Work/Life Balance

February 12, 2014

So you’re a freelancer or remote worker and you’re working from home. You’re passionate about what you do and love throwing yourself into learning new things and the projects you’re commissioned to do, and you can’t help but want to share about it in your blog. That’s all great. A lot of us are like that.

One of things I keep finding is that I sometimes can’t stop working. I mean, I love my wife and family and enjoy our friends and have hobbies, but I love working. Since I work from home, those two things blend into each other. It’s not surprising.

There needs to be a balance between work and life. If there’s not, one will overtake the other. You’ll end up working when you should have a personal life or not working as much as you should. But how do you maintain that balance?

I have a few ideas.

Dividing the Space

There should be a clear division, in the space and in your mind, between where you work and where you live. If you have a home office, that should ideally be its own room with a door. Stretch out a little bit into a library (which is a great place to test your websites in a low-bandwidth area) or a coffee shop (typically also great for low-bandwidth testing) or even better, a co-working space.

There’s a co-working space nearby my apartment that offers really great rates and seems like a more viable option for being productive than the same space where I also hang out.

Then if you can, further divide that space up into time. For instance, work at home in the morning, then in the early afternoon go work at that coffee shop, library or co-working space. Then come home, feeling like the work is done for the day and you have the space unfettered by all the anxieties that come with work.

Quitting Time

This point is crucial. In my life, if there’s no fixed moment when work ends, then work never ends. In my life, that wouldn’t work because the quality of code I write and the caliber of things I design would decrease if I don’t stop at some point. You need to recharge and to rest. Without that freedom, you might start resenting the work you do.

So, pick a time and stick to it. If you’re not used to having a quitting time, the transition can be kinda gnarly at first. But you should commit to it and the transition will fall into a specific rhythm.

Freedom to Say No

The other thing I thought worth mentioning is the “power of no” mentality. The less you commit to, the more freedom you have to pursue the things you’re passionate about. You don’t have to do everything and you should give your time to the things that give you the most fulfillment.

“It’s easier to turn time into money, but doing the reverse is shaky alchemy.” — Frank Chimero

All that to say is that you should be conscious of what you give your time to, because time and energy are your most valuable resources but they’re also non-renewable resources.

Simple Hacks

There are a few random hacks that I’ve found are super odd and super useful. Namely, getting dressed and wearing real pants when I go to work. Working in your underwear is a great idea until you have to video chat with your client. Typically when I’m working in my underwear I never really feel like I’m at work, I feel like I’m still in bed and I never truly wake up.

The other thing I do that causes a massive shift in perspective is to tidy my home office right before my day is done. It puts a final touch on the day and leaves it nice for the next day. Then I finish by closing the door.

These hacks are just about perspective shift and refining the division between living and working. It’s a really delicate balancing act that seems more crucial to me as I get older and my workload grows.

Everybody has their own hacks for balancing work with life. When did you realize you needed to create divisions between work and living? What are some methods that you’ve found helpful? How do you make and honor work/life boundaries?