Today, we’re going to talk about work/life balance. Because it’s a thing that so many of us struggle with- more people than ever now with work from home orders, that I think we should talk about it.
I know the idea of working from home, or the idea of being your own boss sounds amazing. It’s the total freedom you’ve always dreamed of! But once you achieve it, or once your company says you have to start working from home, you discover it’s not as easy as you might’ve thought. Now, YOU and only you are responsible for what you do. You’re the one who has to make sure you stay focused and get everything done. That your e-mails are answered, your projects are completed, and everything is hunky dory. Add on top of that keeping the house in order which is going to be a tad harder now that you’re home. Solely because, now you’re home for lunch, and most likely with kids whereas before your house was empty that time of day. Which means, more dishes and messes to clean as the day is going on. Your bathroom is being used more, which means, it’s going to get dirty faster or require more frequent cleaning. Essentially, you being home more REQUIRES more.
So what can we do? What can we do to motivate ourselves? To stay productive? Or on other days, to take a break? And learn it’s ok to NOT work? Working from home blurs lines and it can be hard to know when to do what. And with that confusion- comes guilt.
Have you ever felt guilty because you feel like you’re working TOO much at home? Like maybe you’re answering your phone or e-mails later than you would’ve been if you were in an office or at your old job? Do you ever feel guilty when you’re with your friends or spouse or kids, because you feel like you SHOULD be working? It gets weird and messy. But have no fear friends, that are things that we can do to combat the stress, mess, and confusion.
So with that let’s talk about my first tip.
Get Ready for the Day
If you are your own boss, it’s time to create a routine. If you are working for a company- stick to the same routine you did when you were working. Did you wake up at 6:00am? Continue to do so. Shower, make coffee, and most importantly, get dressed. EVEN if you’re just changing into fresh comfy clothes. Change your outfit, shower or wash your face, have some coffee and create that routine that gets you ready for the day and signals to your body you’re up and ready to do whatever the day requires.
This is so important. Yes it’s nice to make your own rules, or maybe just have the freedom to sleep in a little later now that your company shifted to working from home- but if you get lazy with getting ready. If you stay in your jammies, don’t wash your face/shower, heck don’t brush your teeth, you’re not going to feel ready to accomplish anything. The lazy slumber will be creating a hazy lazy aura around you all day long. So do yourself a favor and start making a getting read routine a priority.
If you don’t think I’m right on this- you’re wrong. Sorry for the bluntness but that’s why I’m your “get a grip” gal pal. You know when you DO have plans for the day, and you get up and get ready. Think about how that makes you feel. Think about how getting ready unconsciously prepares you for the day ahead. Think about how showering or washing your face washes away the sleepies and makes you feel awake and ready. Mentally, you’re in work mode when you’re in your day clothes. It’s all about putting on a different persona when you’re in work mode/awake mode. It’s what tells your brain it’s time to be up and productive.
Not only that, but after a few hours pajamas get grungy. You start to feel uncomfortable and maybe even stinky. This all makes focusing on productive work and life a bit more difficult.
It seems simple but creating the morning routine will make a BIG difference.
Create a Separate Work Space
Now, I know that not everyone has the luxury of creating a home office, but the point of this is to set some boundaries in your life. Imagine working from home all day on the couch, only for it to be the same couch you sit on at the end of the day to decompress, veg, and watch TV. It won’t take long until you’re SUPER sick of that couch and feeling stuck, bored, and quite honestly, trapped!
The point is, to be away from the area in the house where you spend the most time. This space should be where you keep all of your notes, equipment, or anything else you need for work. It should be place where your spouse and children know, if you’re in there, you don’t just come barging in because momma is working. Having this separate work space will help you mentally switch off at the end of the day and slip into that “home life” mentality.
One of the biggest secrets to achieving that work life balance you crave- is setting boundaries. Creating a separate work space, instead of working where you spend most of your “home life” time, will help do just that.
Have a To-Do List
Now I know there are some of you out there who hate lists, but they really help to stay organized, especially in an environment where the lines have become blurred like working from home.
It’s great to have everything you need to accomplish listed out, not matter how long the list becomes, because if you want to rock the work from home life and find your balance, you need to know what you have to do.
Start by making a list and word vomiting all the things you have to do. Then, prioritize your list by what you want to accomplish and finish TODAY.
The first step to accomplishing anything, is knowing what’s on your plate. So make a list, and I even like to write down when they’re due, and then I chip away at my list accordingly.
Now, for me, my list is a running, ongoing list. As I take on a new project it gets added to my list, and as I finish one it gets taken off. Your list doesn’t have to be paper, if you’re like me, maybe it’s a note on your computer, I’ve also used Trello, there are other planning apps out there- but do what works best for you!
Write down what needs to be done, and then enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off your finished projects.
Set Business Hours
This one is crucial. You need to set hours because setting work hours is the same thing as setting boundaries. You need to set boundaries in order to find a successful balance between life and work. So set hours with what works for your lifestyle. If you’re single, maybe you can do the traditional 9 to 5 at home. If you’re a stay at home, boss babe like myself, my work hours are nap times and an hour after bed time. Know what your hours are and KEEP THEM. If you didn’t finish the project you wanted to by the end of your work day, STOP. It’ll be there for you tomorrow. Learn to quit and honor the boundaries you set for yourself. If you were back in an office, you’d be running out of there as soon as the clock struck 5 to get home so don’t cut yourself short just because you’re ALREADY home.
Know Your Highs and Lows
When you’re starting to work from home, especially for yourself, there is a learning curve. Things don’t have to be done as traditionally as when you worked for a company or someone else. Use this to your advantage. If you’re a night owl, would you assign yourself task in the early morning? Or would you wait until the evening when you’re more engergized and productive?
You will be the most success if you work on tasks during the times you’re most productive. Whether that’s morning, afternoon, or evening. Don’t make this work from home deal harder on yourself. Understand when you’re most productive and use that to your advantage.
The goal of understanding your highs and lows, is maximizing your productivity. Another common low for people? Distractions. It’s so easy to be working from home and to get distracted by house chores you might want to do, or heck! Even just picking up your cell phone and getting lost down the social media rabbit hole. So keep your phone on silent and away from you, unless you need it for work, and stay as focused as possible. I read a great tip once from a woman who said she keeps a personal notebook next to her when she’s working so when she thinks of something that distracts her like emptying the dishwasher, or vacuuming, she writes it down on her list to do later.
So think be aware of your highs and lows, or strengths and weaknesses. Know when you’re most productive, and know what typically distracts you so you can avoid those distractions.
Fight the Guilt
With that being said, you need to fight the guilt. There is no shame in keeping strict office hours even when you’re working from home or even when you’re your own boss. Entrepreneurs have lives too that need balancing. We have spouses, children, parents, friends, AND businesses. So office hours are a MUST in order to balance all of it. Don’t let someone make you feel bad about shutting off the phone and not looking at e-mail past a certain time. Certainly don’t make yourself feel bad either!
The best part? You will ROCK your working from home lifestyle by actually having and living a life outside of work. Burnout is a real thing and it’s hard to recover from. So avoid it in the first place by setting boundaries and honoring them knowing you’re doing what’s best for you and those around you.
Live Your Life
Lastly, remember why you’re doing all this in the first place. Most likely, it’s for financial freedom, so you can provide more for your family. Well there’s no better gift to your family than YOU. So make sure you ditch the guilt, set the boundaries, and focus on your personal life too.
Clearly defined boundaries will lead to a great personal life and a better work life! You’ll have finally found your balance and instead of giving all your energy and effort into one area of life, learn how to say “no” and set those boundaries without feeling guilty.
To Wrap It Up
Let’s go over three action items we can do today to move the needle forward:
- Action step #1: Designate a specific area of your house to be your workspace. For a while, mine was my dining room! It was rarely used and a perfect place for me to set up camp! After some time, I bought a small corner desk for my closet and started calling that my “office.” So claim a space to be your “work space” and stop mudding the waters between where you work and where you play.
- Action step #2: Set hours. Do yourself a favor and set business hours for yourself. For me, they used to be 9:30-11:00a and then again 2:00-3:30. Now, my daughter is down to the one nap lifestyle so I’ve had to switch it up but that’s when I know I can be productive and focused. Once she wakes up- boss babe hat goes off and momma bear hat goes on. Respect your hours just like you respect the hours of any brick and mortar shop in your town.
- Action step #3: Create a getting ready routine so that you start the day fresh and ready. Remember- Change your clothes, freshen up, have some coffee or a big ol glass of whatever gets you going in the morning- and rock your work life balance.
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