Working from home the past year and a half, I learned the difference between balancing my home life and work life, seeing how they both take place where I spend most of my days and nights. I often get asked how I manage, especially since I don’t live alone. It can be exhausting and straining when you’re a student, an employee, a son/daughter, a boss, etc. These multiple roles in your life often exist in different settings, now that your home is a hub to all these personality extensions.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to finding a balance in any area of your life; work and school are no exception. Below are 10 things that have really worked for me in making this transition one that I can endure and thrive in!
Designated Work Space
No one knows how you work better than you, and no one knows what environment works best for you under these circumstances. Sometimes, your workspace is a laptop with your back against the wall on the living room floor. And that is okay. I would suggest that whatever space you choose is different for each of your roles. If you are in your room working, it can become a mental strain if that is the same place; you also do your school work, attend class, have leisure time, and sleep. All of the emotions associated with these various roles you have can begin to drown out your space which can lead to the feeling of being burned out.
Schedule your working hours
Suppose you work four days a week and study three days a week and have class twice a week on top of that. It may help create a schedule for you and everyone to see. A schedule can be posted on your door, on the fridge, or in a common area, so people know your hours of availability and hours of work/school. Not only will scheduling your work hour help structure your day, but it will also be a reminder to those around you to be mindful of your space and boundaries needed to perform your tasks each day. We are not on vacation right now; we are in a global pandemic.
If you have to be home and have no choice but to ignore the first point, be in your room all day, do so with a system in place, so you don’t get overwhelmed or feel trapped in your own space. Something as simple as having the door closed means do not disturb. Having it ajar means I will listen and engage, but I am not leaving, and having it fully open means you are taking a break. Utilize headphones, even if you aren’t listening to anything. This can be really difficult with housemates, kids, siblings, or parents around, the key is to be assertive and an advocate for yourself and your space.
Scheduling appointments at home may seem excessive. However, some people may respond better to having a set time with you rather than continually getting parts of your attention for scattered parts of the day. Telling my mom, “I’m gonna be writing today, and I have a few phone meetings, but let’s do lunch and a movie tonight,” really makes her feel like I value her on top of what I am doing. Setting aside this time gives me the freedom to go about my day with few interruptions. Again, schedules may not work for everyone. Many people do not respect boundaries, but this is where being able to be assertive and holding yourself accountable for your work kicks in.
Planning out your day
Have you ever heard of SMART Goals? SMART Goals is a plan used at my last job to get youth in the habit of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals. You can start this by creating lists of things you have to do in a day, then picking that list apart based on what’s realistic, what takes priority, and completion time. Structure your day around these tasks and take breaks in between each one. Keeping a whiteboard in my room to have a visual reminder of my progress helps me stay on track and celebrate the small victories. Everything may not be done or may not get completed to satisfaction, but be easy on yourself. Working from home or being a distant learner is not what a lot of us anticipated.
Take a break
Just as you would at work, at school, or doing anything that requires a lot of sitting and mental power, take a break. Get up, walk around, go outside, get off social media, and the news. Make sure you are staying hydrated and have healthy light snacks around to get you through the day. Be sure not to take a break in the same area you are working and try not to eat where you are working. Designating that time away from your workspace is key to that mental separation.
Keep that same morning energy
When you get ready for work, I’m assuming a shower is involved, along with hair and makeup, breakfast, getting presentable, and mentally prepared for the day. DO NOT STOP THAT. If you get up and roll out of bed, immediately get on your laptop, and start your day: no breakfast, no coffee, no washing your face or brushing your teeth, you may begin to feel fatigued, irritated, “over this” and other negative emotion your work may trigger early on in your day. Treat your work from home life as closely to your work out of home life. There are mindsets and confidence associated with getting ready for the day. Use that as the structuring of your day, turn it into your morning routine. Before, you did something because you had to leave the house; now, make it something you intentionally do to start your mornings, which leads me to my next point.
The way you start your morning lays a foundation for the rest of the day. Think of ways to improve your current routine – if necessary, get up in the morning a bit earlier to get into the habit of doing a morning ritual, which is motivating and empowering. Some things I have found beneficial include:
- Do a few minutes of yoga or meditation
- Go through your intention list and read it aloud
- Take a shower and spend some extra time on a skincare routine
- Write your to-do list and prioritize your most important tasks
- Write down your dream or any ideas that came to you in your sleep
- Eat a nutritious breakfast – high in fiber and protein
- If coffee makes you edgy, try switching to matcha
- Avoid social media for an hour after waking
- Spend a few minutes outside watching the sunrise
The feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed can lead to isolating ourselves more than we already are at this time. Finding a community is ESSENTIAL to our mental and emotional health during this time. If you can, find ways to connect safely if, in person. Consider scheduling zoom meetings, duo calls, FaceTime parties with people who will fill your meters of connection, communication, and intimacy. Pay attention to your love language during this time, and keep track of what it is you’re missing.
Get out of the house
Yes, we are in a pandemic, but if you can do so safely, take up a chance to get a change of pace and scenery. Go for a drive, take a walk, be in nature if you live in a place that allows it. Work in your backyard if the weather is right or work in your garage with it opened halfway. Change up your environment regularly. Also, with the seasonal changes approaching, make sure you’re absorbing as much sun as possible. We tend to go Vitamin D deficient this time of year, especially when we’re already spending most of our time indoors.
The key to finding the balance is by being the balance. Making small or even massive changes that help you create a lifestyle, for the many areas of your life, without feeling depleted or overwhelmed.