Balancing Priorities: Managing Time and Work-Life Environment in Barcelona


Now that it has been five weeks since my arrival in Barcelona, I think it is best to touch upon how I have been managing my time and setting priorities. During my eleven-week program in Barcelona, where I am studying architecture, I have already had one design review, and there are always deadlines approaching fast. In this blog, I will discuss the strategies I use to manage my time effectively, the work ethic and productivity levels I have observed in Spain, and the importance of a balanced work-life environment.

To effectively manage my time, I rely on a combination of digital tools and physical methods. Creating an online calendar has been my preferred approach as it allows me to block out specific hours for activities such as classes and meals with my classmates. It also helps me ensure that I get enough sleep, which I consider crucial, given the amount of walking and homework involved in my daily routine. But while the calendar helps me structure my overall day, I use a single sticky note placed beside my trackpad to manage my daily tasks. By maintaining a running list of tasks for the day, I find it easier to break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable steps. I would recommend this approach to other students studying abroad who may feel overwhelmed by distant deadlines. I personally find it satisfying to check off tasks on the sticky note as I complete them, providing me with a sense of progress and accomplishment.

While striving to stay focused and productive, I have also faced some distractions. Back home, I used to stay at school to do all my work, knowing that going home would bring me distractions like my bed or the television. However, here in Barcelona, I don’t have the option to stay at our co-working space due to its limited hours. Recognizing this challenge, I must say that I need to find an alternative study space outside my dorm room that can help me be more productive.

Being part of a creative co-working space in Barcelona has provided me with valuable insights into the work levels and productivity norms in Spain. I have noticed that compared to the early start times typical in America, Spaniards often begin their workdays around 9:00 AM or even later. However, their workdays tend to be longer, possibly due to the incorporation of a midday break known as the siesta. Although I haven’t personally witnessed people napping, it is common to see them enjoying a leisurely meal or spending time with colleagues during this extended break. This practice contributes to a more relaxed and balanced working environment, allowing professionals to recharge and maintain their productivity throughout the day. Additionally, collaboration and teamwork are highly valued in Spanish workplaces, with colleagues making an effort to build personal relationships through activities like movie nights which is crucial for them to build personal relationships too.

I am fascinated by the Spanish approach to achieving a balanced work-life environment. The idea of socializing after work, enjoying meals together, and taking longer breaks to recharge resonates with me. It highlights the importance of nourishing oneself physically and mentally to produce high-quality work. As I continue my studies and eventually enter the workforce, I will seek job opportunities that prioritize this balanced approach.