5 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance has always been a popular catchphrase in modern culture. How do we achieve success at the office but also show up well for our families? How do we advance our careers but still get to travel and attend ball games and school plays? In other words, we’re all trying to improve work-life balance, so we can “do it all” – am I right?
For many, working from home creates an opportunity for more work-life balance; however, that isn’t always the case. Working from home can be awesome, but it can also suck a little if you’re not intentional in your approach. And now thanks to COVID, working at home has been a mandate rather than a choice in many cases, so some of you may be struggling now that we are a year and a half into this.
Don’t worry, I see you. If you’re sitting at the kitchen table or squeezing work in on the couch from a laptop, you’re probably feeling the suck factor. I’m here to help and ready to share five ways to improve your work-life balance, so you can actually enjoy working and living at home (imagine that!).
Tip #1: Create a Dedicated Workspace
Your first task to improve your work-life balance is to create a dedicated workspace. Yes, I know this is not always easy. And I also know that the obvious choices like a guest bedroom, dining room, etc. may not be options for your family. So my advice is to get creative.
Personally, I have actually turned my closet into a make-shift recording studio for my podcast. Was it glamorous? Not at all – but it was mine and it was quiet. So maybe you have a small closet you can convert into an office, or perhaps a staircase landing. Maybe it’s even just a spot in the hallway (or a small corner in your bedroom).
Wherever you are, that space is where you work. It has a purpose. And when you’re done you can leave it and walk away. This way the rest of your house still feels like home when you’re off duty.
Tip #2: Spruce Up Your Space
Now that you have a dedicated space to work, it’s time to make that space your own. Since it’s your home and not a corporate office, you don’t have to settle for boring walls and crappy cubicles. You can (and should!) spruce up your space with as much pizzazz as your little heart desires.
Make it a place you want to spend time in, so that you feel energized and motivated to get things done. I believe this is critical to a successful work-from-home experience, and I even shared a whole post on it last week to help you identify what to splurge on and what to save on when designing your home office. Trust me, it will do wonders for improving your work-life balance when your workspace looks and feels right for you.
Tip #3: Set Your Hours
This next tip really isn’t sexy, but it’s a non-negotiable. Set your hours and outline boundaries that will keep work and home time separate. Taking the time to plan your routine may seem like a waste, but I promise it’s worth it.
Are you planning to work on weeknights or weekends? Are there personal priorities you’d like to protect like making it to yoga, spending time with your kids, or volunteering? These are questions you should answer before you start. Why? Because it will greatly improve your work-life balance.
While working from home offers the potential for more flexibility, it can also mean never-ending work if you aren’t careful. It’s important to have a schedule for yourself with a hard stop time. Unless your employer mandates your hours, you can totally be creative and set hours that work for you, but be intentional and stick to them, whatever they may be.
Tip #4: Create a “Commute”
This next tip may make you scratch your head a little, but hear me out. You need to create a “commute” for yourself. Think about it – when you were driving to work every morning, how did you spend that time? Did you plan your day in your mind? Listen to music or podcasts? Make phone calls and catch up with friends or family? I’ll bet whatever you did was good for your mental health.
I have lived and worked in Toronto and Los Angeles, as well as traveled to and from other major cities for work. So I know how crappy long drives can be. But your commute may be more critical to your routine than you realize. Without it, you might find that the walk from your office to the kitchen isn’t quite enough to transition from meeting a deadline to making dinner.
So what does my commute look like now? It’s simple. I get my coffee, put on my shoes and walk to the end of my street and back. It takes about four minutes, five if I’m slow. And that’s all I need. These little walks are the bookends for my day, and it’s everything I need to clear my head and make space to tackle whatever comes next.
Tip #5: Live a “Keyless Life”
Remember when cars had actual keys and every time you got in you had to dig in your pockets or purse for the keys to unlock the door? Well, there’s an author named Denise Duffield-Thomas who I love. In one of her recent books, Chillpreneur, she shares the concept of living a “keyless life” and how such a small change (like keyless entry in vehicles) has improved our lives in a revolutionary way.
Now, what does that have to do with your home office? Easy – figure out the small things that annoy you about working from home and fix them. Do you hate the way your keyboard clicks? Buy a new one. Is your desk lamp way too bright? Change the bulb. Are you constantly looking for your phone charger when your phone is dying at 3:00 PM? Buy one that lives in your office, so it’s always handy when you need it.
None of that costs much in the way of time or money, but removing those obstacles from your environment will improve your experience dramatically. It will smooth out the bumps and allow you to glide through your day more gracefully. So take some time, identify those pain points and implement solutions that make sense for you.
Let’s Recap Five Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
- Tip #1: Create a Dedicated Workspace – You deserve a space that is your own that’s clearly defined as the place where you get things done. It’s time to get up off the couch and away from the kitchen table.
- Tip #2: Spruce Up Your Space – No one wants to work from home surrounded by junk or stare at boring blank walls. Make your space pretty, so that you want to be there.
- Tip #3: Set Your Hours – Think about the needs of your family and set an actual work schedule for yourself that you can stick to. You should have a fixed start time and a hard stop to preserve your work-life balance.
- Tip #4: Create a Commute – Give yourself the gift of a simple routine at the beginning and end of your day that allows you to clear your head and prepare for what comes next.
- Tip #5: Live a “Keyless Life” – Identify the little things that annoy you throughout the day that can be easily remedied and fix them. It’s that easy!
Establishing a work-life balance can be tricky, but it’s totally doable. They both play into each other, and when you make working at home better, you’re actually going to make living at home better too. You and your loved ones absolutely deserve that.
I’m a total nerd that loves working from home. I’ve been doing this for years and I’d love to help you if you’re not quite thriving in your work-from-home space. Let’s talk.