How To Balance Your Time and Build a Structured But Flexible Daily Routine
It can be hard to focus when it’s hot outside.
Especially if you work from home.
For this reason, I thought it would be helpful to put together a “how-to” post, filled with mindful tips on how to balance your time and build a flexible daily routine. One that allows you to invite a bit of spontaneity into your summer.
I encourage you to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it whenever you need to.
It’s not just intended for those warmer months.
With summer in full force, you might find that your productivity has started to dwindle.
It’s hot, sunny and potentially humid which can make it hard to focus.
Social get-togethers double with BBQ invites, picnics, weddings and sunbathing in the park.
We’d prefer to spend time outside rather than being cooped up indoors.
Destinations abroad call out to us and we start to book last-minute flights to European destinations to drink cocktails by the sea.
Summer is a time for letting loose, hanging out with friends and spending less time on social media.
But amidst the fun, you suddenly get hit by a feeling of guilt.
Guilt for your lack of productivity and not having done anything for the past few days.
This begs the question, by dedicating our summer to having fun and doing things we actually enjoy, when do we actually make time for work?
Table of Contents
- Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create
- How to build a structured but flexible daily routine
- 1 | Figure out your top 3–5 weekly priorities
- 2 | Ask yourself this question
- 3 | Schedule non-work-related activities first
- 4 | Theme your week
- 5 | Pencil in a non-negotiable work day (use instead of tip 4)
- 6 | Use a daily productivity planner
- 7 | Outsource what you can
- 8 | Schedule a morning and evening routine
- 9 | Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan
- Final thoughts
Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I am currently road-tripping through the Italian countryside with my partner.
We started in Rome before taking the train to Florence and then picking up a rental car to drive around Tuscany. On this road trip we visited Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, La Spezia, The Cinque Terre, Firenzoula and Corella before making our way north to Bologna.
Which is where I write to you now from a bustling, co-working coffee shop.
My time in Tuscany has been incredible.
Incredibly meaningful and fulfilling, but also incredibly busy and exhausting.
I’ve always struggled to find a balance between work and rest but when you throw travel into the mix, things get even more complicated.
To the point where I previously questioned myself and my travel plans. Freaking out about how on earth I was going to find the time to be productive and actually get shit done.
But in all honesty, I’ve been fine!
I’m still managing to get things done and automation tools are working for me in the background.
I’m also slowly learning that my work-life-travel balance will look different for me each week. And it’s up to me to remain flexible and intentional with what I need to prioritise to stop me from feeling guilty.
This also comes down to ignoring what everyone else is doing and focusing only on what works for me.
So, how do I manage to balance it all?
It all comes down to having an extremely flexible daily routine.
Let’s dive in.
How to build a structured but flexible daily routine
A daily routine is essential for your mental health as it reduces stress, allows you to build healthy habits and helps you to avoid burnout.
But to make it flexible, you need to be serious about your workload and what you want to achieve.
Yes, I’ve recently been prioritising my travel plans over my to-do list but that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about it. In fact, it makes me even more serious because when I eventually sit down at my laptop I need to show up and be productive. I need to be efficient with my time and get shit done.
So if you want to add more flexibility to your schedule, you need to take those “work” hours extra seriously.
This is all about zero procrastination and maximum concentration.
Here are my top tips on how to build a structured but flexible routine.
And as always, remember that what works for me might not necessarily work for you.
I write these notes for guidance only in the hope they will inspire you in some way. It’s important to try them out first to see if they work before sticking to them. Feel free to adjust these tips to suit your needs so you can create your own way of doing things.
1 | Figure out your top 3–5 weekly priorities
Everyone has different priorities.
That is why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others or copy someone else’s daily routine.
Because that person who seems more productive than you on Instagram might be prioritising “showing up on stories every day” whereas you want to prioritise growing your email list.
This is why it is so important to do what works for you. Honestly, I will never get bored of saying that!
So before diving into the rest of this post, I want you to take a moment now to write down your top 3–5 “work” priorities for the upcoming week.
You can even use The Eisenhower Matrix to help organise your priorities and eliminate non-important tasks.
Your priorities can be absolutely anything but make sure that they will move you forward towards your goals. For example, there is no point in writing down “post 5 times on Instagram this week” if growing your social media presence is not one of your goals.
Figuring out your priorities will help you get intentional about what needs to get done during your work hours so you don’t procrastinate, scroll or aimlessly do random things which are either pointless, not urgent or will not move the needle forward.
Plus, planning your week in this way will stop you from feeling guilty for taking time off. You’re clear on what needs to get done and you will make time to do it.
2 | Ask yourself this question
This is extremely important advice, so do not skip this step.
Get in the habit of asking yourself this question at the beginning of each week.
“What does my week need to look like for me to feel balanced?”
Be mindful that this could look different each week. Maybe this week you want to spend more time with loved ones. Maybe next week you want to dedicate more time to work and your to-do list.
A good work-life balance is not one size fits all. It’s about doing what works for you so you can feel happier and healthier each day.
Try getting visual to see what your “balanced” week looks like.
On a piece of paper, draw a circle. Divide this circle into 3 parts so it resembles a pie chart.
In each segment, write one of these phrases: Be Productive, Be Playful, Be Restful.
Your top 3–5 priorities for the week would be put into the ‘Be Productive’ segment.
Now populate the other two segments with fun things you want to do (Be Playful), and calming things you want to do (Be Restful).
This will allow you to visually see how balanced your week looks.
If ‘Be Playful’ and ‘Be Restful’ are looking a bit empty add to these sections. If ‘Be Productive’ is looking a bit full, reevaluate what is a priority this week and what is not.
You can then use this pie chart as the basis of your weekly schedule.
3 | Schedule non-work-related activities first
You need to remember that your life is more than just your business, your job or being a student.
So when you’re putting together your weekly schedule, you need to plan your non-work-related activities first. Write down all the things you want to do, the things that make you happy and the things that will nourish your well-being first. This could be allowing yourself to have a 2-hour slow morning routine, or blocking out 30-mins each lunchtime for a bit of self-care.
If you’ve followed the above tip and drawn out your work-life balance pie chart, then your non-work-related activities would be found under ‘Be Playful’ and ‘Be Restful’.
Once you’ve written down your non-work-related activities, organise them into your schedule before populating your calendar with work-related things.
By planning your day in this way, you instantly become more than just your to-do list.
You are allowing yourself to actually live and have fun!
4 | Theme your week
Unpopular opinion, but I do not time-block.
I find it restricting and I prefer to work when I feel at my most productive.
Instead, I choose to theme my week.
It still gives my daily routine structure but it allows me to be flexible, rather than force myself to stick to time blocks.
Allocating specific tasks to certain days has taken the pressure off having to plan each day. I no longer feel overwhelmed with what I have to do as my workload is spread evenly across the week.
No switching between tasks and wasting time refocusing.
I am managing my time efficiently and there is a tonne of wiggle room too to be flexible.
So, if you want to manage your time more efficiently, boost productivity and motivation I suggest theming your days rather than just going with the flow.
This will allow you to plan a more productive week and stay consistent but still have room for spontaneity.
On a piece of paper, brain dump every important and/or urgent task you do in a week (or your weekly priorities if you are following on from tip 1).
Then organise each task into a group with other similar or relevant tasks. The last step is to allocate each of your groups to a day of the week.
As a rule of thumb, I put the group with the easiest tasks at the beginning of the week to ease me in and the group with the hardest tasks, at mid-week when my productivity is at its peak.
It’s up to you how many groups of tasks you make, but if you are looking to invite more flexibility and spontaneity into your daily routine, then I would suggest between 3–4 groups and leave the other days free for fun.
You can also switch up these groups depending on your workload, season or “life” plans.
5 | Pencil in a non-negotiable work day (use instead of tip 4)
If you’d rather spend the summer prioritising rest and play instead of theming each day of the week with work tasks, then that is completely fine.
You deserve it, so why shouldn’t you?!
But to help you stop feeling guilty, dedicate a whole day during the week (or at the weekend) to catching up on work-related things.
This needs to be a non-negotiable where you complete all your tasks for the week on that day.
But don’t overwork yourself. In order for this to work sustainably, you will need to reduce your workload and give yourself a maximum of 5 tasks to complete in a day.
And the best thing about including this tip into your daily routine is that it’s 100% flexible. Your designated work day can change each week depending on what “life” activities you have going on.
6 | Use a daily productivity planner
If you want to make sure you are getting the most out of your day then use a daily productivity planner to help keep you on track. This simple tool will provide accountability and structure to your routine so you can accomplish more by doing less.
If you’re more of a digital planner lover, then check out my favourite productivity tool in the whole entire world — Notion.
I’ve been using this productivity tool every day for the best part of 2-years now.
It is home to everything: my lists, blog schedule and templates, email marketing calendar, content calendar, book quotes (yes I’m an underliner), travel plans, goal planner and so much more.
I literally use it to organise every “corner of my life.”
Honestly, it’s probably the best productivity tool I use because I would be lost without it.
7 | Outsource what you can
For maximum playtime and zero guilt, consider outsourcing non-important or non-urgent tasks so you can focus your time on doing what is important.
Whether that is having fun, resting or working on your weekly priorities.
This will mean that things are still running for you in the background, reducing your workload.
I’m now super close to hiring my first team member but in the meantime, I’ve been taking full advantage of automation tools.
I use Zapier to create custom workflows between my favourite apps and automate tedious tasks that I don’t have time for. It saves me so much time and it works seamlessly so it can run behind the scenes and I don’t need to worry about it.
Missing Lettr (affiliate link) takes one of my blog posts and creates 9 different social media posts and schedules them across 3 of my least favourite social media platforms over 12 months. That means I don’t need to worry about posting on these platforms and I can focus my efforts on the platforms I do actually enjoy.
Pinterest has also been a great outsourcing tool for me (weird I know) as my pins from months ago are still getting views meaning that traffic to my blog is increasing daily, which is one of my overarching goals.
Plus, I also outsource cooking to either my partner or a restaurant. I mean that counts right?
And my laundry is outsourced to the dry cleaners and house cleaning (where ever I’m staying) to a cleaner.
So here is my advice to you, highlight the one thing you hate doing or spend the most amount of time doing and look for ways to outsource or reduce the time you spend on it.
It might be as simple as buying healthy ready-made meals to just pop in the oven or using Zapier to automate some of your simple, tedious tasks.
The goal here is to save you time!
8 | Schedule a morning and evening routine
I know I mentioned earlier that I don’t like time-blocking because I find it too restricting.
However, there are certain things that you should block out on your schedule to hold you accountable to do them. And that is for your morning and evening routines.
As humans, we are more likely to prioritise work and other people over our own well-being.
Crazy I know, please don’t get me started.
But by scheduling the time in to take care of ourselves, we are more likely to do it.
So, carve out some time in the morning to indulge in rituals that prepare for you for the day ahead.
This might be setting aside 30-mins to read as soon as you wake up, journal or practice gratitude.
Drink a big gulp of water, stretch and do some physical exercise.
And just before you go to bed a night, decompress your mind and body after a busy day to prepare them for sleep. Allow your mind the time it needs to find calm, and your body the time it needs to relax by spending your night unwinding with these relaxing bedtime rituals.
And make them a non-negotiable part of your schedule! This means nothing should be getting in the way of them. Plan your social events and work hours around them.
Flexibility here means changing up your rituals to better suit your needs, rather than getting rid of them completely.
9 | Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan
Like with everything in life, some things don’t always go to plan.
You might wake up feeling low on a non-negotiable work day and not be in the mood to do anything. Or you might realise mid-morning on a “play” day that you need to dedicate more time to finishing off urgent client work.
Whatever it is, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan.
Instead, deal with it as best you can, switch things around and move on.
You might also find that after a few weeks, your new daily routine is not quite working for you.
So feel free to change around your work-play-rest days each week to give you a bit of variation.
Be mindful of your mood, menstrual cycle and other lifestyle changes that might affect your routine.
And this is why it’s essential to build a flexible daily routine. So you’ve got some wiggle room to adjust your schedule to better suit your needs when necessary.
Although I’ve written this blog post for you to remain productive during summer I just want you to remember that it’s ok to be unproductive.
It’s ok to take a step back from your to-do list for a while and focus on other things.
Things that fill your day with joy.
Because we physically can’t be productive all the time.
So let’s normalise the fact that sometimes we will wake up and not feel like doing anything or want to dedicate the entire day to “life”.
That is why having a flexible routine where you can invite more spontaneity into your daily life is essential.
I encourage you to bookmark this post so you can refer back to these tips whenever you need them.
And if you need any further guidance, please feel free to contact me.
My inbox is always open.
Until next week,