When it comes to working from home, a lot of things can fall to the wayside: eating healthy, exercising regularly, taking breaks when needed, balancing work and social life to avoid burnout — all things that anyone who’s ever had a stint of freelancing in their career knows too much about. Either you spend too much time working and neglect other important life aspects, or you neglect work itself and get distracted too easily by other things.
I myself have been a victim to both — while working from home, sometimes I can’t get anything done until I do the dishes. Or the laundry. Or, oh, I forgot to buy something at the store, I can spare an hour to run over.
On the other hand, maybe my friends and I made plans for the weekend, but, oops — I have to make up for 5 hours I missed throughout the week, and suddenly I’m tied to my laptop when all I really want is to join everyone else at the movies. Sometimes I forgo the gym for weeks at a time, because by working from home, I don’t really have much reason to get up, get dressed, and drive all the way there. Sometimes it’s just easier to pop a frozen dinner into the microwave rather than prepare a healthier meal, because I have deadlines to meet and don’t want to waste any time watching food cook on the stove so it doesn’t burn.
The key to a successful work-life balance, particularly when it comes to freelancing and working from home, can really be boiled down to discipline, across three different categories: physical, mental, and social.
Keeping your body in its best fighting shape is about way more than the number on a scale or the amount of lifts you can do at the gym; it also encompasses keeping your immune system strong, ensuring you sleep enough at night, and resting your eyes, hands, wrists, and so on, depending on the type of work you do.
By even just getting up from your chair every hour or so to walk around and stretch your legs, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of grief in the future. Not only does taking short breaks throughout the day allow your brain to rest and rejuvenate itself, but the increased blood flow helps you avoid things like varicose veins, blood clots, and any overall sense of boredom/drowsiness that leads to a reduced quality of work.
To address another common issue with working from home, I 100 percent suggest that if you have a harder time eating better, balanced meals while slaving away in the home office, to invest both the time and money into preparing meals a week in advance.
Whether they be frozen meals to be reheated, or made in bulk on Sunday afternoon to be sectioned off into plastic containers for each upcoming day, having something already prepared and waiting for you will likely help cut back on other impulsive, less healthy choices.
Equally as important as physical health, mental health carries something of a burden itself, especially since what goes on mentally is likely the driving force behind your work. Whether you’re a writer, a transcriber, an artist, what have you, with your mind in its best and clearest state, not only will your work get done faster, but better.
First and foremost, get outside stressors out of the way. For me, those stressors usually include finances, because I just can’t resist buying cute jackets in the middle of summer. For the most part I’ve been doing better, though, especially by following financial rules like those listed here:
- Save in four ways every month
- Manage food expenses
- Plan for emergencies
- Make and grow things at home
And, a few personal goals:
- Stop buying so many jackets, you don’t need them
- Finally learn the difference between “need” and “want”
Does it? Probably not.
Other mental hurdles that can get in your way and bring you down: learning to stay motivated, organized, and again, balanced. Your brain can’t possibly work at 100 percent all day, every day — especially if your home office is a mess, you can’t stop checking social media long enough to get a single task done, or you have no plan or goals to actually be working toward.
So, here are a few more tips to wrangle in your easily distractible brain:
- Exercise your brain’s creativity centers like a muscle; they’ll grow stronger and more reliable that way.
- Organize your workspace in a way that works for you personally, and not necessarily just by what something online or in a magazine suggests (though those are good places to start).
- Practice leaving your comfort zone, and chasing your dreams no matter what others think or say. Face your fears, and come out on top — even if you don’t, you have plenty of time to try again.
Social health can apply to more than simply “set time aside for friends/boyfriends/girlfriends/Netflix.” It can also apply to taking time for yourself, even if that means it’s spent alone in bed a few weekends a month, because the thought of interacting with other people makes you want to curl up and weep.
It also means more than just going shopping, going to the movies, or going out to dinner — taking part in things like volunteering has been proven to not only make people feel happier and more accomplished, but has also shown to inspire a sense of reinvigorated motivation in people who work intensive jobs, especially those in office settings. On top of feeling personally rewarded, you’re also going to be benefitting the community, or whichever organization you decide to give your time to — so all in all, it’s a double win. To cross off everything on your list, volunteer with your friends/family, so everyone is happy.
While all of these things are important no matter which career you pursue, sometimes some jobs make them a little more difficult to keep track of — but at the same time, by putting a little effort into keeping all three in check, the benefits will be evident in every other aspect of your life. Working better and smarter, feeling more inspired and motivated, whatever it is, taking care of the basics will do nothing but uplift everything else in your life!
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