From entrepreneurs and executives to entry-level workers and mid-level managers, everyone is striving to find the perfect work–life balance.
The problem is, it’s not always straightforward — and the line between work and personal life has become even more blurred recently. It’s no longer a case of taking work home; for many people, all work now happens at home. Plus, if you have kids or other responsibilities, your personal life has likely become more intertwined with your workday.
For instance, you may feel like you need to make up for interruptions by working longer hours or you may not have a clear idea of when to stop working. In either case, this minimizes the amount of time left for family and social life, leading to stress.
Striking the right work–life balance may seem impossible, especially if you’ve never worked from home before or you’ve just launched your startup and are finding that it’s much more effort than being an employee. Nonetheless, whatever your situation, there are steps you can take to find that work–life balance.
1. Set Your Work Hours
You may not need to work from 9 to 5, but you should still have set working hours. These can vary each day to fit around your other commitments, but they should be reasonably consistent. This will help you develop a routine and separate your work life from your home life.
Most people need to work Monday to Friday. If this is not the case for you, the likelihood is you’ll want to work weekdays anyway to fit around the other people in your life. However, there’s no downside to experimenting with different options until you arrive at a format that works for you.
Whatever you decide, make sure everyone who needs to know is aware of your working hours. This may include other people at your company as well as family members or roommates (who need to know not to disturb you during these hours).
2. Separate Personal Life and Work Activities
Decide what activities pertain to work and what are personal — depending on your job, there may be some overlap. During the hours you’ve designated to work, avoid doing any personal activities and vice versa.
3. Create a Schedule
A better option than just setting some hours for work and using a to-do list is to create a detailed schedule. When adding items to your schedule think about what you’ll be in the mood to do at different times of the day. Some people like to tackle their most challenging tasks at the start of the workday, whereas others need an hour or two to wake up.
It’s best to create a schedule for the entire day (or at least most of it — you can leave some blocks free to do what you feel like in the moment). This allows you to build a work–life balance into your schedule. Make sure you include some time every day for exercise, relaxation, and hobbies. This way, if you ever have a less productive day than normal, you’ll not be tempted to continue working into your leisure time.
4. Decide on Priorities
It’s tempting to start with the easiest tasks, but this can mean you end up with too little time for your urgent work. Force yourself to finish activities according to their priority rather than what you feel like doing.
5. Improve Your Time Management Skills
None of the above are any good if you have poor time management skills. The hours pass you by and you realize you’ve made little progress. There’s no way you can keep to your schedule and still meet your deadlines.
If you’re going to avoid using personal time to catch up on work, it’s essential to improve your time management skills. There are a few ways you can do this:
6. Start a Morning Routine
A morning routine can put you in the right frame of mind to work and prepare you for the day ahead. Your morning routine can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and setting your intention for the day before getting out of bed or drinking a cup of coffee on your porch. Some people find an energizing activity useful — a workout or a cold shower, for instance. Figure out what works for you.
7. Take Breaks
You may feel like you can fit more into your day if you work without stopping, but you do need to rest at regular intervals. It’s worthwhile including breaks in your schedule. That way, you’ll never feel guilty about taking too much time off — and you’ll also limit yourself to avoid time-consuming distractions.
If you can, it’s also worthwhile occasionally taking a few days or even a week off work. Maybe try to spend some time in nature, away from people, where you can forget about work for a while. It’s difficult to plan far in advance at the moment, as the pandemic outlook can change in a matter of days. However, you should still avoid scheduling a vacation at the last minute, as you will need to let your boss or clients know that you’ll be unavailable.
Alternatively, you could take a staycation. This still means you can avoid thinking about work for a while. Plus, it gives you the chance to be with your family and dedicate time to your other passions.
8. Spend Time Outdoors
Don’t wait until your time off to enjoy the outdoors. Receiving between 10 to 30 minutes of sun (ideally at midday) a few days a week is critical for maintaining your vitamin D levels. If you want to feel like you’re using your time beneficially, consider doing your daily exercise outdoors.
9. Analyze Your Day
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to assess what you’ve achieved. It’s common to expect you’ll be able to do more than is actually feasible. An analysis at the end of each day will help you develop more realistic targets as you go forward and ensure you do only work within the hours you’ve set.
10. Outsource Tasks
You’ll never be able to achieve a work-life balance if you have too much on your plate. If administrative tasks are taking up too much of your time, outsource them. The same goes for any tasks that are beyond your abilities. Not only will you free up your schedule, the final result will be of higher quality.
11. Make a Workspace
Working from home shouldn’t mean you’re taking your laptop to the couch or spreading papers across the kitchen table. To avoid your work and personal life becoming too closely linked, you need a dedicated workspace. Ideally, this will be in a separate room; at a minimum, it should be in a quiet space of your home.
There’s no need for your workspace to be anything complex: it should be comfortable and have everything you need to be productive. Equip it with a desk, a proper desk chair, and a few other office essentials.
Occasionally, you may like to use your workplace for personal activities, such as managing finances or sending emails to friends. However, you should limit the amount of time you use the space for personal activities to create a clear distinction in your mind between work and the rest of your life. This is critical for achieving a work–life balance.
12. Enjoy Your Work
When you enjoy your work, your energy levels stay high. It’s easier to focus on work and have plenty of energy left over.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you should definitely enjoy your work. If you don’t, consider what you could change to find pleasure in running a business. Perhaps you could seek additional support, either by hiring an employee, contracting a virtual assistant, or using the services of a business coach.
If you’re working at an established company, it may be more challenging to find enjoyment where there currently is none. However, it’s not impossible. You could ask your boss if there is a chance for you to take on new responsibilities or you could create a plan for growth in your career.
13. Seek Social Interactions
Before the pandemic, social interactions occurred organically. You likely saw friends at events, chatted to coworkers at the office, and visited relatives more often. Now, it’s necessary to go to extra lengths to make sure you keep up an active social life. Otherwise, you may start feeling isolated and your life may start to revolve entirely around work. Block time in your schedule for video chats or to meet people who live nearby in a safe environment, such as at a park.
Life in a pandemic is already stressful. We need to find compassion for ourselves to prevent our lives from becoming overwhelmed by work. Using the above tips will ensure you give your all to work and stay productive without sacrificing the other important aspects of life.
If you’re struggling to strike that work–life balance because your job is stressful or you no longer enjoy it, consider making a change. The shift to remote work has led to even more opportunities to work from home. Check out our list of the fastest-growing remote careers for some inspiration.