It’s Friday evening. Your coworkers have gone to happy hour but you’re still grinding away. You call home to let them know you’ll be late. Again. And that you have to put in a few hours over the weekend.
Your work-life balance is askew.
This is amplified more now than ever with the stay-at-home orders due to COVID. You might be working from your sofa or kitchen table. Boundaries have been lost and your workday starts when you get up and ends after you check that last email just before going to bed. Maintaining a work-life balance can be a struggle when you’re working from home or the office. Maintaining a work-life balance is essential for your health and wellbeing.
So, how do you achieve a work-life balance? The first steps are to identify where your work-life balance is off. We automatically assume that work is creeping into our life, but it can be the other way around.
At work, do you …
… constantly phone home to check on the new baby or ask what’s for dinner? Are you stopping work midday to run an errand for the house but find your errands take more than an hour? Do pop into work just a tad late because you wanted to finish a home project or clean the kitchen?
These are all signs that your life is creeping into your work. This leads to unproductive and inattentive work when you’re supposed to be on the job. When working from home, it is very easy for your life to creep into your job.
Here are some tips on how to achieve a work-life balance whether you’re working at home or the office.
- Set priorities. Organize your day and your week by what needs to be done first. Give yourself three priorities each day and three priorities for the week. For example, your daily priorities are the “fires” that must be done that day. A weekly priority might be to send out the newsletter by Friday. Once you complete your “fires,” you can work on your weekly priorities. Doing a little bit each day makes your weekly priorities more manageable.
- Eat the frog first. OK, no one wants to eat a frog! But we all have those priorities that “taste” like a frog. When you tackle the hardest task first – and finish it – you’re actually more productive throughout the day.
- Find Zen each day. This means take a break! Our bodies are not designed to work without taking a break. Breaks have been shown to increase productivity and enhance wellbeing. By the way, taking a break means actually standing up and walking away from the computer!
- Set boundaries around your time. Established boundaries help avoid burnout. They also serve to let others know when you will respond to work-related issues and when you will not. Boundaries keep work at work and home at home.
- Unplug. Ahh. Step outside and enjoy the sound of nature. Unplugging allows you to recover from the stresses of the week and gives you space for new thoughts and ideas. When you unplug, you give yourself permission to decompress without being tempted to check email or surf the web.
- Learn to say “no”. When you work 40 or more hours a week that leaves little time for home projects or other to-do’s around the house or for friends and family. However, your health relies on your ability to say “no”. Just as you prioritize your work duties, prioritize what’s really important to you at home. Opposite of eating the frog first – you will actually make the time to do what is most enjoyable first.
- Get moving. Exercise has been shown to boost your immune system and your spirits. When you exercise, you get a rush of endorphins. Regular exercise reduces stress, depression, and anxiety. Bonus – you can unplug while you exercise and tick two off this list!
- Take a vacation. You work hard. Reward yourself with a vacation. Whether you hop on a plane, take the camper on a road trip, or rent a hotel down the street from your house, it’s important for your wellbeing to get away.
Sometimes you’ll need to hunker down at work or take on new responsibilities at home. When you do, re-adjust your schedule temporarily. As soon as can, return to your regular schedule – keeping home at home and work at work.
If you’re having trouble getting started, track your time. This can be a real eye-opener, but it shows you how you’re spending your time. You might find that a lot of your time I spent surfing social – something you can easily change to give you more hours in your day at home or the office.
The most important thing is to get started. Create a work-life balance that works for you and your career path.
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