A common refrain of parents across the country is, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Essentially, you wake up, care for your children, get everyone out the door, and rush off to work. Your day zooms by, you finally leave work, and the evening is a blur of dinner, homework, and bedtime.

Even if you don’t have children, a professional career will take over your life fast, leaving you wondering where the years went. One way to achieve more work-life balance is to utilize the features of your calendar. Here are a few tips to do just that.

Implement Calendar Blocking

You may have already heard of calendar blocking, but if you haven’t implemented it, you’re missing out. Most people use their calendars to set appointments and schedule meetings and other important events. The blocking approach is a traditional one — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. You’ll, of course, need to write down the dates and times of your schedule obligations. But, to make the most of your calendar, you can separate your days into chunks of time.

With calendar blocking, in addition to simply writing down an appointment, you can block out the hours around it. Give yourself time before a meeting to prepare and an hour afterward to reflect. One of the best parts of calendar blocking is that you can block out hours for deep work time. Deep work time requires you to cut out all distractions and focus intensely on one job or one project. You can even use this time for brainstorming or writing.

Schedule Leisure Time

But scheduling and calendar blocking are not just for work — after all, you came here looking for work-life balance. Make sure that whether you’re using a Google Calendar, Calendar.com, Apple Calendar, or Microsoft Outlook Calendar, you block out time for leisure. Self-care is not just a hot trend; it’s essential to your well-being. And your family is a priority, but your schedule may not reflect that. Now is your chance to change that by adding your family and yourself to your calendar.

Just like you calendar-block deep work, meetings, or phone calls, block off family time. It seems silly or obsessive to schedule time for your family. But times are busy, and if you don’t write it down, it will be easy to forget. So, block out time to watch movies with your kids or date your husband. And don’t let yourself reschedule those blocks of time. Finally, while you’re making time for work and family, don’t forget to block out some time for self-care — balance!

Get Your Teams On Board

While you’re making all these time blocks for your schedule, one step that will help is to include your teams! Get all your staff at work on the same calendar, and then do the same at home. One of the biggest problems with calendaring is getting everyone on the same page. Parents used to have to post large calendars on the kitchen wall to keep everyone in the loop. The work situation was even worse, with bosses yelling and employees cowering over missed deadlines and crazy business hours.

Today, you can create a team calendar through an app like Calendar.com or Microsoft Outlook. That way, anytime anyone adds or removes anything on the calendar, everyone gets an update. Ensure everyone has access to everyone else’s calendars, too, so your deep work or family time isn’t interrupted. You have an opportunity to create strong boundaries around both your work and life. Firm boundaries will allow you to be more productive during work hours and more relaxed during personal and family time.

Integrate Your Calendars

But wait. What if your work calendar runs through Microsoft Office and your family calendar runs through Google? Fortunately, many calendar apps are now integration-friendly. Gone are the days of having to go in and update every calendar every time a change is made. For the most part, you can expect your calendars to sync with every update. You just have to be sure you’ve got compatible apps and that you learn to integrate them correctly.

There are, of course, times when your integrated updates may fail you, but it’s worth the risk. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages you may encounter. You’ll end up with fewer mix-ups between work and home, which will allow you to block out family time more accurately. With your teams on board and your calendars integrated, you can teach everyone to respect each other’s schedules. Then, you may find you have more time to live the life you love.

Be Flexible with Your Calendar

You’re learning to time block, getting everyone on board, and integrating your apps. These approaches will help you run a tight ship; now it’s time to loosen up a little. There is a drive in US society to be hyper-productive, extra efficient, and perfectly scheduled. Of course, you want to be organized and disciplined. But you don’t want to be overscheduled and stressed. Learn to relax a little into your calendar process, and you’ll find things fall into place better.

Be prepared to bend and adjust when necessary. Meetings run long, appointments get rescheduled, and kids’ activities can be chaotic. Part of creating work-life balance through calendaring is getting the calendar to work for you. You don’t want to be a slave to the calendar. Instead, create wide margins around meetings, appointments, and activities to allow flexibility. Time management can be a snap when you relax into the process a little.

Utilize Insights and Shift Accordingly

When all is said and done, some of these approaches will work wonders in your life, and some of them will tank. That is the nature of trying new things, which is why you will be flexible. Part of that flexibility calls for you to review what’s working and what’s not with clear eyes. Using your calendar insights is a great way to do this reflection work. At the end of each day, each week, and each month, look back at what went well and what didn’t.

Then, make use of those insights and adjust your schedule going forward. If your meetings regularly run long, you might be inclined to try to make them shorter. Instead, simply block out more time for them. If you find you’re still not getting enough time with your family or for yourself, block out more time. Learning to delegate is also hugely helpful when adjusting your calendar. If someone else can do it, let them — that’s the key to work-life balance.

In the end, the struggle for work-life balance is an ongoing one for anyone who cherishes both. You can love your work but still want time for your family. And, as any working parent will tell you, you can adore your children and still be passionate about your career. So, soften a bit over the need to get it all — or have a perfect understanding right now. It will likely take you years, if not decades. The key is not to quit; keep practicing work-life balance, and you’ll get closer and closer to equilibrium over time. Proper utilization of your calendars can undoubtedly help you on your journey.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by ALLAN FRANCA CARMO; Pexels