Here’s a topic a lot of people I know may be struggling with (myself included, lmao). In the age of working from home (WFH) and everything being done virtually, we seemed to have lost touch of boundaries that are typically associated with work-life balance (WLB).
Most of us are expected to be online till way past our ‘working hours’, just because we can be. The amount of work that we are required to achieve in a single day has increased for some reason, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily easier being at home.
In today’s post, I’d like to deal with quite a difficult concept: how to improve on our work-life balance. I’ll talk about the boundaries that we need to set, the objectives that we need to have on a daily basis, spending enough time with our family and friends, looking at the spiritual side of things, as well as making time to get adequate sleep.
My experience of this topic comes from the fact that I’m part-time studying and working full-time – mostly from home. So there’s a lot of effort that I need to put in place to ensure that I get enough downtime and rest.
Boundaries and rituals
The reason why I talk about boundaries being blurred is because many of us no longer drive to the office, we don’t pack up our laptops when we’re done and go back home, we don’t feel how late it can get compared to when we’re at the office.
Nowadays, we wake up and the first thing we check is our work emails, we jump straight into meeting (often while we’re still in bed), we stay up till way later to meet deadlines, and we struggle to meet our other obligations – all while we’re at home.
First thing’s first, we need to identify that not having boundaries is a problem. A lot of us get used to the intensity and almost accept it. But if we don’t look at it for what it is, we may not appreciate a healthy balance. Once you understand the need for boundaries, you need to find ways to specify and implement them.
This can be done by understanding your objectives, which I’ll touch on briefly after this. For example, you may want to exercise before/after the work day. Block off an hour in the morning/evening at a specific time and try to let your team know that this is necessary for you to be effective (ensure it doesn’t clash with meetings etc.).
Another way to try and improve your WLB is by setting a cutoff time for you to respond to emails/attend meetings. I know it’s not always possible when projects get intense, but it’s worth a try. The point is to look at what you need to stay efficient, and build rituals around that.
Your daily objectives should basically be aligned to your boundaries. Understanding what you need on a day-to-day basis will enable you to make time for those requirements. We all need to prepare for meals, get administrative tasks done, work on hobbies/side projects, maintain social relationships and get some exercise done.
By setting these objectives down at specific times during the day (with some flexibility), we can then incorporate those boundaries. The aim is to ensure that you sustain a healthy balance and attend to your personal matters too. That’s the whole point of understanding work-life balance.
Family/friends and alone time
This is an incredibly important component to me personally. I find that I need a recovery period with the people I love and cherish. There’s something about quality time that just recharges me. Without it, the balance starts to tip over.
I live away from most of family in Joburg, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. But I still try to video call them often and then make plans with people that I’m close to here.
I also found that I need quite a decent dose of alone time to let my thoughts settle and to make sense of everything that goes on around me. I need time to meditate, to walk in nature, to read, to reflect and to contemplate. It’s a different way for me to clean out my energy and bring more positivity into my work.
Another fundamental part of my life revolves around Islam and my daily prayers. This can mean different things to different people, but having a spiritual grounding is truly something I can’t do without.
It is the essence of my purpose in life and I find that I’m always calmer and more collected after I’ve prayed. What I love about the Islamic approach, is that you’re required to pray 5 times a day. That means you get 5 chances every single day, to reconnect to your spiritual side and stay in check.
Find what works best for you and ensure that you incorporate it on a daily basis; even if it’s just being grateful before you start the day.
Another critical aspect of a healthy WLB is getting enough consistent sleep. This is easily a challenge, especially when there’s so much that needs to get done. Setup a cutoff time for when you go to sleep and for when to wake up. The consistency makes it easier for your mind to settle.
The benefits of getting enough sleep should be really clear by now, I’ve written a post about it already. The takeaway from this post is to make sure you respect your body’s requirement. If you sacrifice a healthy amount of sleep for too long, the harmful effects can last a lifetime.
If you can, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. 6 if you’re pushing it. Anything below that (depending on your sleep cycle) would be detrimental. Calm down on the coffee too, especially past 3/4 pm.
So, we’ve given quite a bit of thought to the concept of WLB. There are a lot of considerations to factor in, especially given how we’re all WFH. Make sure you understand your daily objectives so that you can set boundaries, figure out how much time you need to spend with family/friends or alone to recharge, find time to pray, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
There’s always going to be a lot to do. That’s the nature of life. But just as the birds and animals know when it’s time to rest, so should you. Follow your nature and keep doing your best. You got this.