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👨‍💻 IG#33: How to work full-time and still have a life

Working full-time hits hard. But there's a life outside of work - and there's a way to fit everything into your day.

Dominik Nitsch
6 min read
👨‍💻  IG#33: How to work full-time and still have a life

One of the biggest struggles of adult life is finding time to do all the things you want and need to do.

This becomes especially evident when you start working full-time for the first time, without the flexibility of being a student.

Think about it:

  1. Full-time job
  2. Family, friends & spouse
  3. Training & Self-Maintenance
  4. Household tasks
  5. Fun stuff that you want to do

Fitting all of that into a single week is hard.

So today, I want to break down how you can structure your days and weeks so that everything fits in - even if you’re working full-time.

Let’s dive in. 🤿

[1] Create Urgency by Setting Boundaries

The most productive, on-point, accountable people I know are … parents.

Which is crazy to think about: after all, they have to take care of tiny humans on top of all these other responsibilities.

What’s different for them?

They have a sense of urgency.

You see, for non-parents, most boundaries are “artificial”. You set them for yourself, but nobody will suffer if you don’t follow them.

For parents, this isn’t the case: their children are dependent on them to take care of them.

Which creates a crazy sense of urgency to get stuff done because you absolutely need to pick up kids from daycare, take them to the dentist, or to music school.

This also creates healthy boundaries: it’s easy for a boss to argue that “you need to get this done today” if your alternative would be to have some me-time at home.

It’s much harder to argue the same when you need to take your child to the doctor.

So creating urgency is one step to managing your time better. You can also do this if you don’t have children:

My most productive days have traditionally been the ones where I had practice at night.

I don’t want to let my teammates down, so I will make an effort to get everything done by 6pm so I can attend practice.

Magically, the work gets done.

You say no to “quick chats”.

You say no to tasks that don’t absolutely need to get done and can wait until tomorrow.

You say no to perfectionism because done all the sudden seems more attractive than perfect.

You say no to checking your phone.

Conversely, you say yes to focused work.

You say yes to shorter meetings that are well-prepared.

You say yes to getting the most out of your time.

The urgency created by hard boundaries is difficult to replace.

So set hard boundaries, and follow the urgency.

[2] Components of a Successful Day

Everybody is different, but for most people, a “successful day” consists of some of the following:

  • Work, both focused individual work and work meetings
  • Social interaction with friends, family, and acquaintances
  • Time for yourself, your spouse and/or your children
  • Some physical exercise and/or outdoors movement
  • Something fun & enjoyable

Of course, everybody needs to define for themselves what a successful day looks like. The 3-3-3 Rule popularized by Oliver Burkeman is a good place to start.

For me, a successful day has the following components:

  • 3h focused work
  • 2 buffer blocks for small tasks
  • up to 5 solid work meetings
  • a good, hard workout
  • time for myself and/or my girlfriend
  • social interaction with friends or acquaintances

[3] Example Breakdown of a Successful Day

Let’s break this down to a typical day:

07:30 - 08:30 | Me Time

Wake up, go for a walk, read, shower, stretch, eat breakfast, whatever suits you. The first 60 minutes of the day belong to yourself!

We’re still groggy after waking and it takes our bodies about an hour to wake up naturally, so use this time to center yourself. If you work from an office, use this time to bike, walk, commute there.

08:30 - 11:30 | Deep Work

Your focused work should happen when you’re most alert. For most, this is in the mornings. Protect this time at all costs from meetings, from technology, from notifications. Outline priorities the night before.

11:30 - 12:15 | Buffer Block

Handle communications, interact on social media, extinguish fires. Whatever comes up and needs to be handled is handled here. You can also use the buffer blocks for private tasks, eg. throwing in a quick load of laundry or unloading the dishwasher.

12:15 - 14:00 | Workout & Lunch

Most people go to the gym after work. In theory, that’s smart: testosterone is higher in the afternoon, and it provides a natural boundary between work and private life.

But after 3h of focused work, it’s hard to generate a lot of mental output anyway, so maybe use the time to produce physical output instead.

Bonus: the gym is usually empty at this time.

14:00 - 17:00 | Meetings

Afternoons are for meetings. Ideally, schedule them back-to-back after preparing them during the focused work slot. This way, you can breeze through them, and get 5-6 solid work meetings out of this time.

17:00 - 18:00 | Buffer Block

Work through all communications that have piled up during the day, as well as other small tasks that need to be handled. Follow up on meetings right away, and plan out the next day. Do some more focused work if you feel like it.

18:00 - 19:00 | Life Maintenance

Do everything non-work related that has piled up, like stuff in the household or private errands. If you need to work longer and don’t have any laundry, then you can use this block too.

19:00 - 21:30 | Social Interaction & Fun Time

Now’s a great time to interact socially, have dinner, or just cook for yourself and watch a movie. If you do sports at night, having lunch with friends is a great alternative. Do whatever gives you energy, and treat yourself to having had a successful day.

21:30 - 22:30 | Setup for Success

Slowly wind down from the day. Stretch, spend time with your spouse, call someone, do your dishes, and get ready for bed. Reading is also a fantastic activity.

At some point, go to bed (aim for >8h time in bed).

These components can be moved around at your liking.

If you’re a night owl, your day might look like this:

  • 09:00 - 10:00: Me Time
  • 10:00 - 11:00: Buffer Block
  • 11:00 - 14:00: Work Meetings
  • 14:00 - 15:00: Lunch
  • 15:00 - 16:00: Buffer Bock
  • 16:00 - 17:30: Workout
  • 17:30 - 18:30: Life Maintenance
  • 18:30 - 21:00: Social Interaction & Fun
  • 21:00 - 24:00: Deep Work
  • 00:00 - 01:00: Setup for Success

I’m convinced that with this schedule, anyone can make time for social & fun things, sports, household while still being productive at work.

You’ll still have the weekend to catch up on some of the things that you can’t get to during the week.

Or vice versa: use some slots in the week to catch up from the things you didn’t get to do on the weekend.

For example, since I’m usually gone on weekends, most of my Monday early evenings go towards household stuff, errands, and grocery shopping.

[4] Implications

Now, this plan is contingent upon you only working 8 hours per day. If you don’t manage to do that, everything else starts falling apart.

So I strongly encourage you to find ways to get your work - whatever that may be - done within 8 hours of your day.

Besides adding urgency (as stated above), there’s much more you can do to work as efficiently as possible:

  1. Learn how to work deeply (read this)
  2. Delegate effectively (here’s a guide)
  3. Increase your work intensity
  4. Say no more often (<< link to how to say no NL >>)
  5. Implement various productivity tools (I use these)

Alternatively, you can decrease time spent on life maintenance. A few tricks:

  1. Manage your cooking and grocery shopping more effectively (click this, one of the best posts I’ve written in the last months)
  2. Delegate stuff you’re not uniquely good at (according to Will Smith and my cleaning lady)
  3. Spend less time on social media (ultimate guide here)

And, if you haven’t done so, read my ultimate guide on time management.

We all have 24 hours in the day, and if we want to do more of one thing, then something else has got to give.

It just shouldn’t be your fun, your friends, or your spouse - the three components that are most easily turned into residual beneficiaries.

Action Items

  1. Implement at least one component for a successful day into your daily planning
  2. Identify a few areas where you can work more efficiently
  3. Add some fun into your life 🙂

To more more successful days.




Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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