I have struggled with work-life balance challenges long before COVID.
If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I still am. What can I say, I’m a work in progress!
These days the lines between home and work are really blurry as people work from home, continue quarantining, and many people still juggling home school/remote learning for their children. I have worked from home for almost 2 decades and could write tons on this subject. For today, I wanted to focus on a few actionable steps that could help you create boundaries for yourself.
- Work space
- (If possible) Have a dedicated, designated space for work separate from other activities in your home. Try to avoid working on your couch or at your dining room table.
- If the space has a door, close it at night or when not working.
- Change your clothes in the morning. Many people joke about working in their PJs. Changing your clothes sends a message to you that you are doing something different right now. You can still wear comfy clothes but change out of your PJs.
- Get up and start your day in the same routine you would if you were going to the office.
- Set and keep to a schedule. Share your schedule with your family or housemates to create accountably and keep you from working over or skipping breaks.
- Close out each night like you would in your office. (E.g., organize your desk and put your laptop in your computer bag.) This signals to your brain you are done with the computer and work for a while.
- Create a transition activity to replace your commuting time. (e.g., walk your dog, run, sit outside, listen to a podcast, or read a magazine)
- If you work after hours, work “offline” so you are focused on what you planned to do. Also, this will help you avoid sending emails which may distract others at night, in their off-work time.
- Turn off the notifications on your phone for work emails. Once you see the alerts pop up, it’s hard to avoid it. Once you read the information, even if you choose not to respond, it’s already in your head.
- Unplug all together. Let your team know how to get in touch with you for emergency/urgent matters, otherwise “unplug” from your work systems.
- Make a date or appointment after work. I used to meet a friend for a class the gym after work which would get me to stop working. During the pandemic, I haven’t been going to the gym, but I could schedule time to walk and talk with a friend over the phone. Other date options – take that online cooking class you have been wanting to take, have an actual date, plan a play date with your kids – letting them know when you will be free to play.
I recently had to revisit these, as my old strategies were no longer working in COVID times. Whether you are experienced in working from home or new to it, I encourage you to consider your practices to ensure they are serving you.
As with most of the things I talk about with respect to leadership, it’s important to be intentional and create routines that align to your intentions. Build boundaries, and then respect them.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” – Stephen R. Covey
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