I’ve been self employed now for almost 3 years, and it’s taken SUCH a long time for me to find the right balance with my work life. Working from home blurs the lines a lot more than clocking off somewhere, and then enjoying a day off. It can be incredibly easy to burn out, or find yourself in a bad routine that stresses you out. Whether you’re someone who works way too much, or someone who leaves everything until the last minute because you enjoy ‘being your own boss’, there are problems at each end of the spectrum. And me? Well over these past 3 years I’ve experienced both.
I go through periods where I work until the wee hours of the night, and never feel like I can relax. I can’t sit and enjoy a movie, or be with friends without feeling guilty. I’ve felt like I always have to be working, and pushing myself. Not because I’m addicted to it; but because my pay depends on it. I’m someone who earns very little, so every penny counts. That added pressure can make it feel like I should never get time off, and so I burn out.
I’ve also been guilty of putting off jobs that I don’t enjoy as much, and leaving it all until the last moment. It’s so tempting to do this when you know nobody else will tell you off, and there’s no boss to get in trouble with.
Each of these things robs me of joy, brings me stress, and makes for an awful working life.
So how have I finally tackled this?
As boring as it is, I’ve realised a really structured routine works best for me. Getting up early each day (minus a few days where pregnancy nausea really wiped me out), writing out a to-do list for the day, and analysing where I need to be helps me so much. I have a calendar on my wall filled with things I need to remember and get done each month, a whiteboard above my desk where I can write up big ideas and plans to explore each week, and finally I have a simple list format notepad which I write my daily to-do list in.
As hard as it can be to pull myself away from work (especially if I have a deadline); I’ve learned now that it’s for the best. Taking time away from work rejuvenates me, and makes me appreciate everything a little more. With that in mind, I now stop all work no later than 6pm of an evening, and whichever day Gary’s day off falls on; that’s when I’ll also take a day off, or at least do the minimal amount of work. I used to be such a night owl, and whilst it’s true I’m still very much inspired at night, I currently can’t maintain that 1am work life I once used to. I sound so old don’t I?! But I just realised how it always slowed me down the next day, and it meant I was sacrificing precious time with Gary. Especially now that I’m pregnant, a good night’s sleep is what’s best for me. So early to bed, early to rise and all that. Making CLEAR time off for myself has done wonders, and I hope I can continue this when baby is here.
FIND THE RIGHT WORK SETTING:
Working from home doesn’t just mean I get to work on my laptop in bed, surrounded by snacks and not getting dressed – even though that does sound incredibly fun! However it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it, and it makes me lazy. It blurs those lines again between work and play, and leads to laziness or stress. Finding the right work setting for myself personally took trial and error, but I think I’ve gotten there now. I get up each morning and go downstairs to have breakfast or at least a cup of tea/coffee with Gary before he goes to work. Once he’s gone I’ll probably put on a laundry load, fold up some washing and then generally see if anything needs tidying up a little. Then I’ll get myself dressed and spruce myself up a little. A lot of times I don’t wear makeup at home, and I’m not saying I plan a whole outfit either. But simply putting on a tshirt and shorts, or just getting out of those pjs and getting a shower does wonders. It tells your brain you’re ready to tackle the day. I then head to my desk, and start planning everything that needs doing (as mentioned in my routine!). My perfect work setting means a tidy desk, no distractions, and a clear plan. Some people work best in coffee shops (I could NEVER work like this, I’d feel like everyone was snooping over my laptop), some work best with music or TV. Find what works for you and it’ll do wonders!
These are the things which mean I treat my work even from home like a ‘proper’ job, and it works best for me. I’m finally in a place that means I’m productive, happier and I have clear time off which I enjoy. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes when baby comes along… but I really hope I can manage this work/life balance just as well then too. I’d love to hear tips from working mums, especially if you work from home! 🙂
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