The importance of work-life balance
The difference between work and life becomes muddy when the element of the outside office is removed and you’re left working from home. Some small business owners, freelancers, and remote workers find it difficult to separate their work from their actual lives. A healthy balance of the two is highly recommended and when done correctly has great benefits on your health and social life.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
If work consumes all your waking hours, you’re inviting stress into your life and setting yourself up for a major breakdown which will undoubtedly lead to a burn-out. With more and more people working from home in today’s world, it can be hard to make that separation but this post will make it easier for you to identify and separate your work life from your actual life.
First, why is it important to have a work-life balance?
Working too much can easily become a problem when, one, you’re a workaholic, (like myself), and two, when you really enjoy your work and don’t consider it working, (again guilty as charged). The definition of work in this case is something that you do to earn cash. Whether it is core income or some extra cash on the side, if the goal is to make money, it’s considered work.
I used to work from the time my eyes were open in the morning until I’d force myself to stop working at night. This type of behavior is toxic and doesn’t allow your brain the time it needs to relax and reboot after it’s been run through the wringer.
I started separating work and life by scheduling breaks during my tasks to give my mind a rest and by having a designated time and location where I get all my work done. Sometimes I do go over my expected time limit, but I make sure to keep my schedule strict. My mental health is more important than any money that I could potentially make.
Benefits of a work-life balance
The benefits to look forward to when you separate your work from your life are
- Better focus
- Higher engagement
- Better time management
- Reduced stress
- Personal growth
- Better wellbeing
I’ve been utilizing the Pomodoro Technique to increase breaks throughout my overall work schedule and honestly it has enhanced my focus and allowed me to pace myself with my work. Since I’ve implemented it in my daily To-Do list, it’s become easier to track the hours that I spend working.
Sometimes, I do feel like I’m breaking the “flow” when the timer goes off but mandatory breaks allow my brain to reevaluate my thought process. Thanks to my brain break, I’m sometimes able to shed a different light on the task I’m working on and open up another path that was invisible to me while I was in the zone.
“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.” – Paul Tsongas
How to maintain a work-life balance when working from home
Create a list of all work activities for the day
The first step in maintaining a healthy balance is to identify what is work and what is not. Go through your daily activities and identify the purpose of the task you’re conducting. If the purpose of the task is related to your work duties then chalk it up as work. The scale of the task in regards to how big it is, for example, writing a quick memo about what was done that day or an hour-long conference call does not matter. Again, if the main purpose of the task is work, then it’s work.
Have a set location to get your work done.
Work should not be done in bed. Having a small desk designated for work makes a huge difference mentally and physically. Also, your body will be absolutely grateful to you for choosing to work from a place that promotes healthy posture, like an ergonomic chair, rather than the couch or bed which is made to bring comfort to your limbs.
Having a set place to work also affects the quality of the work you put in. Think about it: if you have a set area for meditation in your home, you feel that relaxed energy whenever you visit that area. The same concept applies to your work area. Ideas seem to flow more consistently and more tasks seem to get accomplished when you’re in that area designated for work. It allows your brain to turn on a switch when it enters a place. When you’re in the bedroom then it’s time to relax; if you’re in the kitchen, it’s time to make something to eat. The same rule applies to the area you choose for work: When you enter that area, it means that it’s time to work.
Block out specific times for work
Treat your work at home as if you were leaving for an office every morning. Pick the time of the day that you are most productive and work during those times. If you aren’t sure of the times that you’re most productive, try asking yourself these questions:
Am I a morning or an evening person?
What time of the day do I have the most energy?
What time of the day do I feel drained?
Understanding how your body works is imperative to creating a successful working schedule. Working outside of your most productive hours will feel like you’re beating a dead horse.
I’m a morning person because I wake up ridiculously early every morning with so much energy that if I could stand the smell or taste of coffee I’d be too wired to function properly. A perfect visual of how I’d be after a coffee is Twitchy the squirrel in the movie Hoodwinked.
Honestly, I annoy myself sometimes with how much energy I wake up with, and it doesn’t seem to matter if I retired to bed eight hours or four hours before I woke up. My most productive time is the mornings. When noon hits, it’s all downhill from there.
When you’ve identified your most productive hours, use that time wisely. Complete the tasks you find more difficult or less entertaining during those hours and leave the fun tasks for when you don’t feel like doing anything.
“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson
Implementing these simple tips into your work life will change how productive you are at home. Separating work-life and your actual life allows you to enjoy downtime more. You won’t feel like you’ve been robbed of your “relax time” because you’re busy working all the time.
Remember that you come before everything, so only do things that will elevate you to be more productive. Don’t work against your flow, go with the flow.