Remote working grants you the freedom to be wherever you wish, but at the same time it chains you to a chair that is probably killing you slowly. This sounds like a paradox, but it is a reality for many of us.
For that reason, maintaining a work/life balance when working remotely is different from when you work a 9-5 job. If you are not a naturally active person, chances are that you found yourself spending last year in your bedroom, sitting in front of your computer. In this article, we posit that it’s more important to remember going out and getting some sun, than trying to maintain a schedule.
The boundaries between work and life
Although much has been written about the subject, it all comes down to your individual temperament. It also has to do with your professional situation; whether you collaborate with people living on different time-zones or your job requires you to be up at odd hours. There are times when you need to draw the line between work and life and then there are times that it isn’t easy, because of the workload or due to culture (protip: get out!)
So the way you respond to those situations is up to you. For some people it is easier to have “One Calendar To Rule Them All” but for others having separate ones help them think clearer and organize things.
The point is to try out many things, particularly if you are new to remote working. And then, see what works best for you. It’s no use trying to fit yourself into a 9-5 inspired mould that was a bad fit for you in the first place. However, there are certain things that are absolutely essential to have in place.
Remote work life essentials
The remote work lifestyle is a puzzle that you need to figure out on your own, connect all the pieces in the right place and then keep them running by finally achieving to set a routine. Again your primary focus should be on your strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, your weaknesses will most likely attempt to sabotage your everyday work life in various ways, such as lack of work efficiency. For example, days when you work but you are constantly distracted by social media and cats. This, in turn, makes you sit at the computer longer than needed. You stay in more, hunched over your laptop, your body doesn’t move, you don’t get much sun, and you wither. If we could distil the essentials of remote work life they would be: 1) Block time and work efficiently 2) establish morning and evening routines and 3) go outside!
Using apps like Pomodoro is a good way to signal to your subconscious that it’s time to buckle up and work, and it also gives shape to your work. What work timers such as Pomodoro achieve is “polarizing” your work habits. Instead of spending 12 hours in front of your computer, in a not very consistent and focused way, feeling tired and distracted, they help you “compress” your work into 4 hours of two long sessions. These consist of two Pomodoro work blocks each, plus a lengthy break for lunch. This is built overtime and not overnight, so even if you manage only two Pomodoro blocks, be content.
Blocking work time using Pomodoro forces you to:
- Be more focused
- Think intelligently about work tasks and schedule them effectively.
Morning and evening routines
Even if you do not observe work hours strictly you will find that having a “startup” and “shutdown” routine is highly beneficial. Morning routines prepare you for the day, while shutdown routines give you time to reflect on what happened, and what you need to accomplish tomorrow.
Most people have their most energy at the beginning of the day, but the point of building a morning routine is to do the things that will prepare you for work. Some people like to focus on their personal projects, and then start working. Others need to go out for a run. Whatever it is that you need to do in the morning, make it part of your routine.
An evening routine on the other hand allows two things:
- To set a time where you close all messaging apps and devices, and start to “unwind”
- Time for reflection.
Although you don’t need to strictly obey a 9-5 scenario, you have to have a set time that you shut everything down and become unavailable. This time is also ripe for scheduling the things to do the next day and reflect on what you did today.
Being stuck in your chair for an extended period of time will start taking its toll and you will soon start noticing slight problems arising out of poor ergonomics. And even if you have ergonomics figured out, spending your days sitting is bad for your health in general. However, you don’t have to start running or lifting weights. As you schedule work tasks you can use Pomodoro to schedule brief walks, bicycle rides, or physical chores that can get you away from the computer and start pumping your blood.
Another good idea is to have a garden, preferably somewhere far from your office, which you can get up and visit during the day, either for maintenance chores, or just simply to unwind a bit.
Whether you succeed or not in keeping your work and life separate as a remote worker, implementing morning/evening routines, structured work habits, and having a natural outlet for moving around more often are essential in supporting a healthy, remote working life.