Posted on 5/15/2013

Written By Carol Archambeault

busy calendarI pay close attention to how I spend my time.

Like many, I can get deeply absorbed in an activity and the next thing I know, several hours have passed and I’ve completely missed out on something I really wanted to do. Do you find this frustrating, too? While there are some activities I purposefully get lost in without regard for the clock (such as sitting outside on my patio drinking a refreshing glass of ice tea while watching the sunset), other times I could use a friendly, “Hey, you! Remember-your-personal-life-matters” reminder.

An obvious place to be mindful of life balance is at work, where it’s incredibly easy to lose track of the day. I find it makes sense to apply some safety measures to be sure I’m preserving a few hours daily to do the things that matter to me.

Here’s what happens each day when I arrive at the office (before I respond to even one phone call or email):

  • I review my schedule and decide upon the specific time I plan to leave work that day.

  • I set reminders for the time I’ll leave work in three places: on the calendar on my iPhone, in my Outlook work email, and (old-school style) on a Post-it note stuck to my phone.

  • I send a confirmation email or text to the person I’m planning to get together with that evening.

When I shared my time management habits with a co-worker, she smiled nervously and said, “Seriously? You know how busy it gets around here…how can you do this?” “What if you run late from a meeting? “What if your boss needs you late in the day?” “What if something unexpected comes up?” I told her I get all the “What ifs?” but my plan works because expectations are set in advance, and I simply manage the rest.

For example:

  • When starting a late afternoon meeting, I’ll say, “I have a hard stop at 5:30.″

  • If my boss needs me, I’ll find out the essentials of what she needs and quickly take care of it, or see if it can wait until morning. (Often I have found that if a colleague needs something addressed, she doesn’t necessarily expect action “now.”)

  • If something unexpected does arise, I take a moment to consider the situation, and then decide on a course of action.

What I don’t do is assume that I can’t make a plan.

It’s up to me to take responsibility for my personal life and relationships. I told my friend that even in the rare case that I have to adjust my evening plans due to something unexpected, I’m already ahead of the game. My attitude is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and then go about my merry way of working, and looking forward to my fun plans after work.

You’re probably asking what’s so darn important that I must leave work on time.  It’s simple: I plan to share a meal with someone at least once a day. For me, I choose dinner (although it’s typical for me to share up to two meals a day). Sharing meals is so important to me that I wrote a book about it.

Family Enjoying meal,mealtime TogetherThis wonderful habit began in my childhood. I am the youngest in a family of eleven kids. For decades my parents maintained a robust family meal ritual. We had dinner every night at 6 o’clock. Everyone worked their schedules around dinnertime. It was a sure thing. There were no cell phones chiming or Blackberries buzzing to distract us.


During meals we laughed, updated each other on our news of the day, and bonded as a family. I grew to realize that my parents serving meals every night was one of the most powerful, loving actions a parent could take. It helped us feel secure and cared for. You might say that showing up at the dinner table is love personified.

Besides the benefits my family experienced, research shows that regularly sharing meals is linked to a host of social, psychological, physical, spiritual, academic, creative and cultural benefits.  It’s a worthy investment of time.

Our lives have become busier and more complex since the days of my childhood. The world favors virtual devices as a primary means of communication, so physically being present with those you love is like a breath of fresh air. We need moments of personal interaction to help offset the effects of a highly-wired society. Sharing a meal together (unplugged) is much more than the act of eating food in the same room. It’s about a daily commitment to ourselves, and our families.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s forward-thinking to use time management strategies (with the help of tech tools) to ensure, each and every day, that you make time to do the things that truly matter to you.

What types of strategies are you using to get the life balance you need?  Does your schedule feel out of control, or is it aimed at achieving daily joy?

It only takes a little time to consider what you can do to help reclaim balance and connection in your life.  Making a plan to share a meal every day with someone you love is a fine place to start.

CarolArchambeaultMeet Carol

Carol Archambeault believes sharing meals is the foundation for recognizing one another’s humanity and imparting our life stories. She completed her Master of Arts in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College.  A dual citizen of Italy, she currently resides in southern California. Carol is working to spur a national dialogue about the benefits of sharing meals through her upcoming book, The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends, and her blog Shared Meals Matter. For more, go to, and Twitter @sharedmeals.