Working from home can feel like you’re always on – and never on. It blurs the lines between two parts of your life that used to feel distinct and separate.
I used to take advantage of small pockets of time in my workday to start laundry, prep dinner, or play with my dogs. I felt like I had to put that dead time to work, because that’s one of the supposed benefits of working from home vs. wasting those moments in the office.
But I found the more I tried to do, the more I expected myself to do.
It can be draining, not to mention disheartening when you don't accomplish as much as you think you should.
How I Found Real Work-Life Balance When Working From Home
I'm constantly on my phone, even when the kids are home. I check email and messages countless times each day. My computer is on my lap when I'm watching TV at night. The hustle and grind is real when you're a solo business owner like me, but I deserve a life outside of work, too.
So I did something about it.
Here’s what worked for me.
Delegate Easy Tasks
Delegating in my business was a nightmare to even think about. I built my business from the ground up and I’ve been the only one in it for many years. I never thought it would be easy to let someone else help. They weren’t me, they couldn’t get inside my head to know how I wanted things done.
Plus, I didn’t have to train and micromanage. I wanted things done a certain way, and it was just easier if I did it all myself.
But during Covid, I had a change of heart. I needed work-life balance at that time, so I started delegating bit by bit. I chose tasks that were simple and didn’t have to be done a certain way, as long as they achieved the right outcome. This was a huge relief, as it didn’t require me to constantly clean up behind someone.
By freeing up time on those tasks, I could relax ever-so-slightly more.
Time Block, Time Block, Time Block
Time blocking refers to dedicating a specific amount of time to a specific task. For example, you might set aside 30 minutes each morning to work on a project, or an hour each evening to spend with your family.
There are a few things you can do to make time blocking more effective. First, be realistic about how much time you need for each task. Don't try to fit too much into a short period of time.
Second, build in some flexibility so that you can adjust as needed. If something comes up and you need an extra 10 minutes for one task, that's okay.
Finally, create rituals around your time blocks so that you're mentally prepared for them. For example, maybe you always start your work block by drinking a cup of coffee or taking a quick break to stretch.
I mostly use time blocking for work, not my free time. When I can be more productive at work, I'm less likely to have work spill over into my evenings.
Change Your Clothes
No one sees me when I work from home unless I schedule a video call or go out to my local coffee shop. But I still dress the part of a professional.
How I dress helps me mentally separate my work and home life, even though I'm under the same roof. When I pick up the kids from school, it's back to yoga pants, blue jeans, and T-shirts.
Turn Off Your Computer
Removing friction from a process makes it easier to do that process. So I reverse-engineer this idea to maintain my work-life balance.
Turning off my computer when I'm done with work adds a few extra steps if I want to check email or start tackling the next day's projects. I'd have to turn on my computer, open a new browser and all my tabs, etc. It's not much, but it makes me less likely to squeeze in a few extra minutes of work here and there.
Keep Two Lists
I couldn't survive without lists. It helps me see at a glance what needs to be done. I keep two lists -- one for work and one for personal things. No matter how small, I put it on the list. It feels satisfying to mark it off when I'm done.
My lists help prevent things from falling through the cracks and sending me into a panic when something doesn't get done. It also allows me to plan ahead and be realistic with my time. That way, I'm not scheduling too much work in a single day that will take time away from my personal life, and vice versa.
Set an End Time
We tend to pace ourselves based on how much work there is to be done. When there is no set end time, we end up working longer. With a set end time, we tend to waste less time and adjust our work pace based on how much work we need to complete within a specific time frame.
I’ve tested this idea myself, and it always holds true. On the days when it looks like I don’t have as many projects to work on, I still end up working a full day even when those tasks shouldn’t have taken as long – and even when I might be able to reward myself with a shorter work day.
Setting an end time can help you stay focused at work and give you fewer excuses to work during your off-hours.
The above tips are more than theoretical advice. I found what worked best for me and have turned these tips into daily habits. Which ones are you most excited to try?
Meet Our Contributing Author — Alli Hill
Alli Hill is the founder and director of Fleurish Freelance. She helps other freelancers start and grow profitable businesses. She works with brands and businesses in tech, healthcare, travel, hospitality, eCommerce, and other industries. Alli's freelance writing career has earned her recognition with Business Insider, Fiverr, The Hoth, and numerous publications. When she isn’t writing or networking, Alli spends her time hiking with her husband and two children, traveling to the mountains, kayaking, and reading. Connect with Alli on LinkedIn or here.