Remember when most of us wanted to work from home?
And now, thanks to the pandemic, most of us are working from home. I think many are finding that it’s not what they expected.
When I was a new entrepreneur a few years ago, there were days I realized I’d done nothing but stare at my computer screen, coding for eight straight hours or more.
There were times I realized I hadn’t spoken out loud all day until my husband came home from work.
There were times I realized that I hadn’t left the house in days.
There were times I realized that I hadn’t heard any news from the outside world since I couldn’t remember when.
There were times I realized I hadn’t seen any of my friends in weeks.
There were even times I realized I hadn’t eaten all day, and if I did, it was just a bowl of microwaved cheddar cheese.
None of this is good. None of this is how a human being was meant to live. I needed to find new ways to stay sane and feel like a human being again.
It took me a while for some reason, but I finally realized that the way I was working was not conducive to happiness, health, or a sense of mental or emotional well-being. My priorities had to change if I wanted to not only stay sane but enjoy working from home. So I changed them.
Work is important, sure, especially when you’re your own boss and you’re doing the work of several people. But I finally remembered that I’m important too, and that I should be on the priority list along with everything and everybody else! Sleep is important. Eating is important. Socializing is important. Enjoying the life that I’m creating is important!
So here’s what I’ve changed so far, to start creating work/life balance. I’m happier, healthier, and I feel more rested and peaceful because of these changes.
I Schedule Online Social Time
Every week, I make a few online coffee or lunch dates with friends, and family using ZOOM. Every Wednesday I have a repeating scheduled online happy hour with my sisters and daughter. I FaceTime with distant friends and family. I text with friends or family members that I don’t see very often.
These work for me because it’s the interaction and connection that’s important. I find a pleasant space to hang out, nowhere near my workspace, so I can fully focus and enjoy these visits.
Whatever type of socialization works for you online, do it!
I Have a Schedule
There was a time when I preferred to code for hours without any breaks, but that was not helpful in the long run.
One time, I started at 10 PM and the next time I looked up from my screen it was 6 AM. I had no idea. When I was new to working from home, I didn’t want to have “a schedule”. I really felt that the beauty of working from a home office was that I could work “whenever” I wanted. And often I wanted to work very late at night.
It didn’t take long for this new found “freedom” to negatively impact my sleep cycle. Having the freedom to work “whenever”, wasn’t working for me at all. I wasn’t tired at night when I should be sleeping, and I was tired all day when I was also working and taking care of other responsibilities.
So I decided to have more structure in my days and nights. In order to keep that feeling of freedom I now use a loosely defined schedule, an outline if you will, beginning between 7 and 8 AM and ending between 4 and 5 PM. But it works for me. I work only half a day on Friday and I don’t work most weekends.
Making myself stick with this structure has fixed my sleep cycle and given back a sense of control over my life. It impacts how I plan my days. I can work more, or less, depending on what I need to get done.
I Take Breaks
Even with a daily work-outline, I still have a tendency to get immersed in my work, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else.
When I first started taking little breaks, I worried about how “behind” I was getting in my work. But I soon realized that for some reason, my mind worked better, my thoughts were clear and I was actually more productive after I took a couple of breaks! I had no idea that would happen simply from taking a little time away from my work throughout the day. So I decided to keep taking breaks and make some of them a little bit longer.
I’m getting all of my work done and I don’t feel like I’m falling behind on other responsibilities while I’m working from home.
During a 30 minute break, I might do a little banking. On another break, I’ll make myself a nutritious snack or lunch. On a shorter break, I’ll play with Abby, my dog.
See what I mean? I don’t have a set break schedule but I’m aware that I need to take them and I honor that. I take them in the morning and in the afternoon, at various times and for various lengths, depending on my needs. I no longer drive myself like a workhorse. I’m kinder and more considerate to myself, and it shows in my work. Go figure, huh?
I Get Out of the House
I think one of the best ways to stay sane is to get outside.
As long as you social distance, some ways you can get yourself out of the house are:
If you have a dog, take her for a walk or go to the park for 30 minutes.
Exercise in your home outdoor space.
Take a walk around your neighborhood.
Sit in your yard, or on your porch, or balcony.
Check the mailbox
Get your muscles working and your blood pumping. Your body will appreciate movement, you’ll get to look at something besides your computer screen. And that brings me to the next thing:
Make a Change of Scenery
I started working from a different area after each break. So on some days, if I’ve had three breaks, I’ve worked in three different areas, including outside. This one really helps me.
My advice to you: change up your workspace now and then. Work in different areas of your house or sit in a different chair or in a different room, so your view changes. Work outside for 30 minutes if you can, sometimes in your front yard, sometimes in the back.
I hope you’ll try a couple of these yourself and see if it makes a positive difference in your life. 🙂
Conscious awareness: Be aware and make conscious choices before acting. Self-awareness releases us from making impulsive and potentially damaging decisions. Learn about setting boundaries
Self-care: We can only choose to focus on and be responsible for ourselves, our own thoughts, actions, and behavior. The good news is that we can change ourselves with patience, persistence, and practice. We can take responsibility for getting our needs met, instead of waiting for someone to change or meet our needs for us. We are in control of ourselves and no one is responsible for us but us.
About the author
Diane Metcalf earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1982 and a Master of Science in Information Technology in 2013.
She has held Social Worker, Counselor and Managerial Positions in the fields of Domestic Violence and Abuse, Geriatric Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Reproductive Health. She is an experienced Advocate and Speaker on the topics of Domestic Violence and Abuse and has been a guest on Lockport Community Television (LCTV), sharing her knowledge and experience regarding Domestic Abuse with the local community. In addition, she experienced Maternal Narcissistic Abuse and has been involved in other toxic relationships. She purposefully learned (and continues to learn) appropriate coping skills and strategies to live happily. She shares those insights here.
Her books and articles are the results of her education, knowledge, and personal insight regarding her own abusive experiences and subsequent recovery work. She is no longer a practicing Social Worker, Counselor, Program Manager or Advocate, nor is she or has she ever been a licensed psychologist.
Currently, Diane runs her own website design company, Image and Aspect, and writes articles and tutorials for Tips and Snips, her inspirational blog for creative people. She continues to learn and write about Emotional Healing.
This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.