Finding harmony between the two main pillars of our daily lives — work time and personal time — has been a (very admittedly first world) problem of the last half century, and many of us were struggling to strike the right balance pre-pandemic. Of course, now that so many of us have been forced into new ways of living and working we’re all trying to recalibrate what that balance looks like.
We’re not sure about you, but this is the main thing we’ve learned in the past 4 weeks of quarantining is this:
1. We are so fortunate to have ‘work’ and ‘life’ to find balance between
Of course it’s one of those things you always know but sadly never think about in that way until you’re forced to. Let’s make a deal: when things someday normalize, let’s not forget this?
Even with that at the front of our minds, we won’t deny that we’re still here, still looking for balance to help things feel normal. We know that all you moms (and dads) are pulling superhero feats right now balancing work while helping educate your kids at the same time, which by the way, is the real freakin’ deal (praise you, teachers!). We’re also guessing that you’re likely giving up that ‘personal time’ to make it all work.
And that’s really why we want to talk about “work-life balance”. While the phrase makes it seem like a simple dichotomy, it’s not just about balancing work and personal life, it’s about balancing you with all of the roles and responsibilities you take on.
So to get started we want to ask you this:
What have you learned about ‘work-life balance’ in the past 4 weeks?
Write it down and be sure to share in the comments below! We want to give you all a platform to share resources, tips, and support as we know there are so many different scenarios you are all living and/or working through right now.
We’d love to hear from you, but in the meantime, here are the 8 other things that this wretched pandemic has taught us about ‘work-life balance’ and how we’re hopeful it could help us change the way we live, and work, for the better. (Because you’ve got to look for silver linings.)
1. You have to make an effort to set boundaries
In the age of technology and hustle culture, it’s so difficult to get away from work. And when your work is sitting on your kitchen table, how can you escape? Working from home definitely blurs those lines, but it can also empower you to draw boundaries and better protect them because if you don’t make that effort no one else will for you.
2. You don’t have to go full-speed 100% of the time
A month without the robotic rhythm of rush hour commutes, logging all those hours at the office, and nights out at events has allowed us to slow down a bit. And we’ve learned this: slowing down doesn’t mean things will stop. Or that the work won’t get done. Or that the kids won’t be loved. Or that we’ll fail at X, Y, or Z. In fact, slowing down and being more mindful of what we’re doing might just be the thing that saves us.
As we’re writing this we want to you to know we are acutely aware of the countless individuals who are going full-speed 100% of the time right now to keep us safe, healthy, and fed. To all of the essential workers on all of the front lines, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
3. It’s important to understand your own productivity
Your time is precious. And so is that of your partner, your kids, your colleagues, every one in fact. But unfortunately our productivity hours don’t all magically line up so everyone can sit and work at the same time every day. It can lead to pinch points and spinning your wheels on things when your time could be better spent elsewhere.
If you feel like you can’t manage or endure your schedule anymore, ask yourself what makes it so chaotic? Can you block your hours in a way where you can work done more effectively and personal stuff done more meaningfully?
Of course it’s incredibly important to communicate with your team so it’s clear what your schedule is and what expectations are, but the more you understand your own productivity the more success you can have during working hours and the more enjoyment during leisure hours.
4. Delegation is a good thing
You don’t have to do it all. In fact, you shouldn’t do it all. At home or at work. Wanting to accomplish everything often leads to unattainable goals, which leads to undue pressure on yourself, which leads to avoidable stress, and… you get the point? Ultimately: you can’t do what you can’t do — so why drive yourself crazy over it?
What you can do is what you’re capable of or what you’re best at, and delegate the rest. This goes for your work life and your home life. Delegate tasks, split responsibilities, share the load.
5. Alone time is precious
No matter how social you are or how much your cup is filled by being around other people, we all need a bit of time to decompress — so we can be more present and patient when we are around others. If you’ve been home with your kids (or your partner) for about a month now we know we don’t need to convince you of this. There’s a great read in The Greatist that looks at the personal and professional benefits of solo time and the science behind it.
We have more on this in an upcoming post, but if you need it now we encourage you to take 3 minutes to yourself with a Baby2Body breathing exercise in the Zen Den. We’ve made them all free so you can get the escape you need.
6. But together time is really precious, too
Did you click on that Greatist link above? If you did you’ll have seen that there is (of course) a flip side to alone time and there’s definitely a thing as too much of it. If anything, the ongoing pandemic has reinforced the importance of relationships and the social backbone of human functioning. We all can’t wait to be out in the world together again, and we’re all very grateful for the families we have to quarantine with.
And in a weird way, this quarantine time has made the conversations we’ve had with friends, family, and colleagues more purposeful. We’ve had to work a little harder, listen a little closer, and communicate more clearly to keep things moving. We don’t know about you, but it’s made us better collaborators, better teachers, and better learners. Here’s to hoping we all take that with us post-pandemic.
7. Movement matters so much
OK be honest: were you going for daily walks/bikes/hikes/runs as a family before coronavirus? That’s OK, we’re guilty too! Now that one of the only ways we can (legally) go outside is for physical exercise (and on top of that it’s like the only thing to do), we hope you’re also realizing what an incredible thing it does for your body.
Human bodies were built to move, and they break down when we don’t move them. A huge part of this work-life balance lesson we’ve been having is that blocking out time to allow your physical body to take over from your mental one is hugely important to your health and your sanity.
8. Your passions are important
Lastly, let’s talk about maintaining your identity and sense of self. That’s really the crux of this whole balance game in the first place. It’s making sure you still feel like you, and make time for you, in the midst of everything else.
So what are your passions? What makes you feel like you? What grounds you back to the person you are or want to be? We encourage you to find something that brings you joy, comfort or calm — or lets you still do ‘your thing’. Incorporate those passions into your work and into your life where possible and the balance all gets a lot easier to find.
We do want to hear from you because we know there are so many different work-life situations out there right now. We’d love you to share what you’re learning, how you’re coping, and how you’re finding that balance.