a game changer and without exercise I can’ function! lol You ROCK, you’re strong and beautiful and I miss your face! (And Wendell, too!)


    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      May 16, 2016 at 11:41 am

      The exercise thing really gets me. Completely changes the pace of the day! Need to channel you for those moments!!

  • Kellie (The Yuppie Files)
    May 16, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    i am struggling so much with balance since having baby #2. Or fitting in everything before I crash! I’ve been scheduling everything to keep me sane!

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      May 17, 2016 at 8:43 am

      I can’t imagine what throwing a tiny human into the mix would do to my schedule! You need a nap and a vacation :)

  • Sarah
    May 17, 2016 at 5:37 am

    I was initially drawn to your blog because I too work in government and was looking for inspiration for office-appropriate fashionable outfits, but this post has really resonated with me. I think it’s easy for us to assume we should be doing all the things, all the time, because that’s the image that social media and the internet conveys to us (so many headlines on “how to have it all” “how powerful women start their days”–I inevitably read those articles looking for some secret but just leave feeling dissatisfied because it’s not actually achievable). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that you’re not missing out, you’re doing the best you can, and doing the best you can means prioritizing yourself and your wellbeing. It doesn’t mean bailing on responsibility (especially for jobs that are fast-paced and chaotic), but it does mean saying “no”when it matters and being honest with yourself about what you need. Do I get it right all the time? No. I probably could do a better job unplugging and man, my attempts at decluttering my life are less like Marie Kondo’s do-it-once-and-be-done-style (I did find the book really helpful though) and more incremental, but it’s progress.

    Anyway, thank you Meaghan for being a blogger that speaks to me on many, many levels and that I feel I can identify with. Please keep it up! It’s so reassuring to know that there are others out there like me.

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      May 17, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment, Sarah. It’s comments like this that encourage me to share more personal topics on the blog in hopes that any part of it will help other women. I think it’s absolutely reassuring to know that there are a lot of us who are experiencing the same hurdles in life and that these ‘hot topic’ articles won’t work for everyone – Real stories from real women always resonate more with me. Saying “No” and realizing you’re not missing out on things are huge lessons and skills that I’ve learned in the last few years that have really helped me to prioritize things and in turn have lowered my stress level.
      Again, thank you so much for your comment – I’m so glad that you’re finding some of what you’re looking for here on District Sparkle! I hope to have more posts like this published in the near future!

  • Amanda
    May 17, 2016 at 11:28 am

    On this point of considering moving to a new city, that was me three years ago. I went through the same though process, “am I moving for me or for what others expect of me?” I realized that I personally needed a change of pace and to branch out from my hometown (DC area). Picked up my stuff and moved to Austin,TX. Best decision I’ve made. I learned so much about myself, my new city, and created amazing new friendships. Now that I am moving back to DC (work/school related)I come in with a fresh perceptive of DC, myself and my purpose (sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth). If you move out of your city my advice is to do it for you. :)

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      May 17, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      Doesn’t sound cheesy at all – exactly what I’m struggling with. Thank you so much for sharing, Amanda. It’s always oddly calming to know there are other people who share the same thoughts!

  • Susan Branscome
    May 17, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Great blog. Everything you said is spot on.

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      June 7, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks, Sus!

  • The Weekend Update | No. 3 - District Sparkle
    June 10, 2016 at 11:01 am

    […] enjoying entire bottles of sparking rose by yourself? Dreading Monday mornings? Check out my 10 tips for a better work/life balance and share any other tips that could help 20 and 30 somethings like you and […]