Updated: Apr 15, 2021
I've always hated the phrase work/life balance.
I just don't think it's a thing that most people really achieve. Either work is busy and taking over or you're not working to capacity at all and getting very little done with very little BALANCE in the middle. However, I did make a decision that my word of 2021 would be 'balance' as last year I worked far too much. As a hugely sociable individual not being able to do that left a big gap in my life which I will freely admit to filling with work.
My business was just over a year old when Covid struck and it was going well. I knew I didn't want to go back to working for someone else, so for the first few months I kept my head down and networked and 'showed up' like a maniac. It kept me busy but I'll be totally honest, it didn't really reap results. This came later when I really honed in on who I work with and how and I focused on helping people back to work.
In the evenings, with no meals out, after work drinks or visits to pals allowed I kept the laptop on and worked instead. I dread to think how much time I spent on Canva and I knew that I wanted this to change.
This year is different already. I work regular hours so if I start at 7 for early morning networking, I log off at 3 and the day that I network til 9 at night, I don't start til after lunch. I also closed my Facebook group as keeping people out was harder than moderating inside it! I still can't enjoy any social stuff obviously (if you're reading this from overseas or at another time we're in lockdown right now) but I have read 5 novels this year already, done some yoga or ran every day and got caught up with bits of life admin too. I'm also rattling through series 3 of The Crown and have attended a virual book club with some lovely women.
It's NOT how I would chose to spend my down time but crucially, it doesn't feel like I'm working all the time either and I'm actually getting more done in work time rather than stretching it out endlessly to fill the hours available.
I fully appreciate for anyone struggling with home schooling etc that this might make you want to throw things at me, but I feel it's important to show the situation from another perspective too. Living alone with nothing else to do has meant that I COULD just work all the time but in 2021, I'm choosing not to.
Just please don't suggest I go a walk, or I will want to throw things at you!
Here are some top tips on making it work for you:
Set boundaries around when you will work and use auto responders when you're not. You may prefer to start early or finish late, or take a long lunch break. All are good as long as you communicate them and make clients/managers aware that you will respond when you can.
I'm the last person to lecture you about getting out (I loathe the great outdoors) but I DO feel the difference if I'm in from Monday to Friday so even a walk round the block can be good for mental health.
Switch off notifications on Slack, Whatsapp, FB if you are head down in a piece of work in order to get it done and catch up after. I also use flight mode when I go to bed as this lets me use my phone as an alarm without it making a racket when I'm trying to get to sleep.
Again I'm not going to preach about separating work space and living space as it's just not always physically possible but I do put the laptop out of sight and close the fold down table when my working hours are done and this helps me to feel that work is over.
Consider setting timers for Pomodoro https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique sessions to get specific pieces of work done. I attend coworking sessions weekly on Zoom too. We all say what we're going to do, get on with it for 50 mins then share what we got done. I do this as part of a business membership I'm in but can you do it with colleagues/friends? Sounds weird but works.
Lastly, it's a strange time so while routine, purpose and working towards small goals really help everyone there will also be days spent in jammies where Deliveroo is your best friend. And that's okay too,