Harsh times, better boundaries: How to achieve work-life balance

Tap, tap, ding, ring

Notifications come from everywhere. You got so accustomed to them that you don't even stress regarding them - however, you do check them because maybe it's from work. Or just another funny meme your friends shared.

Life during the Covid-19 pandemic has its ups and downs. Although the lockdown is over in some countries, international and maybe even national holidays are a bit postponed. Yet, the upside of all of this is the fact that you probably still work from home or you have a few days when you do. However, despite the energizing idea of working in your sweatpants, the chances of you slipping into the habit of working 24/7 are quite high. And you know what? You shouldn't.

We know - the earth is still spinning despite living through a pandemic. It’s difficult not being able to travel it, projects roll in and you're probably bored and tired of your Netflix shows. We're not saying that you should quit your job and return to the woods. That's an exaggeration. But you have to try applying some boundaries in these harsh times for yourself.

You need to apply boundaries, for the sake of your health. However, you need to learn how to create a balance between your work and your life. Sounds easier said than done, isn't it?

You'd be surprised how uncomplicated it can be. All you need is the right mindset. Below you can find a few pieces of advice you can apply to add boundaries and to maintain a work-life balance.

1. Plan your workday beforehand

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It's quite easy to dive into work and forget what time it is. Especially now since you might have several tasks that seem to keep flowing. Although staring down at a screen makes you shut out the world, in the long term it will take a toll on your overall health. Burnout is real and it will eat you from the inside, and before you know, your body will rebel.

And we don't want that, now do we?

So, here's how you can plan your workday:

  • Set a working schedule and stick to it - whether it is 9 to 5, 8 to 4, 10 to 6, don't overdo it. If you need it, you can set an alarm. Also a good tool for this is Microsoft Planner. And don't worry if you didn't use it before, here is an article on how to use it.
  • Preset your breaks as well.

    Remember when during school you had 10 minutes break after every hour? Force yourself to do the same. Get up from that chair and walk around the room for 5 minutes. Again, if you're too engrossed into your work, set an alarm. Install an app that will let you know, if that helps.

  • Don't forget to eat.

    Seriously, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ll also need lunch to keep your energy at optimum levels and to be able to give your best.

  • Prioritize your tasks.

    Open your task manager and see what's highly important and what can be left for the next day. You have a definite amount of energy and a definite period you can do them - choose the ones that are "burning". If all of them are highly important, talk with your superior about it.

Then you have to think about the place where you are, which takes us to the next suggestion.

2. Design your workspace

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Quit straining your back by working from the couch. Also, don’t look longing for your bed – you won’t be productive and you won’t be able to sleep either. You’ll forever be bonded to a purgatory where you achieve nothing.

  • If you live in a house or apartment with at least 2 rooms – and you don’t have a roommate, take the one you’re not sleeping in.
  • If you only have one room, pick a corner and sanctify it. Invest in a great desk that has the required height.
  • Buy a comfortable chair, a laptop top and even an ergonomic keyboard so you won’t strain your wrists either. It’s important to feel comfortable.
  • Keep in mind to use that place only for work, and nothing else. Avoid eating in that place.

3. Create and stick to a routine outside your working hours

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  • You can pick a morning routine where you can enjoy your breakfast, do some yoga or any other exercises.
  • Look into an evening routine, where you can Netflix & chill, workout, prepare your meal for the next day, go for a walk, catch-up with friends or anything that makes you feel relaxed.

We’d highly recommend picking both, if possible.

You need a routine to survive to work from home. When you go to the office you know you have one - waking up, shower, coffee, commute, work. Replicating a similar process will help you get through the day, especially when you feel strained. Moreover, the brain likes patterns and when the brain is happy, you are happy.

4. Disconnect completely after working hours

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Close social media, shut off your phone, your laptop.

  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Watch your favourite TV show
  • Go hiking

Just forget about all the dings and rings. Don’t dwell over your unfinished tasks. Take a breather - tomorrow is another day. Nobody is absurd, nobody wants to exhaust you. A fresh mind and body will help you be more productive.

5. Exercise weekly

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Yes, we know. Exercise. Who has the energy to make sports at such times? But you have to do it.

Find something you enjoy when it comes to exercise. It can be yoga, pilates, taking your dog for a walk. You can make full spot-on exercises such as HIIT or bodyweight. It can be a short jog in the park or wandering on the streets with no clear direction.

No matter what you choose, take into consideration the old Latin saying “mens sano in corpore sano”, which translates to “healthy mind, healthy body”. You need this not only when you’re working from home, but constantly – any type of exercise will energize you and provide you with enough vigour to tackle anything that comes your way, both personal and professional.

6. Nurture your connections

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Us, people, are social beings. So it’s important to keep in touch with your loved ones. Whether you schedule a weekly call with them, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or you plan real-life meet-ups where you catch up, this experience will be revigorating.

However, be careful and mindful about them and don’t treat them like your emotional garbage disposal. It’s fine to share your concerns with them regarding your work, your mental health, but they are not professionals and they also fight their own battles. Keep it sweet, simple and ensure you feel more whole after the interaction – the whole point is to feel better.

7. Be kind to yourself

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Don’t beat yourself too much. Don’t judge yourself for not being able to perform exceptionally at work. For leaving your hobbies behind and choosing to binge-watch a TV show you’ve seen before.

It’s fine if you are not capable to keep in touch as much as you’d like with your close friends or for eating fast-food instead of cooking.

We live in difficult times and it’s normal to feel like it’s too much. So it’s OK if you are not your best version. Things will get better.

Ok, so what's next?

We’re going to tell you a secret: the aforementioned activities are nothing more than guidelines you have to test to see if they work. Shocking, right?!

There is no such thing as a perfect recipe. All of us are different, for all of us work different things. But, what we do recommend you first and foremost is to take a journey inside of you. See what’s bothering you. If you’re feeling exhausted, overworked and stressed, it means that your body is trying to communicate with you. It might be telling you that you need more sleep or more sustenance. Or that you need to exercise. All you have to do is listen to it.

After you have an idea about what’s wrong, you will run through a period of try and error. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who can find from starters what works for them. But if you’re not, don’t give up.

Keep trying to find ways to take care of yourself – work is important, but your overall health is crucial. And especially in these harsh times, you need better boundaries than before.