“Finding Balance” Is Burning You Out—Here’s What to Aim for Instead

Photo: Stocksy/GIC

There's a lot that goes into living one's best life—maintaining a purpose-driven career, spending time with family and close friends, bonding with the treadmill, catching eight hours of sleep per night. (And those are just the things that science claims will make you happy.) So is it any surprise that, in the pursuit of a balanced existence, so many women are burning out

If you're raising your triple espresso in recognition right now, Randi Zuckerberg wants to shift your perspective. “You can have it all—just not in a 24-hour time period,” says the entrepreneur, investor, media guru, and bestselling author. In her new book, Pick 3, the former Facebook exec argues that avoiding overwhelm is as simple as choosing three "buckets" of life to focus on each day—like work, family, and eating well, or friends, exercise, and sleep—rather than trying to slay everything, all the time. “It’s time to discard the fantasy notion of being balanced. It doesn’t exist,” Zuckerberg proclaims.

It's an intriguing idea, and for lots of people, honing in on just three areas of life would feel like a relief. But what if you've got a crazy workload, and three categories feel like too much to juggle on a typical weekday? According to Zuckerberg, you still can't ignore the other buckets, because they help round out your life. “Working too hard without a break leads to all of us being far less effective in our jobs,” she points out. And checking out of the office in favor of new experiences can often lead to more creativity and productivity

Here, the author shares a few of her favorite at-work hacks that'll open up space for other pursuits and passions. Just don't call what you're striving for "balance," she says: “It’s time to get comfy living in a world where we are a little bit lopsided."

Read on for 4 work productivity tips from Pick 3 author Randi Zuckerberg.

Randi Zuckerberg's productivity tips
Photo: Stocksy/Juri Pozzi

1. Delegate

If you're high up in your company and constantly finding yourself stuck in the office after your team's gone to happy hour, consider whether there's anything on your to-do list you can pass off to someone else. This won't just reduce the time spent at your desk—it'll also help you get ahead faster at the office. “If you want to level up in your career, you need to offload smaller tasks that allow you to focus on the bigger strategic ones,” says Zuckerberg.

2. Limit your email time

There are certain time-consuming duties at work that you can't really control—like, if your boss requests a meeting, you kinda have to go. Email, however, is one thing that you can create boundaries around. "Become an email ninja," says Zuckerberg. "Train yourself to keep your email communication as short as possible. If you have the type of schedule that allows it, open your e-mail only a few times a day and answer in batches." This will help you stay focused on your to-do list—and you can apply the same rules to your Slack habits.

3. Learn how to say no

One way to avoid spreading yourself too thin is to focus on your goals first and foremost. And this might mean politely declining when other people ask you for advice or assistance on their projects. "There will always be lots of people who want you to spend time helping them with their goals,” says Zuckerberg. This doesn't mean you have to build a wall around yourself—just be selective about the extra projects you take on. "The better you do for you, the more you’ll be able to help others,” the author points out.

4. Put time constraints on your tasks

If you give yourself an unlimited amount of time to get your work done, you'll take an unlimited amount of time to do your work. That's why Zuckerberg suggests blocking out a certain number of minutes for each task. “I find that when we schedule an activity with time constraints, we are more likely to be all in," she says. "We put our phone down and become immersed in the activity.” This also goes for the other buckets of your life, from friend dates to workouts. (And yes, 15 minute sweat sessions totally count.) 

As for those other life buckets? Here's the best time of day to have sex—and other tips on planning your healthy habits by the clock, according to Chinese medicine.

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