Disclaimer: This post contains links for gifted products. However, all thoughts and words remain that of my own (as always!)
Ever since my first office job at the age of 21 years old, I’ve always dreamed of the day I could be free to work from home. From that first day in an office job, I’ve always felt disconnected from office-life, knowing that deep-down it just isn’t the life for me. I’m the kind of girl who knows what I want in life. I want to work somewhere that makes me feel empowered, increases my life satisfaction and doesn’t leave me feel exhausted by the time 5pm rolls around.
The day I went freelance and started working from home is the day everything changed. I finally feel empowered and motivated in my work. Sure, I work longer days. But I no longer feel wiped out by the end of my working day and with my hand on my heart I can confidently say my life satisfaction has improved tremendously. I’m currently five months into my freelance journey and so far, it’s been positively life-changing. I genuinely feel like the days of job burnout are behind me!
Yet working from home doesn’t come without it’s challenges. It’s not all about long lie-ins or midday brunch with friends. I really wish it was but that’s just not the reality of it. If work from home life does look like that for you then please tell me your secret! Work-life balance can be tricky at the best of times. When you’re working from home, the lines between work and home can begin to blur making it even harder to achieve that work-life balance. Thankfully, with a touch of self-discipline and some simple rules, you can find the perfect work-life balance when working from home.
Stick to a routine
I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for routine. But, if you’re someone who struggles setting a routine for yourself, you may find your venture into working from home challenging. Without a set routine, you may find the temptation to watch 1 or 2 episodes of your favourite show on Netflix may just too strong to resist. Next thing you know, you’ll be 2 seasons deep in a new show and your workload will remain untouched. The solution? Set yourself a routine and stick to it!
Before the days of working from home, I’ve done the 9-5 office job, the 8-5 office job and the “turn up when you want as long as you do at least 9 hours” office job. I’ve also done the long days working way into my evening, weekends of work and extended periods of time without a single day off. Without a set routine, it can be just as easy to overwork yourself as it is to underwork.
Ever since I quit my job due to burnout, I’ve been hyperaware of the importance of following a routine. When working from home I try to start my working day between 8am and 9am, take a lunch break at about 12:30pm for anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour, then I’ll work until around 5pm. The 9-5 schedule works well for me. By working 9-5, I can make sure I’m online and available for when my clients are in the office. More importantly, it means I finish work at the same time as my partner so we can enjoy work-free evenings together.
By setting “office hours” for yourself you can have confidence that you’re not over or under working yourself. You don’t have to work the typical 9-5. You might find you’re most productive when you start your day at 6am. Alternatively, you may prefer to split your working day into 2 halves to fit around your other life or family commitments. Whatever hours you decide to do, simply find a routine that works for you and stick to it.
Create a dedicated working space
Where you work from is potentially one of the most influential factors on your productivity levels when working from home. Believe it or not but creating a dedicated workspace at home will help you achieve the perfect work-life balance.
As tempting as it might be, don’t work from your bed. Sure, it will be super comfy but you probably aren’t going to working at your most productive level whilst tightly wrapped up in some kind of duvet buritto. Plus, do you really want to associate your bedroom with spreadsheets, emails and all things work? Of course not, you want your bedroom to be somewhere you can go to escape those work thoughts.
Instead, try to find a dedicated area where you can work. We converted our spare bedroom into an office space. Under normal circumstances, this office is where you’ll find me working. It’s the perfect work zone. It’s free from distractions. And, because I only use this room for work, it means when I finish my working day, I can close the door and leave all my work-related thoughts behind. Creating this physical separation between work and home will do your brain a whole world of good.
However, not everyone will have a dedicated room that they can turn into an office. As I’m writing this article, we’re currently living through a global pandemic. My partner, like many others around the world, has suddenly started working from home for the foreseeable future. As a result, I’ve handed the office over to him and set myself up in the bedroom. Whilst working from my bedroom isn’t the ideal scenario, I’ve still been able to create a dedicated workspace by setting up a desk in one corner of the room. Whether you’re working from the dining room table or in a corner of your front room, create a routine where that zone is your work area. If possible, buy a desk and chair… trust me, your back will thank you for it!
Don’t work in your pyjamas
I’m not saying you have to put on your smartest business attire. Heck, you don’t even have to wear a bra. But please, don’t work in your pyjamas. I have always been the kind of girl who will choose comfort over style. You won’t find me sat at my desk in a tailored two-piece suit and sky-high heels. But, you also won’t find me sat there in my pyjamas. It’s important to establish a “work wardrobe” even if you are working from home. By getting changed for the working day, you’ll subconsciously be telling your brain it’s time to get out of chill-mode and into work-mode.
My work wardrobe isn’t anything fancy. More often than not, I’ll be found wearing one of the following: leggings and a blouse, a flowy midi-skirt with a tee or a comfortable dress. At all times, I’ll be wearing slippers. I like my workwear to be comfortable yet still presentable enough that my brain knows it’s not time to relax.
Keep a daily to-do list
To-do lists are my jam. Seriously. I have notebooks upon notebooks that are filled with to-do lists. So, if there is ever a trick I share for being productive whilst working from home, it’s got to be to keep a daily to-do list. You need to be self-motivated when working from home and keeping a daily to-do list is a great way to make sure you always stay on track.
Are you someone who tends to jump between tasks? Or who finds yourself getting distracted mid-task? then a to-do list could be your new favourite work buddy! At the end of each working day, I’ll write a fresh to-do list for the next day ahead. This simple act means no task gets forgotten. Instead, I sit down at my desk in the morning and instantly have a clear understanding of what the day ahead holds. Obviously, things can change a lot in 24 hours. So more often than not, my to-do list will look pretty messy by the time 5pm rolls around. What was once a simple, neat to-do list will end up resembling a mad scientist equations with all of it’s crossing-outs, annotations, additions and scribbles of things I need to remember.
I know it’s the 21st century and everything is digital these days but if you don’t already use a notebook for scribbling down daily to-do lists, I urge you to start doing so now! I promise you’ll be amazed at how one small task can have such a significant effect on your productivity, especially when you’re working from home and don’t have anyone else looming over your shoulder checking you’re doing what you’re meant to be.
Put your work away at the end of the working day
Finally, learning when to stop working is one of the most important factors in finding work-life balance when you’re working from home. Yet, it’s probably also one of the hardest.
Make sure you are physically putting your work away when the final few minutes of your working day roll around. If you work on a laptop, save everything, switch it off and close the lid. Put it in a drawer or cupboard so you don’t have the physical reminder of work whenever you glance in the direction of where your laptop sits during your working day. Then write your to-do list for the next day, emptying your brain of your work-thoughts and put your notebook away too. Tidy your workspace and, if you can, close the door on your office. If you don’t work in an office, keep your working space clean and as work-free as possible. Trust me, it’ll feel good.
But the hardest part will be learning how to mentally put your work away at the end of the day. Lately, I’ve been guilty of not mentally putting my work away at the end of the day. Instead, I’m carrying it around with me. The result? I feel stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out. The four walls of my home feel suffocating as all I can think about is work.
So, whilst I’m here telling you how to find the perfect work-life balance, remember it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, you need to step back, review how you’re doing and make some changes. For me, I need to make sure I really am putting my work away at the end of the day. I’m making a vow to myself that once my working day is done, I’m going to take some time to be mindful and try to have a mental reset.
A post-work dog walk is one of my favourite ways to create the separation between work and home life. I’ve heard other people suggest going for a walk home to simulate your “commute” home. Others recommend having a shower to reinvigorate your mind or lighting candles and dimming the lights to change the mood, turning your home in a relaxing sanctuary.
Whatever you do, remember to check in with yourself mentally. If you notice the lines between work and home-life start to blur, take a step back and think about what you can do to restore balance.