If you find yourself in the middle of an existential crisis every time you stare at the computer, then you need these changes as much as I did. It’s not too late to reclaim your life and learn how to maintain a work-life balance when working from home.
I’ve been working from home for over 3 years. So I started before working from home was the mainstream schedule for almost everybody on the planet. And I remember reminding myself that whatever happens, I’d never let my work take over my life.
Well, high blood sugar levels, major burn-out syndrome, a wobbly body, chronic back pain, and some weight gain later, I became the epitome of work-life imbalance. I’m in a much happier place now. But during those years, I worked 7 days a week for about 15 hours a day.
No day off, no time off, but a lot of all-nighters. I kept setting goals like once I get to a certain point, I’d stop working on the weekends. And once I achieved that goal, I’d put another one in front of me and just postpone prioritizing myself and my health.
Plus, it’s one thing when you’re working for someone else and you’re working remotely. But it’s a completely different story when you’re running your business from home. The latter is in a stinkier pickle.
But either way, there are crucial things to keep in mind if you want to hold on to your mental health and well-being and your job. Unlike popular opinion, working from home is no picnic. And one major issue is the struggle to be productive and enjoy life.
For that, below are 9 ways to maintain work-life balance when working from home.
1. Reconsider 9-5.
You may think to yourself “what’s the point of working from home if you’re going to keep up that 9-5 schedule?”. Well, it doesn’t have to be 9 to 5. But it does have to be between certain hours. Try 1-8!
The best part of working from home is, well, working from home and deciding what to do and when to do it. But that’s a blessing and a curse. Because if you’re not careful, the line between work and life disappears and soon work takes over your life.
If it’s up to you, set your office hours and stick with those. If it isn’t up to you, do the work during work hours and leave things as they are until the next business day.
2. Allocate time for tasks.
We wake up and tell ourselves that we have a whole day to do whatever it is that we need to do. But somehow, we still fail. It’s the underlying belief, that “I’ve got the whole day” attitude that’s actually working against us.
A British historian once said, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and set clear boundaries and time limits for work and work-related tasks.
This is a dangerous pitfall especially for people who’re running their own businesses from home. Because there’s nobody else to tell you when to stop. Nobody’s giving you a deadline.
You need to do it for yourself. Each work task gets to have its own time frame and it has to be done in that time. No overlapping!
3. Have a separate work space.
It’s fun to work on the bed, on the couch, in the kitchen, or even in the bathroom. Because we can! But the more you spread work all over the place, the more difficult it becomes to maintain work and life balance.
Don’t work where you eat. Don’t work where you normally enjoy taking a nap. Set up a workspace where you don’t do anything else. It doesn’t have to be an office setup. It can be a little corner with a desk and your computer.
When you do this, you’re conditioning yourself that when you’re in that corner, you’re doing nothing but work. This also increases productivity, which is difficult to maintain when you’re a remote worker.
And remember to stay out of the corner after office hours and during the weekend. Don’t treat work as someone you’re about to move in with. Don’t open your whole house! Just give it a little drawer so it knows its place.
4. Stop feeling guilty.
It’s very common to feel guilty when you’re aware that you have things to do but you don’t have the energy to do them. The guilt is always there. If you think you’ve tried but you don’t seem to get to work, don’t push yourself.
Your inner voice feeds on guilt. And even if you decide to take the day off, it lingers and gives you anxiety. Next thing you know, it’s 10 PM and you neither rested nor worked. If you don’t feel like working, don’t look at it as a day wasted.
Look at it as a day earned where you can rest and recharge for the next day. The second you decide that it’s your off-day, say it out loud. Once you hear yourself say that, you shut down guilt and you can focus on enjoying your free time.
5. Remember to enjoy the perks.
My reason for working from home was so that I could have more time for myself and save for my travels. Well, even though I’m making more, I’m not spending more. Because I don’t have the time for it.
I used to dress way better and dine better when I was working as a teacher! And because I didn’t know how to maintain work and life balance, I ended up working so that I could work more! It doesn’t make any sense!
Working constantly while never enjoying your income ruins productivity, kills your inspiration, and enslaves you. No matter what people say, money is a great motivator that keeps you going. So always remember to take the time to buy yourself things you like or spend on things that matter to you.
Otherwise, that path leads to a full-blown burn-out syndrome, which requires therapy. That’s where the money you save goes. You’ll be working to earn money for therapy. Think about it.
6. Set up a pre-work routine.
Creating a routine to follow before you sit down for work keeps you in line. It physically conditions you and mentally prepares you for work. You get up and do your routine and then start working.
This routine can include meditation, exercise, a nice breakfast, or anything that gives you joy. Personally, I enjoy a healthy breakfast while watching 2 episodes of Scrubs. Then I grab my coffee and that’s it for me.
7. Make plans for after work.
Remember how we’d motivate ourselves during that day by making plans for the evening? It’s the same thing. Decide what you’re going to watch in the evening or who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to get drunk on and let that motivate you.
These plans also prevent you from working overtime. When the clock hits, you leave “the office” and focus on your plans. It can be simple things like a long bath or a glass of wine. It’s all up to you.
8. Take breaks.
It’s really difficult to take breaks when you’re working from home. Because you forget to! However, those breaks, even if you’re not aware, are little treats that can enhance your productivity.
As taking breaks was difficult for me, I tried doing chores during breaks. So I take a 30-minute break around 4 PM and go fill the dishwasher or do my laundry. It may not sound like a break as I’m doing a chore, but it is.
I’m simply working on something else that helps me take my mind off of my job. Doing these chores during breaks also helped me keep the house in order so I don’t have to do any cleaning or tidying after work.
9. Be flexible.
You can have deadlines that you can’t meet. You can have a ton of things to do but fail to do them. You can try to set clear boundaries to separate your life from work and still fail. This is completely normal.
Stop beating yourself up over not being productive enough or postponing things. Be flexible. This stuff happens even if you work at a regular office. Know that you can fail and know that everybody else does.
Have you tried to work between 1 PM and 9 PM but ended up working overtime? So what? You try tomorrow. Don’t be too hard on yourself and embrace the reality of things not always going according to the plan.
These rules are incredibly helpful in achieving a work-life balance while working from home. There’s no point in waiting for your body to fail you or your anxiety to overwhelm you. Start practicing them today!
Read Next: 6 Signs You’re Emotionally Intelligent