For many of us, work/life balance remains an ever-elusive goal. Even if you have the flexibility to create your own schedule, you may struggle to give yourself down time between business obligations.

The problem may be that we have unrealistic expectations about what it means to be productive, says Adriana Girdler, CEO of Cornerstone Dynamics in Toronto. And our quest for balance is fundamentally flawed. “There’s no such thing as balance,” she says. “It is about finding harmony with your schedule.”

Harmony, Girdler says, involves taking steps each day to develop both professionally and personally, which will leave you feeling more satisfied about how you’ve spent your day.

Girdler shares the following time-management “hacks” to help you increase productivity and balance your day:

> Build breaks into your schedule
With so many distractions and interruptions, it’s nearly impossible to stick to a rigid schedule. Expect to spend about 60% of your day focused on tackling your workload, says Girdler, and allow for 40% to be flexible time.

No matter how overloaded you are with responsibilities, schedule personal time during the workday. Block out some time to take a walk around the block or watch a short YouTube video. These breaks will cut the monotony of the daily grind and boost your energy.

“You’ll feel you have more freedom,” says Girdler. “Because you planned for that [break], you’re living more of your life and not just getting stuck in a rut.”

> Make one cold call
Contacting complete strangers can be a dreaded, yet unavoidable, exercise for generating business.

“If you postpone a task that isn’t necessarily to your liking,” Girdler says, “it becomes this monster you don’t want to address.”

That’s why it’s far more manageable to work in one call — or send one personalized LinkedIn invitation — each day as opposed to dedicating an afternoon to making five calls, she says. If you commit to making one call a day, by the end of the month, you’ve made 20 potential connections.

> Record ideas
If an idea strikes while you’re on the go, perhaps between meetings with clients, turn your mobile device into a tool for capturing those thoughts, Girdler says.

File the thought away as a voice memo or a note on your phone, so that you “don’t lose sight of it” and waste time trying to recall the idea.

> Act with purpose
Practicing self discipline can be difficult when there are so many distractions — such as emails, voicemails and social media — competing for your attention.

Learn to say no to things that don’t align with your vision or would hinder your progress, says Girdler: “Knowing what your greater purpose is allows you to pry yourself from the distraction.”

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