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How to Balance Life and Remote Work
Work-life balance is the idea that you need to set aside time for both your job and your personal life.
Working remotely, which eliminates commuting and sitting in a cubicle all day, might seem like the perfect solution to achieving balance. In reality though remote workers are often more stressed than their office-bound counterparts. They tend to work longer hours due to not drawing a line between working and home hours.
With 4.3 million Americans — 3.2 percent of the entire U.S.workforce — now working from home, it’s more important than ever to learn how to strike a balance between remote work and your personal life.
1. Learn to Say No
Saying no can be difficult, even when you work in a remote workspace.
Being an employee means feeling an obligation to work on or complete tasks handed to you. But if you never say no, you’ll find yourself in an endless, unbalanced loop that's hard to untangle from.
There are times when you have to say no. Maybe you’ve already worked overtime for the week and need to take a moment to recharge. Perhaps your stress levels are maxed out from an increased workload.
Take Action: Next time someone asks you to complete a task you can't do, respond with something along the lines of, "Thank you for keeping me in mind, but I'm unable to fit that into my schedule right now."
You start with something positive, thanking them for the offer, but then politely decline with a legitimate reason and without getting into details.
2. Manage Your Time
Being able to manage your time is an invaluable skill, especially for those who have obligations both in and outside the workplace, such as school or family.
One M.B.A. student said, "It comes down to planning, which is extremely challenging when balance[ing] work, family life, and school."
Remote workers can especially benefit from time management, as they are more susceptible to blending their time spent between home and work.
Take Action: One popular method of managing time is an hourly schedule. This is a calendar where you can schedule your time by the hour, not the day.
Writing down exactly what you plan to accomplish and at what time is a great way to stay focused. To take it a step further, you can use highlighters to color-code your schedule into work and home activities.
3. Learn to Prioritize
Do you have a lot on your plate? It’s not uncommon for remote workers to have a to-do list that spans several pages.
Stop getting overwhelmed by your work and learn to prioritize your tasks by importance.
Prioritizing doesn’t have to end in the workplace. Many people have tasks they want to accomplish in their personal lives, as well. Perhaps you want to paint the house or take a vacation to Disney World. To be more successful, you need to determine what will provide you with the most value once finished.
Take Action: If you keep a to-do list, you're already halfway toward prioritizing your goals. If you don't keep a list, now is the time to write down everything you hope to accomplish for the day or week. You might want separate lists for work and home.
Next, number each item by importance, with one being the most necessary to accomplish. Use this list to decide which goal you should focus on.
4. Turn Off Notifications
The average American spends more than 11 hours each day getting distracted by digital media.
This includes anything from playing games and watching videos to browsing social media and streaming music.
By turning off your devices — even just silencing notifications — you can reduce distractions and work more efficiently, allowing you to finish your work on time. Limiting your use of electronic devices is also a great way to focus on personal goals and spend more quality time with family.
Take Action: Create a notification schedule. This is a schedule where you determine which times you'll silence all notifications — including texts, phone calls and emails — so you can focus deeply on your work and get more accomplished.
See our page, Minimising Distractions for more suggestions.
5. Get Better Sleep
Remote workers are more at risk for insomnia than those that work in an office.
Workers underperform when they don't get a good night’s sleep, which reduces output and requires more hours behind the desk.
To ensure you complete your work and maintain a work-life balance, it’s recommended you get a full night’s sleep before each workday. It can help to choose a realistic bedtime and stick with it.
Take Action: Set a time where you'll go to bed without any distractions. If you wake up at 7:00 am, try to go to bed by 11:00 pm for a full eight hours. One to two hours before bed, you should also cut out caffeine and other sleep disrupters.
Our page How to Sleep - The Importance of Sleep has more ideas to help you sleep better and be more productive in your waking hours.
6. Set Personal Goals
You probably use goals in the workplace to remain motivated and track progress. They can also be used in your personal life to stay happy at home and maintain balance.
Everybody has different goals based on what’s valuable to them. It could mean traveling, starting a new exercise routine, learning to knit, visiting with family or more.
Take Action: To reach a goal, you need a plan. Write down everything you need to do or complete to achieve your goal.
For example, if your goal involves going on vacation, you might need to save up money. Then, break down that goal into smaller goals. For saving money, your smaller goal could be setting aside $50 in savings each month.
Be sure to have a timeline for when each goal, including your main goal, will be met.
See our page on Setting Personal Goals for more.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
7. Creating the Perfect Balance
When you’re a remote worker, it can be hard to draw the line between being at work and being at home.
But there are steps you can take to block out distractions, work more efficiently and find the ideal work-life balance. Not only will a balance lead to improvements in your work routine, but it will also enhance the personal time you have at home.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can find her work on The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, Tiny Buddha and The Muse. To read more posts by Kayla, subscribe to her newsletter.