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I spent my entire career working out of an office. But, when my first child was born, I realized office work wasn’t an option anymore. I needed a remote, work-from-home opportunity, which was very rare in 2008.

 After working on a few remote projects here and there, I landed a full time job at a fast-growing Silicon Valley tech startup in 2014. This was it. I’d finally be able to spend more time with my family. I was free at last!

 Or, at least I thought I was.

 

One year into full-time remote work, I got a happy birthday card from my daughter: “Mom, I love you, but I wish you spent more time with me.”

 

This shattered me.

 

The whole point of working remotely was to have more flexibility to spend time with my family. This is when I realized I was nowhere near the life I envisioned. Something had to change. So I took action immediately to take my life back. 

Over the years, I’ve found a number of tactics that have brought me true freedom through a healthy, happy, work-life balance.

 

Are you stressed out? Overworked? Can’t seem to find the time to balance work and play with your remote job? Then keep reading, because this one’s for you.

Here are 4 remote work tips you can use immediately to better manage your work-life balance.

1. Set a Schedule—and Stick To It

I used to work 12 hour days—for months on end. The worst part was, I didn’t even realize it.

page of an hourly planner and a pen for setting remote schedule more efficiently

Meanwhile, I was trying to take care of my kids at the same time. While I was physically present, I was not mentally with them at all. I would often work on Sunday just to ease up my Mondays. My stress levels were uncontrollable and scary.

I knew this wasn’t sustainable. I knew what I had to do but just didn’t know how to do it. So I went right to the core. I used psychology to tap into my behavior. I got aggressive and revamped everything about the way I worked.

stopwatch in a hand to track time while working remotely

The first thing I did was use a simple time tracking tool. As soon as I hit 9 hours a day, I would force myself to shut down the computer. I wouldn’t let myself do anything until the next day.

While I don’t use a time tracker anymore, this little tool helped kickstart my habit of knowing when to quit. Now, I don’t work more than 9 hours a day. The funny thing is, I still get the same amount of work done, if not more.

When you’re wanting to better manage remote work-life balance, you have to start with your time. Set a schedule. And don’t compromise. Use a time tracker if you need to. And when the clock runs out, get out.

When you can manage your time better, you’ll manage your life better. The freedom from setting a simple schedule makes all the difference when optimizing your work and free time.

2. Plan Something After Your Work Day

Sometimes, you’ll hit that 8 or 9-hour mark (or whatever time you set to end your day) – but you’ll come up with a handful of reasons why you just need to get that one thing done.

When you work in the same place that you live, it can be difficult to truly step away from work when it’s time to “head home for the day”.

Even after you’ve closed your laptop and signed off, it can feel like you should just pop back on to get a couple of things done if you don’t have a good reason to stop.

family of four enjoying boat ride on a sunny day, spending free time after remote work form home

One of the best ways to combat work-creep (yes, I just made that term up) is to make plans for your after-work hours—and stick to them.

Whether that’s meeting up with a friend for coffee, attending a spin class, or going for a walk with family… If you have somewhere you have to be when your workday is over, you’ll be much more likely to actually sign off and stop working at your set time.

One bonus for making after-work plans? The working day doesn’t feel as long. When you have something to look forward to after work, it actually makes the whole day more enjoyable, and it goes by much faster.

I signed up my entire family to the gym after work, where we can swim, relax in a hot tub, and exercise. Helps to release stress at the end of a busy day and gives us the opportunity to spend time as a family.

3. Take Breaks—and Optimize Them

In today’s world, the more you work, the more you’re praised. Our society looks up to those who hustle and grind. 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week. Taking time off is weak.

The problem with this mindset is, our bodies weren’t designed to handle that much activity without rest in between.

One of the best things you can do to manage your remote work-life balance is to take breaks throughout the day.

alarm clock and cup of coffee displaying it's time to take a break from remote work

Not only will it make your working day more enjoyable, but you’ll be more enjoyable to be around with your family after hours.

You don’t have to sacrifice your work to take frequent breaks. Take a 5 or 10 minute break every 1-3 hours. Grab a coffee. Get a snack. Get some fresh air. Use the bathroom!

Here’s a bonus tip: if you have a family at home throughout the day, take a break to be with them. Go for a short walk, play with your kids, or have lunch together.

This is a great work-life hack to squeeze in some extra time with your family. Even a 5 minute break during the day can work wonders for the “life” part of your work-life balance.

Not only will it refresh you and your family, but it will also take some pressure off in the evenings. A little quality time spent during the day will keep you from feeling like you’re not spending enough time with family during your limited evening hours.

4. Set Boundaries

“Set boundaries” has got to be one of the most taboo phrases in the world. But, as much as the thought of setting boundaries might make you cringe, it’s one of the best things you can do to optimize your work-life balance.

There are two boundaries you’ll want to set immediately:

  • Physical Boundary

Let’s start with a physical boundary. No, I’m not suggesting you can’t give your kid a hug till after work. I’m talking about a dedicated workspace.

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely from home is other people. Strange, right? The best thing is also the worst.

Here’s why. When you’re at home, everyone expects you to be present and hang out with them. At any moment throughout your workday, you’ll be expected to do the dishes, have a 30 minute talk, or play outside.

setup of a workspace in a home for remote work without distractions

Before I got my dedicated workspace, my youngest one would interrupt my important meeting to ask for urgent help. What was urgent help? Her doll was sad and needed cheering up.

As hard as it is, you need to learn to say no to the family when they demand your attention during “work hours”. The easiest way to do this is by creating a dedicated office space in your home.

Pick any room where you can close the door behind you. When the door’s closed, you’re off-limits. When you come out, you’re fair game to scrub those pasta pots or have a tickle fight.

By setting a boundary with your family, you’ll be less distracted during the day, allowing you to get more done in less time. This means you won’t need to work as long. Plus, when you finally are with the family during a break or after work, you’ll be able to be fully present with them, giving them your undivided attention.

  • Work Boundary

Another boundary you’ll want to set is with your boss. For some people, this is even scarier than setting one with their family.

remote, online meeting between employer and employee

If you’ve been expected to work well into the evening or respond to Slack or text messages on the weekend, it’s time to set a work boundary.

Kindly let your boss or clients know what days and times they can reach you. And stop sending or responding to messages during any time but those times.

Your boss or clients will most likely understand. But, if they ask you why, simply let them know that you’re dedicating certain times to respond to messages to optimize your productivity. The truth is, when you allocate dedicated time to respond to emails or messages from your team, you’ll find you can get more done in less time.

Now It’s Your Turn

Remote work isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. While you were likely drawn to work remotely because of the freedom and flexibility it offers, the reality is, working from home comes with its own set of challenges.

Managing work-life balance is one of the biggest culprits.

If you don’t pay attention to your work-life balance, you’ll wind up overworked, stressed out, and unproductive. Worst of all, you’ll end up disappointing your family—wondering where the time went.

Thankfully, you can work from home and reap all the benefits it has to offer.

You know what you should do, but you just aren’t there yet. But, with a few behaviour changes, you’ll be able to hack your workflow and start experiencing the true freedom that comes with working remotely.

How about you? Do you work from home? What are some work-life challenges you’ve had and how have you overcome them?

Leave a comment below to let us know!

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