Almost two years ago, I started working 100% remote (like a large part of the world population), and it was challenging to set up a new routine while being healthy and happy stuck at home alone.
And it’s hard to be consistent with your routine while being at home. I had already two episodes with several reasons that almost ruined everything. At some point, I was working extra hours to accomplish unrealistic deadlines. I gave in to pressure from other people, and I was doing tasks that were not part of my accountabilities to avoid being the bottleneck of my team. I was postponing, indefinitely, my vacations. I avoided breaks or lunches to attend meetings. I was ignoring all the signs my body was sent to me until I finally stopped and realised the madness I was living.
I took valuable lessons across this time that I want to share with you. I believe there is always someone out there that need help on this topic. I put together a list of 5 things I do every day to balance my work and personal life. It took me time to learn what works better for me. I made a fair amount of mistakes on the way, but I started this new year of 2022 stronger, and I am proud of my achievements.
1. I do what I love
I had the privilege to always work in my professional area and overcome the big financial crisis of 2008. I always combined my job with some freelance works that helped me learn new things and try new fields. I evolved in the way I planned to. My degree was in Multimedia Communication, so I took the first years to explore the area as much as possible to understand what I liked the most. And with all the learnings from the last 15 years, I managed to grow and draw my career based on what I liked.
Another important thing is that I need to feel connected, respected and appreciated in my workplace. I can’t tolerate a toxic work environment. As soon as I realize that the workplace is not healthy for me for any reason, I look for the next one. There is no perfect jobs or perfect workplaces, but there are places where we feel that we can compromise on the unperfect things and still be happy. I learnt over time how to manage my expectations and where is the line that separates a healthy from an unhealthy work environment. I do not mean that a specific workplace is unpleasant, but sometimes it’s not the one I need at that moment.
2. Start the day with some self-care time
No matter what I need to do first thing in the morning for work, I will start the day focused on myself and nothing else.
Some days, I am in the mood for a run and watch the sunrise along the riverside. Sometimes the weather is not so friendly, and I put on some workout clothes, place my mat on the living room floor and do a quick HIIT training. Being focused on myself and exercising, regardless of the type, helps me to get more energy through the day. Once I start work, my brain is fully activated, and I’m ready to be productive (and talk with people. I need some “me time” in the morning before talking with people in general).
Other days, I don’t feel like working out and sweat in the morning. Occasionally I only need some extra time in bed to plan my day! Or open go the Headspace app and do some breathing exercises and meditate for a while.
Sometimes, I only need 15 minutes to check the news and take a big black coffee. The smell of coffee in the morning is such a great thing, no matter the time of the year. Other days, I’m starving and in the mood to prepare a full breakfast from scratch with eggs, smoked salmon or bacon, oats, juice, and enjoy it on the balcony while listening to the birds.
After all, it is not important what I do. I only avoid jumping to the front of the computer the first thing I wake up. I need time to breathe, take care of myself, and be prepared for the day.
3. I’m not afraid to unplug
I take a full hour for your lunch and enjoy it. I refuse to eat in front of the computer. The key is to have time during the day to think about other things, to cook a nice meal (I love to cook, it’s almost therapeutic), to watch an episode of my favourite tv show, to hang out with family or friends, to take a nap. It’s beneficial to have these breaks even for work; I’m able to distance myself from the work topics, and once I am back, I can see everything from a different perspective. These breaks often help me overcome a creative blocker and get some energy.
On holiday, I will not check e-mails or direct messages. I delete those apps from my phone while on holiday, and I never travel with my laptop. I will have time to catch up with everything when I am back.
At the end of the day, I just shut down the computer. I rarely use it for personal issues like watching Netflix or listening to music. It is my way to avoid checking e-mails or messages that late.
4. Set some boundaries
I work under a very flexible schedule policy which might sound great. But for some people, it means I need to be available all the time. Guess what I don’t. I need to work eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, and that’s what people need to expect from me.
Except for rare exceptions, because sometimes mess happens, I work only eight hours a day. Once I’m off, I’ll not reply to any email or message work-related. I also use my flexible schedule to adapt to my personal life. I take a long lunchtime if I need to. I go to the doctor in the middle of the morning. In the first lockdown, I used to go shopping in the middle of the day to avoid long waiting lines outside the store. And I compensate for these breaks before or after taking them.
I also set goals and priorities on my daily tasks, synced with the rest of the team. And before you ask for urgent topics, at my work and most of the time, urgencies are not real. So, why should I let them impact my task list, focus and anxiety? Another tip that helps me get the work done is blocking at least one day per week as a “no meetings day”.
Communication is the key. I make it visible and communicate clearly with my team my availability. I share if something comes in the way of a regular schedule and I need to be absent in the middle of the day as soon as possible. If my company allows me this flexibility, why not make the most of it?
5. Prioritise my mental health
Last but not least, the vital element of this whole topic: mental health. I started therapy a few years ago to help me handle anxiety, know myself better and understand others perspectives. Knowing myself is helpful to overcome complicated situations, care more about myself and let go of toxic circumstances. Therapy is crucial to keep my work problems away from my personal life and the other way around.
Ultimately, therapy helped me realize what works better for me to find this work-life balance, so I can’t recommend it more.
These tips are personal, and it doesn’t mean that they will work with you as well. There is no magic formula to find a healthy balance between your work and personal life. But I hope this can, at least, inspire you to find your way to conquer this balance.
In the end, focus on your self-love and self-respect and don’t allow your work to interfere with that. In the very end, it’s just a job. Life should be way more than the eight hours a day you spend at work.