When your home and workplace are one and the same, it can be difficult to switch off and transition between your working day and the rest of your life. For those of us who don’t normally work from home it’s taking a bit of getting used to.
I know that I could easily allow myself to fall into a pattern of working all the time at the moment. I’m working with clients online from my home, using my living room as my counselling space and my office. I love the work I do and am passionate about promoting counselling as a healthy form of selfcare, so sometimes it’s easy to forget to stop.
While I’m staying safe at home I’m trying to maintain a healthy balance between work life and family life/relaxation. I’ve been working on putting some structure in place for myself to allow that to happen more easily. I’ve realised that there are some practices that are really helping with that. I thought I’d share them with you here.
Keeping the structure of my working week
This is hugely important for me, and also one of my biggest challenges. My normal week includes client appointments, admin tasks, marketing, networking, household chores, family time and downtime. Honouring my downtime is easier if I have a plan. I can relax, guilt-free if I know I have a handle on what has been done and what’s coming up. So, to my next tip...
My long-standing work habit is to spend time on at the weekend checking my diary and planning for the week ahead. I’m still doing this and it’s helping me to keep my time away from work sacred. I have specific client days and admin days and I am sticking to these. To-do lists help my memory and time blocking gives me a visual plan of my week. I’m able to see where I can fit tasks in around client appointments and meetings, so I’m able to have more free time on other other days. I’m also blocking out my days off, because I know I’m more likely to honour that time if it’s in my diary. All this is helping me feel more in control during this period of uncertainty.
Get ready for work
Even though I’m not leaving the house, I’m still getting ready for work. Getting dressed, doing my hair and putting on some make up marks the start of my working day and helps to shift me into a work mindset.
Create a familiar workspace
When my living room is my workspace, I have some familiar things from my counselling room around me. My mug, my diary and a box of tissues are within my reach. I use the same essential oil room spray that I use in my counselling room. All these things help me to feel grounded in my current workspace.
Have a lunch break
I’m being more careful about this since working at home, and I’m making sure that I block out time in the middle of the day to make and enjoy lunch. I move into another room or, if the weather’s good, I’ve been sitting outside for a while. I’m using the time to read, or check in with family or friends to see how they are.
Create a symbolic ending to your working day
To mark the transition between work and home life it helps me to do things to separate my two ‘worlds’. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, symbolising the end of your working day can be as easy as closing a door, but if you are working in your living space (living room, kitchen, bedroom) it can feel more difficult.
I mark the end of my work day by locking away my laptop, diary, phone and files. I move into another room for a while, catch up with my husband and children, or do something ‘home’ related to bring me back to my home and family life. This helps with the mental shift from one role to another.
Forgiving myself for letting things slide
Planning definitely helps me, but I do realise I always have ambitious (some might call them unrealistic!) expectations of what I can get done in a week. I’ve discovered that lockdown hasn’t changed that. So I’m having to accept that I won’t always get things done when I expect to and that my time boundaries have to be a bit elastic. In fact, some things might not get done at all. I'm reminding myself that I'm human and I'm doing the best I can. Like everyone else at the moment, I am taking things a day and a time and managing my energy levels in the best way I can to allow me to be able to be there for my family, friends and clients. For me, people are most important and so I’m prioritising those I care about and any energy I have left over is seeing to everything else. I’m being realistic and self-compassionate about that, and forgiving myself for my ‘slow’ days. I hope you are able to do that for yourself, too.
Some info on time blocking ~ https://doist.com/blog/time-blocking/
On self-compassion ~ https://self-compassion.org/
How self-compassionate are you? ~ https://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/
If you feel that you would benefit from counselling to explore issues, I am currently working online. You can contact me at email@example.com to enquire about availability.
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