In this post, we’re going to look at 11 things you can do to create a healthy work-life balance. One that keeps you focused and productive when you’re working while simultaneously helping you to avoid burnout, maintain positive relationships, and prioritize your health.
One of the things you don’t want to happen when you work remotely is for your work to consume your every waking moment. To have your work email be the last thing you see before you go to sleep and the first thing you see when you wake up.
You also don’t want the opposite to happen. To find that it’s impossible to get your work done when you’re not in a traditional office environment because you’re too distracted or unmotivated.
Let’s add some balance to the equation.
11 Tips for Creating a Healthy Work-Life Balance When You WFH
You might be wondering why you don’t have a very good balance between your work and your life. Or why you’re getting burned out so often. Or why you can’t ever seem to get enough done.
If your life feels imbalanced in some way, then you need to reconfigure some things so you can work at your level best. What those things are depends on you, but I have some suggestions that can help you zero in on potential pain points.
Jump to tips in this section:
1. Crunch the Numbers
If you find that money is a stressor and it’s why you often push yourself to work more, then having clarity about how much money you’re making will be useful to you.
To do this, you’ll need to keep tabs on how much money you earn after taxes and everything else gets deducted. Then you’ll need to track your spending.
The difference between the two will help you figure out if you need to be working long hours or weekends. Better yet, it will tell you if you’re not earning enough money for the work that you do.
Rather than overwork in order to make a decent living, find a way to get paid what you’re worth within normal work hours. If you’re not charging enough to build websites, by the way, this guide will help you set a fair and profitable rate for your services.
2. Use a Task Management System
If you find yourself having to work extra hours because you forgot to complete a task or something was incorrectly done along the way, a task management system can save you a lot of trouble. It’s good to have one anyway as it will help strengthen your time management skills.
One of the things you can do with a task manager is to create a templated process. Most project and task management tools allow you to create your own templates.
For instance, these are the ones I’ve saved in Trello:
I have ones for client onboarding and offboarding, for the web design process, as well as to ensure I get everything done when writing a blog post. Every step is accounted for.
Another thing to do with a task manager is to book yourself only for the work you know you can get done in a day. For example, I manage my tasks using the calendar view and I add time estimates to each of my tasks. That way, I know what sort of commitment I’m making each day.
In order for this to be truly effective, you should add personal commitments and other projects to your calendar. You can also add administrative tasks like job hunting, proposals prep, and client communications to your calendar if you want it to be a true reflection of how much time you have.
3. Carve Out Your Own Workspace
Depending on where you work, you might not have the ability to work from an office-like space. According to research out of Stanford, about 49% of those surveyed said they have a private room they work out of in their home that’s not their bedroom.
Where does that leave the other 51%? Well, they might be like me and work out of a sunroom, which is not a room at all. It’s a niche carved out of the corner of my living room that’s full of natural light.
However, it feels like a separate room to me. And that’s the key to creating your own work space. It should be one that puts you in the mood to work. Make it be full of light, natural or artificial. Add positive elements to it like artwork or trinkets. Supply it with everything you need to get the job done.
It should also be a space where the only thing you do in it is work.
4. Set Your Office Hours
Even if you don’t work in an enclosed space behind a door, when you’re working, you are at the office. It’s not just you that needs to adopt this mindset. It’s everyone around you in your personal and professional life.
What you’ll need to do is set office hours. Make it consistent and make it a schedule that works best for you. And by that I mean you should work hours when you’re the most productive and that won’t detract from the life you want to live.
Once you’ve figured out how many hours you’re going to work each day, set the start and end times. Start working at the same time each day and wrap up at the same time. If someone tries to interfere with the boundaries you’ve set, get comfortable with saying, “No”. Or, rather, “No, but I can do this thing for you at such-and-such time.”
5. Develop Consistent Morning and Evening Routines During the Workweek
Establishing a consistent morning and evening routine is another good way to reinforce your office hours. By getting yourself into the habit of doing the same things during the workweek, you won’t struggle to get to work on time or to wrap up at the same time every day.
Another reason to establish a consistent routine is the health benefits.
For starters, your morning routine should be for you. So when you wake up, do all the things that help you start your day off on the right foot. That means keeping your phone turned off and out of sight.
The first light you see besides the ambient light in your home should be natural light, not the blue light from your devices. Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor”, says:
“Every single human, just as soon as possible after waking up, should go outside and get at least 15 minutes of direct natural light. Period.”
Natural light exposure is helpful for a variety of reasons:
- It keeps our circadian rhythms in check.
- It increases cortisol, giving us the energy and motivation to get moving.
- It leads to clearer thinking and better mental health.
- It reduces the risk of conditions like diabetes and obesity.
- It improves sleep.
Having a consistent evening routine will also help with your sleep. And the more well-rested you are, the better you’ll be able to perform throughout the workday.
6. Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Have you ever reached the end of your workday and wondered how you got so little done despite seemingly working non-stop? It could be because you didn’t give your brain and body time to reset and recharge. It’s like a lightbulb. Sure, it’ll keep burning. But the light will wane more and more as its energy gets sapped.
Harvard Business Review analyzed more than 80 studies on the effects of taking breaks while working. It found that breaking during the workday can help you get more done.
But not all breaks are beneficial. For instance, it’s not the length of a break that gives you more energy or improves focus. It’s the quality of the break that matters. Focus on taking breaks that make you feel better. For instance:
- Take micro breaks (usually 5 to 15 minutes) for some stretching or snacking.
- Head outside when you can.
- Go for a walk.
- Do some exercise.
- Hang out with your furry companion.
One of the best ways to integrate breaks into your daily schedule is to use a Pomodoro timer. It will remind you to take breaks of various lengths throughout the day.
I use one called Tomato Timers that’s been a big help since I don’t always remember to look away from my computer or to get up and do something.
You can also use your phone’s alarm or timer functionality to set reminders to take breaks.
7. Restrict Your Apps and Notifications
Once you have a system in place to keep clients, coworkers, family members, and others from disrupting you when they shouldn’t, turn your attention towards your technology.
The goal is to give yourself access to the websites, apps, and notifications that you need within certain contexts. For instance, when you’re working, it might be beneficial to block your access to social media apps.
Forest is a good option for blocking distractions. It has a Chrome browser extension as well as an Android and iOS app.
Add the websites that are your biggest distractions to the list and Forest will keep you away from them until you’re done “planting” (i.e. the timer finishes).
You should also think about all the little pings and visual alerts that can distract you during work as well as in your off hours. If you’re trying to enjoy your free time while you have it, then removing these distractions from your devices is crucial.
You can do this with most smart device settings. You’ll be able to disable notifications for certain apps, turn off sounds, block access to certain apps, and even set quiet and sleep hours.
8. Prioritize Your Physical Wellness
Hydration is a good place to start. According to a decade-old study published to the NIH National Library of Medicine, dehydration can degrade cognitive performance. And we’re not talking about significant dehydration. All it takes is 1% to 2% of body water loss for you to start feeling the negative impacts.
Eating well will also keep you energized and focused throughout the day. And because you work from home, you can make fresh meals for yourself every day. There are tons of high-protein, low-sugar, and energy-boosting meals that require little effort to make like yogurt bowls and salads.
The other component of maintaining your physical health is exercise. You don’t need to take huge breaks in the middle of your workday in order to exercise nor do you need to spend hours at the gym after work if that’s not what you enjoy doing.
Find something that makes you feel good and gets the blood moving. Go for a walk with your dogs. Hit up a yoga class. Do a short strength training workout.
If you struggle to motivate yourself to do this, you can do as I do and find a fitness app. I use one called FitOn. It has all kinds of workouts, many of which are on the shorter side of things so I never have an excuse about exercise taking too much time away from work or social activities.
While I’m primarily focused here on how your physical state impacts productivity, it can also impact your off hours. If you’ve ever reached the final hours of a Sunday and regretted how you spent your time or how little you did with it, some of these physical wellness hacks can help fix that.
9. Prioritize Your Mental Wellness
Your mind needs to be taken care of just as much as your body does. Taking breaks throughout the workday will help. So too will giving yourself time in the morning to wake up and time at night to decompress.
Some other things you can do to prioritize your mental wellness are:
- Do yoga
- Get a spa treatment
- Go out in nature
Spending time doing something that’s positive in nature or your local community is good too. That looks different for all of us. For me, that’s sitting by the ocean. Or listening to live music. For you, it could be going for a hike, volunteering, or going for a drive.
It’s all too easy to lay in bed or on the couch and not do anything when you’re feeling drained from work. And there are some days when you need that type of recovery. But when you’re feeling up for it, treat your mind to something or some place that brings it joy and relaxation too.
10. Plan Social Activities for Your Weekends and/or Evenings
When I first started working as a freelancer, I made every excuse in the book to work late. I had been conditioned for so long in the corporate world that if I wasn’t working late every day that I wasn’t doing something valuable.
So I tricked myself to stop overworking. And the way I did that was by maintaining a social calendar. I planned outings with friends and family. I joined Meetup groups and went to as many as I could. I went on dates. I even put reminders on my calendar to go places by myself, like to the movies or a museum.
If I had the time blocked off, it became impossible to work late. And so I learned to be hyper-focused while I was working and to block out distractions so that I could make it to these social commitments. Once I realized how good it felt to balance my time in this way, it no longer became something I had to force myself to do.
You don’t need to be an extrovert to put this tactic to work, by the way. I’m a total introvert, so I plan the types of social activities that I know I can handle. Small groups or one-on-one settings, for instance. And I usually give myself a day on my own to recover. That said, having a commitment to socialization does help balance out my life.
11. Schedule a Vacation
Find something you want to do this year —a luxury vacation, a frugal staycation, an extended trip to see family over the holidays, a camping trip, a road trip, whatever. Figure out what the vacation entails and how long you’re going to take off. Then put it on your calendar and start making arrangements for it.
This is another way to “trick” yourself into creating a healthy work-life balance. Because once you commit to those plans and invest some money into it, you’re not going to want to do anything at work that compromises it.
Of course, you might be stressed about what a vacation will do to your revenue or your work relationships. But vacations don’t have to negatively impact your work if you plan for them. Here are 7 things you can do to take time off and not be stressed about it:
The work-from-home revolution has been welcomed by many. However, for those unaccustomed to the challenges that come with working remotely, it can be difficult to find ways to keep your work from spilling over into your life and vice versa.
It doesn’t matter which boat you’re in. You might be the workaholic who can’t turn your computer off or stop checking emails at the dinner table. Or you could be the person who’s distracted by everything and can’t seem to get any of your work done on time. Either way, there are plenty of things you can do to maintain a better work-life balance even if the physical distance and barriers between your life and work aren’t there anymore.