The pandemic has inevitably changed the lives of people globally, affecting the very ways in which people eat, sleep, travel, shop, and even work. In the light of this “new normal”, work from home has become an increasingly popular mode of keeping businesses and organizations running, with a number of schools and educational institutions turning to online learning, and businesses setting up remote and partially remote workspaces. But as our work has inched steadily closer to the comfort of our homes, it has become increasingly difficult to continue to differentiate between the two.
The common buzz-term of “work-life balance” – referring to the practice of adequately dividing one’s time between their work, studies, or other professional demands and their family, their self care, and their own leisure activities so that neither overwhelms or negatively impacts the other – therefore becomes even more relevant right now.
Being unable to find this balance can lead to overexhaustion or chronic procrastination, impact the quality of our personal and professional relationships and generally have a negative impact on our mental health.
So, how do we ensure that we don’t keep working late into the night despite the traditional 9-to-5 workday being over? Alternatively, how do we build up the motivation to start and complete this work without getting pulled away with all the comfort that home has to offer? How do we even begin to balance the needs of our partners, parents, children, and family with the general upkeep of the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and all the assorted tasks, along with the requirements of work, our teams, our bosses, and the assumption that working from home means being able to dedicate more time all the time when there are just 24 hours in a day?
Well, I don’t have an exact answer for you. What I do have though, are techniques which you can start using. The key is organization and planning, and as dull as that sounds, the overexcitement of having to juggle every part of your life sounds a little more exhausting.
Let’s take a look.
Work-Life Balance: Getting Started
- Make a Timetable:
No, these are not just for schoolchildren. Making a timetable can help you plan and divide the time to be given to each of your tasks prior to the event actually happening. It allows you to have a clear allocation of your time and resources and allows you to mentally prepare for what must be done and in how much time without having to figure it out as you go.
Your timetable doesn’t have to be very complicated or detailed, just a basic allocation of hours required could do. Do make sure to check if you’ve allowed a few hours for rest and leisure, and if you have too many tasks, you have set yourself to finish the urgent or high-priority ones first.
- Create a separate space:
When our workspace and our relaxation space get combined, it becomes difficult to do either. Make sure you don’t bring your work laptop or documents to bed, and instead create a specific space for them at your table, a corner in your room, or even in your living room.
Make sure the area is neat, clean, and relatively free from other distractions, and occupy this specific space only when you’re working. Don’t bring your work to your leisure area and vice versa.
- Setting Realistic Goals:
Although it does seem like it sometimes, the world really is not ending. You don’t have to finish everything in one day or one sitting. When planning your day, look at your immediate deadlines and the ones a little further into the future. Try to organise your tasks in order of priority and break them down into manageable parts rather than trying to tackle them all at once. Work slowly, but steadily, and you’ll see the organization pay off.
Even with leisure activities, maybe you won’t get to practice your hobby every day, but try to pencil in 2-3 slots for it in a week. Take into account partners or teammates and how they can help you, and how to realistically delegate the work around the house as well.
Rest! Everyone says this, and for a reason. Focusing our attention on a task for more than 1-2 hours is hard enough as it is, and being at home may only make it more difficult. Make sure to take frequent breaks every few hours. Get up, stretch, get some water, walk around, refresh your mind, and come back. Just make sure to not start something that you won’t be able to put down easily.
And remember, at the end of the workday, to get some rest, some relaxation, and adequate food and sleep to be able to keep up with your plans.
- Set your boundaries:
You have your plan, you have your space, and you also have your goals. What next?
You have to follow these timelines and frames you’ve set for yourself. Don’t let your work carry on into late evening or night, don’t have your breaks or your food at the place you work, force yourself to unplug when you need to, and communicate your boundaries to your family members as well. If you do not wish to be disturbed during work hours, let them know so. Alternatively, if you’re unavailable to work after a certain time, let your colleagues know as well.
- Know your own limits:
Attend to your mental health and wellbeing. Take some time to check in with yourself, and see how you’re coping with your plan. If it’s too strict, ease up on yourself. If it feels too easy, see if you would like to take up some more tasks.
Communicate these experiences to others as well, and ask for help if you need it. You would know your own balance the best, as well as what you need to do to attain it, but only if you remember to listen to yourself.
We know that maintaining this balance is a tough task in the best of times, and it becomes even harder when maybe even dealing with illnesses, loss, or caring for our loved ones in the time of a pandemic. It is understandable and absolutely okay if you’re unable to maintain a perfect balance at all times or if some things feel more important than the others.
When faced with these stresses and anxieties, take your time to recuperate and gather your resources if and when you need to, and then return to the process of managing your time effectively and in a healthy manner when you feel ready. Remember, balancing is an act, not a permanent state; sometimes the scales may tip to one side or the other, but what matters is that you’re trying.
So stay safe and best of luck!