By: First Union
Creating a Work/Life Balance at Home
With much of the country now working from home, that worklife balance is certainly being put to the test. The house now, after all, is essentially an office too. Not to mention, a school, cafeteria, recreational center. That said, the problem becomes where do you experience life away from that of work and school? How do you attain that balance when all of a sudden the two worlds are merged? One way to do this is to devise a work schedule that not only adds more structure to the day but also gives you that "apart" time so you can have an actual life.
First off, you need to track your time
Knowing how you spend your time and where exactly you spend your time is going to help you chart a course for moving forward. And when tracking your current time, you want to be as precise as you possibly can. Even small tasks that may seem inconsequential and yet still take up precious minutes and hours—be sure to note these in your overall tracking. We are not solely talking about those work-related tasks either. How much time do you spend on childcare issues—helping kids with homework for instance? Once you have all relevant numbers you want to input these onto a spreadsheet and thereby gain a clearer picture of where the minutes in your day do go.
If you proceed to do this for a week, you will begin to see patterns emerge—the picture painted will be pretty clear in terms of where you are allotting your time. Certainly, things do change a bit from day to day, but for the most part, you will start to see what tasks truly eat up most of your time.
Start with a foundational structure
So now that you know how long you are spending on different tasks throughout your day, you can utilize this information to create an outline of a structure for the day. Here is where you want to assign certain tasks to specific times of the day as well. This then will become the foundation off of which you can build a more detailed schedule.
Also, don't forget to schedule in a break or two. Lunch is pretty important. You want to preserve your mental health as much as you do your professional health. Having that lunch break factored in, not to mention, a moment just to get up and perhaps walk around the block to clear your head, will prove so beneficial. In this way, you keep those energy levels up. This could also be watching TV for fifteen minutes, playing with your kids, anything that separates you from your desk, and thus the papers piled in front of you, and the screens lit up before you. Going through your day without pausing for a breather is only going to lead to major burnout down the road.
Listen to your body
This is critical. Everyone is different and as such, everyone has different times of day during which they perform best. Think about how you work, how you feel when working…is morning optimal? Maybe you're a night owl. The key is to figure out when you're best able to focus on professional tasks and go from there. In other words, listen to your body, learn what it likes, and when it is at its best.
Block your time
Time blocking works for many people, especially if there happens to be a certain task or tasks on which you find yourself stuck daily. Set aside a block of time during which you will focus exclusively on that task. You could also do time blocks throughout the day for the same job. For instance, taking care of all emails. That could be portioned throughout your day in a few different blocks. Grouping similar tasks in this way do lead to increased productivity.
But also, allow for some flexibility
Schedules can change; they should not necessarily be set in stone. While having that foundational daily schedule in place offers an excellent guide, things do come up. And as such, you need to be able to go with the flow on occasion. Trying to follow every single task down to its scheduled minute will ultimately drive you a little crazy. What if a meeting runs late? If a project gets delayed? Don't let it throw you; rather, adjust your schedule accordingly and keep ongoing.
What are your key distractions?
Distractions do tend to eat up far more time then we realize throughout the day. If you can pinpoint what these distractors are, then you are more likely to be able to do something about them. And it's not necessarily just distractions outside of the realm of work—within the context of your job there are distractors as well. Sometimes you may not realize that you are allowing emails to take up more of your day than you intended. Yes, you need to allow time for such tasks, but not an exceeding amount of time to the point where you are getting sidetracked.
Having a work schedule that is optimized and that keeps you on track is critical to helping you make some time for, well, life at the end of the day. Once you get it down, once you establish a rhythm, you will find that even working from home feels perfectly regimented and thereby highly productive. In the end, if you follow these steps, you should realize more time for yourself and your family.
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