Whether you work from home… or you work a 9-to-5 job, we all face one challenging goal together.
A work-life balance.
Am I spending too much time with work and not enough on family? Am I too stressed out with home stuff that I slack on the job?
You’re not alone! We all have a hard time not guilt-tripping ourselves over how we balance out our lives. It’s hard! I face those same challenges.
But there ARE steps to take to help get you on the right track. I’ve found the following ten steps to be incredibly effective in my own life. You have probably even heard of some of them… but we all need a nudge sometimes to get back on track 🙂
(You’ll find that some of these are more specific to working from home, but others can be adapted to any work environment. Take the tips and apply them to your own situation.)
Let’s get started!
1) The first step to maintaining work-life balance: Have a morning routine, and stick to it.
Routine is everything, and starting your day the same way each day goes a loooong way. That could involve waking up at the same time, having your morning cup of coffee or juice and your breakfast, reading the paper, catching up on your favorite blog — whatever feels good to you and eases you into the day. And one of the most important steps in that routine? Getting dressed.
Let me explain…
I can tell you from experience that putting on real clothes can make a huge difference in how you approach your day. It doesn’t have to be a suit — just a pair of jeans or slacks and a shirt will do. If makeup makes you feel put together, put on a dash of makeup. Comb your hair. Pretend like you are leaving the house for the day and see how you feel. Chances are, you’ll feel more “ready” for the day, and you’ll feel more in “work” mode rather than “hang out and chill at home” mode.
2) Create a separate work space.
If you work in an office setting, you probably already have a designated work space. However, that can get a little trickier when you work from home. You don’t have that obvious separation/commute between your office building and your home.
If you work from home, it’s important you create some semblance of that barrier. Designate a room, a space, a corner — anywhere in your home you can make completely your work space. And then make it yours — set up your computer and office supplies, use a comfy office chair. Get a whiteboard to keep notes on. Hang up pictures on a photo display. Post your favorite motivational quote.
Why is this important? Because if you are always working from the couch or in front of the TV, you’re WAY more likely to get distracted. And worst of all? Your “work zone” completely bleeds into your “home zone.” It makes it even harder to cut yourself off from work. Think about it. If you work from the couch, what is keeping you from working well past your normal working hours? That’s why separation is key.
3) Set office hours and prioritize your time.
This point is the perfect addition to my previous point of keeping your work zone separate from your home zone. Establish set office hours. And then follow them. This might already be dictated by your company or boss (if you have one), but if you have your own business, you are the master of your time. YOU decide when to work and for how long. This might fluctuate day to day, but the important thing is to stick to a schedule as much as possible. It’s very easy to just keep working because it’s convenient — don’t fall into that trap. Unless you’re on a deadline and really do need to work late, start and end your workday when you scheduled to do so.
Once you have your hours planned out, prioritize that time. Have a project with a deadline coming up? Focus on making sure you’re getting it done. Did you tell someone you’d email them back that day? Make sure you do! Prioritizing your day will help you get tasks done efficiently and allow you to stay within the hours you designated for your job.
4) Take breaks throughout the day.
This applies to EVERYONE in the workforce today. We tend to get so wrapped up in what we’re doing during the day, we completely forget to take breaks. Taking quick five- to ten-minute breaks throughout the day allows your mind to reset. Breaks are also a great time to think through a problem if you’re stuck, or get your creative juices flowing if you’ve got a mental block. Even better — take those breaks OUTSIDE. Fresh air can do wonders for your mind and body. Bonus points if you take time for a quick walk!
5) Take care of yourself.
Remember how I said taking breaks is key for that work-life balance? Now let’s expand on that to taking care of yourself — mind, body, and soul.
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day and eating proper meals. Take a permanent marker and mark up a gallon jug with how much water you need to drink at certain times during the day so you’re not forgetting to stay hydrated. Water does wonders for concentration and a positive mood. And don’t forget to eat! Sometimes when we get busy, it’s easy to forget to grab something. If you find yourself snacking a lot, make sure to have healthy, tasty snacks on hand.
- Exercise! Try fitting in a workout in the morning before you start work. Get your energy up for the rest of the day. If you can’t fit in a full workout, do some simple stretches during your breaks. Stretch your neck, roll those shoulders, do some wrist/ankle rotations, STAND UP, shake out your arms and legs — any movement is better than no movement at all.
- Be sure to take your inner self into consideration as well. You might accomplish this through meditation, prayer, deep breathing, yoga poses — whatever works for you. Taking “me” time to take care of your inner self will do wonders to give you peace and clear your mind.
6) Minimize distractions.
Who here works from home and totally gets distracted by the dirty dishes in the sink/laundry piling up/dust bunnies flying across the floor? ::raises hand::
It’s HARD to focus these days. We’ve gotten so used to multitasking that it can be a feat to focus on just one thing at a time. When you work outside of the home, you can (to some extent) use the “out of sight, out of mind” excuse. But when you work from home and can actually see those distractions, it’s a whole ‘nother story.
My suggestions? Be sure you work from that designated “work zone” we discussed earlier. Keep that area as free from distractions as possible. If you want to go one step further, take care of those distractions before you begin work, or allow yourself a specific time during the day to handle them. Maybe empty the dishwasher during one of those ten-minute breaks, or fold a load of laundry during your lunch break. Schedule it into your day like you would a meeting, and it’ll feel less like a household chore and more like another work task that needs to be done.
7) Be able to “turn off” at the end of the day.
Remember how we discussed setting work hours in #3? It’s equally important to know when to call it a day. Plan into your schedule a way to wind down your workday. Maybe it’s getting your to-do list ready for tomorrow, turning off your computer, and shutting the door to your office on the way out. Maybe it’s simply turning off your computer, no matter where you’re at, leaving your work until tomorrow. Or maybe you even change from your “work” clothes to your “lounging at home” clothes. It can be whatever you want, as long as it turns your brain from work mode to home mode.
8) Establish boundaries with friends and family.
Who’s had any of the following happen?
From your friend: “Oh, you work from home! That means you can hang out whenever, right?”
From your neighbor: “I have a delivery coming at 1pm today. Can you sign for it?”
From your child: “I forgot my homework at home. Can you bring it to me at school?”
From your significant other: “Can you pick up my dry cleaning today?”
It is a HUGE misconception that because you work from home, it means you’re available for these odd tasks during the day.
You have a real job, just like someone who works at an office. You have set work hours, and, for the most part, you abide by those hours. You’re NOT available for these extra chores just because your office happens to be in your home.
It’s important to get your friends and family on board with your expectations from the start. And the best way to do that is to just communicate that to them — nicely! That’s not to say you can never help anyone out. One of the pros of working at home is not being stuck with corporate work schedules. But your friends and family shouldn’t always just expect you to do everything for them. You have a job too! It’s just that you choose to do it from the comfort of your own home 🙂
9) Be open about your needs… and know when to ask for help.
I think a lot of people (including me) struggle with this on a daily basis. We want to do everything and be everything to everyone… and that’s just not realistic or sustainable in the long run. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ASK FOR HELP. Ask your significant other, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague — anyone is fair game. People like to help, and your loved ones will most likely be happy to pitch in to ease your load. And remember — you can always return the favor!
10) Let go of perfectionism.
Reality check: you are not perfect. I’m not perfect. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and do boneheaded things that make us want to crawl in a hole. Guess what? It’s perfectly normal. We all mess up in our businesses, in our relationships, in our commitments… it’s going to happen. Be sure to give yourself grace to make those mistakes. One way to do that? Set realistic goals for yourself, and manage your expectations with achieving those goals. If you don’t hit one, it’s not the end of the world. Use it as fuel to do better next time, and keep on working hard!
Even though keeping that work-life balance in check is one of the most difficult things to do, it’s also vital to anyone’s success (and sanity!). While this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s a great start for those looking to add at least a little bit of harmony to our lives.
Do you have any other tips for maintaining work-life balance? Please share them below in the comments!