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3 Tips For Balancing Work And Play

Falling into an all-work-and-no-play rut? Follow these tips for getting your life back on track.

How did you spend your long weekend? Did you squeeze in some work? (Aminin!) With all the many tasks you're responsible for at school or at work, it's important to get your priorities straight. There are only so many hours in a day for you to work at a healthy pace, and it's easy to become overwhelmed by an incredibly long to-do list.

According to Carole Pearl, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Ramsey, New Jersey, "When you have a million balls in the air—job, gym, boyfriend—life becomes a blur. You're so busy struggling just to get through the week, you lose sight of what's really important to you."

If you feel your life is beginning to spin out of your control, follow these steps that'll guarantee you some playtime mixed in with work:

1. Create a master list.

"Write down everything you'd ideally like to accomplish or enjoy in the next month," suggests Pearl. "That includes hobbies and downtime—you don't normally pencil them in because they seem optional, but they're actually crucial to having a balanced life."

2. Set weekly goals.

"Separate the list into As, Bs, and Cs," says Pearl. "A items are nonnegotiable tasks you have to do this week, like work and grocery shopping. Bs are things you could do next week, such as have drinks with coworkers. Cs are electives that can wait indefinitely." When you're done, swap one fun B goal for an A, so it's not all have-tos.

3. Be flexible.

"Unplanned distractions—like a phone call from an old pal—will always pop up," says Pearl. "You'll need to switch some things around as you go. Having the list will keep you from overlooking anything major, so you'll feel more free to enjoy yourself."

Time-out tip: Call up some friends you've lost touch with and make a date to watch a funny movie together. Be sure to set aside time for this gimik, and don't let work interfere with your rare leisure plans. After all, anticipating a laugh with good friends beats stress and boosts a grumpy mood.

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