I am so excited to introduce the blog’s very first guest post!!!!
In this post, my lovely friend, Irmak details how she achieves real work-life balance while working from home. Even if you don’t work from home, Irmak dishes out some really phenomenal hacks for achieving more work-life balance. And let’s be real… aren’t we all looking for a little more balance??
Since I moved to Austin in November of 2018, it takes me about 20 seconds to get from my bedroom to my office because — surprise — I work from home. Back in New York, I would take a very crowded subway (I really can’t stress the very enough here, it was a complete shitshow!) to my office every morning. The commute was terrible, but I liked going in every day. I had a giant desk, lots of fun coworkers, and an abundance of snacks. Switching to working from home full time was a bit of a struggle. While I can’t say I LOVE it just yet, I do enjoy and appreciate a lot of aspects of it.
I’d like to share with you some changes I made to accommodate my new work-from-home life.
Set up a designated work space
I have to admit, I’m a little spoiled with this one. Back in New York, a designated work space would have been my coffee table. In Austin, we have a lot more space. When we were looking for a house to rent, one of my non-negotiables was an additional room I could use as a study. I felt like I would get cooped up if I had to work and sleep out of the same room. When we first moved, I didn’t have a desk and spent hours at the dining table. It was miserable. I’d work at the dining table, eat at the dining table, cry over how much money we were spending on new furniture at the dining table… You get the gist. I scoured the internet for the perfect desk and chair, and finally ended up getting a glass desk off of Wayfair, and a cheap (but comfortable) chair off Amazon. My desk faces a window, so I get a lot of natural sunshine and my back is turned to all of the things that can cause a distraction during the work day.
When I first started working from home, I had a lot of anxiety over how much time I should be spending at my computer. I felt like I needed to be online and available (aka on Slack and email) all the time. How else would my coworkers and manager know I was actually working? I promised myself I’d take the dog on a walk during the day, but I found that, more often than not, I’d get really stressed about whatever project I was working on and just let the dog out in the fenced-in backyard. This left me sitting at my desk for 8–9 hours a day and having absolutely no human interaction until my boyfriend came home, tired from work and unwilling to entertain me.
Now, I take at least one walk during the day (usually more!). I make a point to say hello to my neighbors (hey human contact!). During my walk, I either call my mom or listen to a podcast. It’s great to get exercise, fresh air, bonding time with my dog, and a bit of human interaction.
Find yourself a routine
It is waaay too easy to roll out of bed at 8.55 for a 9 o’clock start time. I got to the point where I was showering only when it was absolutely necessary and convincing myself I was doing my skin and hair a favor (potentially true, but still not great for my self-esteem or personal hygiene). To be honest, it’s really hard to wake up when you have nothing to do.
Now, I decide on my morning activity before I go to bed and set my alarm accordingly. I look forward to waking up in the morning, and know that if I sleep in, I’ll miss whatever activity I planned for myself the night before. I still sleep in occasionally, but because I decided to the night before, not because I couldn’t get my butt out of bed that morning. I use my one to two hours of morning time jogging, walking the dog, cleaning the house (seriously, I’ve never been so clean in my life!), doing a craft, reading, making a delicious breakfast, the list goes on. It’s “me time,” and I now see waking up early as treating myself. It also sets the tone for my day — I feel accomplished from my very first task.
Make goals for yourself
It’s really hard to separate work and personal life when you work from home! I found myself getting really distracted during the day and then working late at night to make up for the time I lost during the day. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t able to focus on work OR home because I was jumping from one to the other.
I started setting my own boundaries. The first thing I do in the morning (after grabbing my cup of coffee and doing my activity of course!) is make a list. I actually make two lists — one of what I want to accomplish during work (email xyz, submit report, etc.) and the other is what I want to accomplish in my home life (water plants, take out compost, etc.). Now, when I take a break from work, instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or online shopping, I take an actual break from my desk and my computer, and I do something on my home life list. It takes 5 minutes to water the plants, and while it’s not exactly “fun,” it gives me a chance to rest my brain and move my body. I also do this during long meetings where I have to listen without having to participate via video. I find that I can listen a lot better if my hands are busy. Now if I have an hour-long meeting, I take the opportunity to both listen and hit up a personal task — ironing, painting my nails, petting my dog a little extra — whatever keeps your hands (but not your brain) busy.
Get yourself some work clothes!
I spent the first two months of working from home in workout leggings and a sweatshirt. I looked sloppy, and, more importantly, I felt sloppy. You finally get to set your office dress code — wear something that makes you feel happy, comfortable, and successful. I bought some nice ponte leggings and started wearing real tops again. I was just as comfortable as when I was wearing my dingy workout leggings, but I felt like I was physically prepared to start a day of work.
It is way too easy to spend day after day at home when you work from home, and it gets lonely sometimes. Think of all of the money you’re not wasting on gas (or the subway!) commuting to work every day — go out to dinner! Go window shopping, volunteer, go on a jog or bike ride, go to yoga — all of these things get you out of the house and give you a chance to interact with others. You don’t have to have a long conversation with others to feel like you’re part of a community — my yoga class starts off with you introducing yourself to the people next to you each class, before you sweat alongside each other for an hour. Do the things that remind you that you’re a member of your community.