I’ll admit – if you knew me, I’d be the last person you’d expect to write a blog on the topic of work-life balance through the pandemic.
I mean, it’s just SO easy to respond to that 9:00pm email that came through when you’re sitting on the couch. Why not just respond now?
But there’s problem number one. If you can’t respect your own work-life boundaries, how can you expect anyone else to?
I often find myself responding to late-night emails to fill the time or working on projects before bed to get a head start on the next morning. Well, because, what else can I really be doing? And my “office” is only 10 steps away…. But when a client requests something get done “after hours,” I get frustrated. “Why do they expect me to work right now? That’s so not fair!”
Truth is – I am the one to blame. I’ve created a reputation for myself by working all hours of the day and night. I have erased the line between work and life and therefore, there is no stark line for clients either.
But honestly, they may just be in the same boat. Getting work done in anticipation of the next morning. Catching up on emails late-night, glass of wine in hand. Why not?
So how do we create and maintain this balance? Among many things – good and not-so-good – COVID-19 has brought to the table, ease and efficiency is one of them. And perhaps too much. It’s now too easy to get work done. It’s too easy to multitask one’s professional life and one’s personal life.
I usually take my dog for a walk a few times a day. It’s a chance for me to escape my desk, get my legs moving – and get the antsy pup tired for another nap, of course. But leash in one hand, phone in the other. Answering emails. Sending messages on Teams.
Why is it so hard to escape? Please know that there is no “perfect” work-life balance. Work-life balance may mean different things to different people. But it is important you find a balance for YOU.
Again, this is a work in progress for me included. I’m working on this balance because I just know it’s not sustainable. And hey, it’s almost time to start thinking of some New Year resolutions anyway – why not just start a month early??
We’re in love with Juliet Funt’s fabulous book entitled, “A Minute to Think; Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness, and Do Your Best Work” — you’ll find an incredible blueprint there. But here are some of our own tips:
Take a lunch break. You know, not the kind where you take a bite, type out an email, take another bite, schedule a call, and so on. The kind where you take 30 minutes to yourself.
Prioritize your health. Don’t put a workout aside to continue working on something that can be finished tomorrow. Take one hour to decompress – you’ll feel more energized. I promise. And this is not only beneficial to your physical health, obviously, but a great chance to work on that mental health. This is something I take very seriously. The gym is a place where I can just focus on me – and I’ve never let anything or anyone take that away from me. Do the same. Whether it’s a 30 minute speed walk before the sun rises, a quick yoga stretch mid-day or a killer HIIT sesh late at night. Do it.
Get dressed in the morning. Let me tell you – it is SO easy to put on sweats and a top that is presentable from the chest up for Zoom calls. I’ve been doing this for over a year! But, I decided, I need to start taking myself more seriously. I work in my bedroom – that’s where my desk is. But I am no less of a person and no less of an employee because I do so. So treat it like real life. Wake up with a purpose and goals. If you were commuting into work, you’d create a schedule for yourself. Again, do the same here.
Consider setting up automatic replies. Determine when you are on and off the clock. And yes, sometimes this doesn’t work. Recently, I’ve been on several global events and having dedicated work hours was basically thrown out the window. But it’s not forever.
Take time to unplug. The majority of work takes place behind the screen nowadays. We’re all behind the screen – and sometimes, we never even get a chance to interact with real people for days on end. So when you’re off the clock, stay away from the screen. Stay away from the aimless scrolling on social media, the online shopping, the television. Find something else. We don’t have THAT much time to ourselves, so when we do, don’t waste it.
P.S. Don’t tell ANY of my clients I wrote this.
–Laine Thelian aka Anonymous