For a long time, my work-life balance was … well … less like balance and more like 2 hyper 6-year-olds on a teeter totter (you know when the one at the bottom launches up with so much gusto that the other one slams to the ground, and then does the same in return? Yeah. That was work-life “balance” for me.).
While I haven’t achieved perfect work-life balance (let’s be honest; this is most likely an “journey > destination” adventure), here are 6 DOs and DON’Ts that I’ve learned in my now 9 years(!) of working from home:
- Remember there will be times when you feel completely off-balance.
Shaming yourself or going to the other extreme will only make it worse. Just pick 1 thing to help you ease your way back on track.
- Create structure.
Yes, you work from home, which allows for total flexibility. That doesn’t mean that every day should be totally flexible. Figure out what your personality needs in terms of schedule, habits, and environment, and take the initiative to put that structure in place.
- Know your “must-do” tasks.
This goes for both work and life. Possibilities include:
– Process email
– Check in with your team
– Make progress on your key project
– Manage social media
– Play with each child 1-on-1 for 15 minutes each day
– Pray, meditate, and/or read scripture or other inspirational text
– Prep & cook meals
- Use your calendar.
Block out time to complete your must-do tasks and be laser-focused during those blocks. And pick times when you’ll start and finish your work day each day.
- CLOSE THE INBOX.
Pick 2 times per day that you will process email (3 if you HAVE to)
- Learn the art of “parallel processing”.
Pair 2 things to do at the same time: one high-focus activity and one that doesn’t require your focus (i.e. listen to TED talks, podcasts, or audio books while doing dishes or folding laundry). This will allow you to get more accomplished while attending to your personal or professional development.
NOTE: do NOT pair 2 high-focus activities. This will lead to rapid burnout and intense frustration. #triedthatonce
- Process email from the bathroom.
(You know you’ve done it!)
- Squeeze work into every possible crack in your day.
Know your “must-do” tasks and, when they are complete, call it “enough” and close.the.laptop.
- Book back-to-back meetings.
Allow yourself a 15-minute cushion to breathe, get a drink of water, use the bathroom (without processing email! …see above), and/or get some fresh air.
- Pride yourself in being “busy”.
“Busy” does not equal “important” or “successful”. (learned that one the hard way.) Life’s too short to jam it so full that there’s no room for joy. If you’re feeling tightness in your chest, rushing from meeting to meeting, regularly staying up late to make deadlines, and scarfing down lunch with one hand while typing with the other, there’s a better life available to you if you choose it. So choose it.
- Forget your physical well-being.
Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious meals and snacks. Do some sort of exercise daily. Make this a MUST in your life, as it affects everything.
- Lose perspective.
The thing to remember about work-life balance is that the “work” side of it is very rarely life-or-death (exceptions: firefighters, medical professionals, military, police). When your work perspective is off, your life perspective is going to be off. Determine what’s most important to you on the “life” side and focus on that as you make decisions for the “work” side.
What are your work-at-home DOs and DON’Ts for life balance? Please share in the comments…I’d love to add to my list!