Even though remote work is a new fad, there’s much more to it than just working from anywhere in the world. Apart from having your own schedule, you also have to sustain a healthy work-life balance, and it’s not that easy. If you’re working remotely, but cannot find the perfect balance between work and leisure, you’re not alone.
Work-life balance is one of the biggest problems of decentralized employees, and we’re about to tell you how to solve it. At Zima Media, we have seven team members scattered all around the world, and each of us has invaluable tips on how to balance work and life.
What Is Work-Life Balance & Why Is It So Important?
Yes, working remotely is all cool until you burn out so much that you cannot do it anymore. It’s so easy to get sucked into working all day long that some people forget the fact that they still have a social life.
Let me be clear: being hard-working is a fantastic trait of any remote employee. However, if you overdo it, sooner or later you’ll start noticing side effects.
Since we’re all human beings, social interactions are vital for our well-being. As much as you’d want to do a little bit more of work today, you have to set strict guidelines for yourself.
We know it’s hard to draw the line between work and life when your laptop is always there waiting for you to open it, check emails, respond to Slack messages, jump on a call, or just write down some ideas.
But you have to remember: you’re now the one setting your schedule, so make sure you’re not harming yourself when setting it up.
Here are some signs that indicate you need changes:
#1 You wake up and check your work messages straight away
Living from work message to work message is never good. Give yourself some time to wake up, have a cup of coffee/tea, eat breakfast, exercise, or talk to your family. If you start your day on a positive note, you’ll most likely set a pleasant mood for the rest of it.
#2 You feel guilty not working every minute while you’re at home
As I said earlier, it’s incredible to be motivated to work a lot and see the results. However, you need to remember that remote work is like any other job, but from home or a coworking space. If you had to spend 12 hours at the office as a regular on-premise employee, you’d probably wear yourself out pretty fast. So, why do it while working remotely?
#3 You feel isolated and lonely
When you start working remotely, you have to accept the fact that you won’t be able to meet your teammates, managers, or clients in person every single day. But it doesn’t mean you should be by yourself all the time.
Take work breaks and go for a coffee with your friends, or just walk around and refresh your mind. Also, don’t forget that you can always have a video chat with your team or simply spend time with your family. You chose to work remotely to be more flexible, so take advantage of it.
#4 You feel like you cannot get anything done
Being organized is the key to successful remote work results. So, whether you want it or not, you’ll have to get yourself together and create a schedule. The thing is, it’s too easy to get distracted when working from home: unlimited snacks in the fridge, messaging with friends, Netflix, comfy bed, you name it.
Only when you define your work and leisure hours, will you be able to finally start measuring how effective you are during the day and how much you have accomplished.
8 Work-Life Balance Tips
“How do you manage work-life balance?” is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get. Honestly, it took me a while to get where I am with my remote work lifestyle, and you can check out my story to learn more about it.
Over time, I have learned one thing for sure: the more you work remotely, the better you get at managing your work-life balance. So, here are some of the most valuable tips and hacks for a better work-life balance.
Define the hours when you’re the most productive.
It’s vital to measure your productivity levels throughout the day. If you’re the most productive in the morning, do all the challenging tasks at that time. If you’re a night owl, leave them for the evening and do some other things in the morning. There’s no point working when you lack focus, motivation, and creativity.
Don’t work where you sleep.
Yes, it’s very tempting to work from bed but try to avoid it as much as you can. If you don’t want to feel like you’re obliged to work every second of your life, it’s critical to have a separate workspace. It can be hard to do while on the road, so make sure you take advantage of cafes or coworking spaces. Whatever you choose, ensure that work stays at your workspace and nowhere else.
Communicate with your team.
Since you don’t have the privilege to see your coworkers every day, take advantage of communicating with them online. Share your ideas, discuss trending topics, exchange memes, GIFs, video chat. It will make it easier for you to become a part of the remote culture and realize that you aren’t alone.
With the remote work lifestyle, it might be hard to stay connected with your nearest and dearest, especially if you’re traveling around the world. That’s why it’s a good idea to visit various networking events, meet like-minded people at coworking spaces, or go on dates. Remote work gives you so much flexibility, and it’d be a crime not to use it in your favor.
Be responsible, but at the same time, don’t overwhelm yourself with work. Remember, you have to enjoy what you do to do it well. So, let your brain relax between complicated tasks, and you’ll notice how your routine improves every day. You’re a human being like everyone else, not a robot.
Don’t abandon your hobbies.
You go remote to be able to do the things you like more, not otherwise. Now, you’re the boss of your time. Go for that 11 am Zumba class (P.S. we won’t tell anyone), jog when the streets are empty (because everyone is at the office), catch happy hours at restaurants (they’re always so random, right?). The main point is, if you organize your day properly, you’ll be amazed at how much you can manage.
Learn something new.
Even if you’re the best at what you do, it’ll never hurt to get new skills. Not only will it boost your imagination, but also make your daily life more interactive and meaningful. Plus, a lot of remote employers encourage their employees to learn more to enhance their chances of being promoted. For instance, at Zima Media, we ask our remote workers to spend three hours per week on a side project of their choice.
Implement good transparency.
“As much as working remotely is a great setup for getting a more healthy work-life balance, it can cause problems that stem from a completely different direction, namely from your co-workers. No matter how efficient you are in working remotely, very likely, there will be some doubt about it if not everyone does it throughout the organization. Quite frequently, organizational mistrust kills off the remote work possibility policy in larger companies. My suggestion is to implement good transparency on continuous work performance for all co-workers working remotely. Set up channels where you meet and share your work so that others can take part. It will also help you lessen the psychological burden that could arise with growing mistrust.”
Henrik Dannert, CEO of Heartpace
20 Time Tracking Tricks
We’ve asked entrepreneurs from different industries to tell us their tricks to track time and stay organized when working remotely. Scroll down and find out which ones can help you manage your time and work-life balance better.
#1 Disconnect for real
“As a full-time remote employee, it is so easy to lose track of time at home. One trick I use to ensure I am not overworking and am taking actual breaks (and unplugging from work during non-working hours) is to completely power down my computer. When the workday is over, I sign off and turn off my laptop and shut it closed. The physical act of doing this helps me to set boundaries and not fall into the temptation of working late in the evening.”
Alexandra Bohigian, Marketing and Sales Director for Enola Labs
#2 Set screentime limits
“As a writer, I actually find the time tracking apps stress me out! Something about the clock ticking gives me absolute mind-blank. Instead, I track the hours I spend on each client or each project with an Excel spreadsheet. Tuning out to the constant notifications on my phone whilst working is one of my biggest challenges. There’s an app called Forest which allows you to set a specific time period during which you don’t want to look at your phone and the plants and trees grow whilst you work. The longer you stay away from your screen the bigger your garden grows. It’s a bit childish but it does remind me to stay on track.”
Sally Fox, Copywriter
#3 Try the Pomodoro Technique
“At the start of every day, I figure out the hours I can devote to each of my business and then bifurcate the hours between tasks. Besides this, I also use the Pomodoro Technique at times. I use a simple stopwatch to ensure I work for 20 mins non-stop and then take a non-stop 10 minutes break. This has helped me keep sane and creative at the same time.”
Chhavi & Amit, Remote Career Experts at Mrs Daaku Studio
#4 Track both your time and productivity
“I use Toggl for tracking client work, and sometimes to track other tasks to see if I could be doing something quicker or spending less time on certain areas of my businesses. I also use the RescueTime browser extension, it shows me how productive I am and what websites/tools I’m spending my time on.”
Tara Reid, The Introvert Coach
#5 Use web plugins
“I use the StayFocusd Chrome plugin. That way, I don’t find myself browsing social media, Reddit, etc. You can create a list of websites you want to block as well as limit the time on certain sites. For instance, I only allow myself to check email twice a day for no more than 15 minutes. This helps a ton!”
Tom Nathaniel, Founder of LushDollar
#6 Schedule everything
“The main tip I have is to schedule everything on the calendar (including self-care like working out or reading or calling a friend). If it’s on my calendar, it is non-negotiable, and it will happen.”
Amy Foley, Co-Founder at Inbound Back Office
#7 Cheat on Fridays once a month
“Set aside a couple of hours on a Friday (if schedule permits) to do something you typically would never do if you had an office job…could be a movie, walking the city, or getting a massage.”
Lisa Balter Saacks, Principal & Founder at KonnektWork
#8 Put family first
“As a married individual with children, I know all too well the importance of establishing a healthy work-life balance. I decide how many hours I am going to put in each day, based upon the real-life schedule of my family for any particular day and I schedule my work around them, not the other way around.”
Dave Hermansen – CEO at Store Coach
#9 Do not work on a plane
“No computer work on a plane (except for phone or conference calls), even if it is 25 hours of flying time. I reserve flying time for plotless movies, reading the paper, magazines, a book sometimes.”
JJ Beh, COO at HackerNest
#10 Try using Harvest app
“Hands down the app to stay organized with time tracking is Harvest. It lets you track clients, projects and time. You can create budgets, estimates and invoice all in one. It also integrates with popular project management apps. Lastly, the price point is affordable for anyone.”
Kathy Heasley, Founder and President of HEASLEY&PARTNERS
#11 Take care of your Digital Diet
“Earlier this year I discovered the perfect way to help combat this issue: ZenScreen. The idea of ZenScreen is to give you an idea of your Digital Diet. How much social media are you consuming? How much of your time is actually spend working? At the end of every week, I assess my overall digital diet for the week and commit to reducing areas that are getting in the way of my productivity.”
Lisa Larson, Life Coach Path
#12 Lock yourself out of the computer
“I activate Stretchly which locks me out of the computer at a certain time, after giving a warning. I love this particular app because it locks the screen but at the same time, flashes recommendations on what I should be doing instead, like go for a walk or drink a glass of water. This does the trick of helping me still take care of my health whilst forcing me to narrow my focus instead of trying to do everything all at once.”
JadeMacRury, Founder at Live A Blissful Life
#13 Build a habit stacking routine
“I use ‘habit stacking‘ to be sure I complete my work, especially new or extremely important projects. Lastly, I try to wake up at 4 am, no matter where I am in the world and do as much work as possible in the quiet morning hours.”
Franklin Antoian, Personal Trainer and Founder of iBodyFit
#14 Integrate Toggl with other apps
“I like to use Toggl. Not only does it have it’s own apps and allows me to simply track time, start and stop tasks, and all of the other functionality you’d expect with time tracking software. But, more than that, Toggl simply integrates with many other applications. We’re able to integrate with Google Drive, Slack, and GitHub so we can track our time easily no matter what interface we happen to be in at the time.”
Jason David, CEO of Software Portal
#15 Create background noise to focus
“Funny enough, when I work at home, having background noise really helps me concentrate. I will either play TV shows on Netflix/Amazon Prime or listen to music randomly generated on Pandora. A silent environment tends to make me lose focus.”
Alex Tran, Digital Marketing Strategist at Hollingsworth
#16 Use Parkinson’s law
“I use an app called Alinof timer on my MacBook. It is extremely powerful and enables me to time each task which I set a limit of 30 minutes and the timer alerts me when my time is up. This use of Parkinson’s law really helps me get more done.”
James Dyble, Managing Director at Global Sound Group
#17 Ignore the rules
“I ignore all rules, hacks and tactics as much as possible. That includes things like ‘turnkey automation systems’ or ‘secrets to double something in x days’. As a remote worker, it’s so easy to chase marketers’ sales copy dreams or spend too much time as a consumer, not as a producer. After the first year online, there aren’t any secrets that you need to keep searching for.”
Jason Lavis, Managing Director at Out of the Box Innovations Ltd
#18 Do not push yourself too much
“We are humans, not robots. Some days, we smash it, some days, we’re not in the mood or need to rest, change our mind. Working remotely allows you to do so. I always try to work around 35 hours a week and don’t stick to the 9 to 5 schedule. If I need a break on Wednesday, I take it, and finish my work during the weekend or an evening.”
Caroline Hoffmann, Head of PR & Coms at MarketOrders
#19 Sign up for a regular activity
“If remote work is literally remote, it tends to get lonely. To get your life/work balance back, you need to see other people, mingle, chat. I usually have a lot of plans, but make only a few happen. So, what works best is signing up for a regular activity – so you make a commitment and not excuses. I’d suggest group functional training workouts or signing up for some other group activity that asks for your attendance at least twice a week.”
Jovana Subic, Head of Running Content at RunRepeat
#20 Track time with Spotify playlists
“I’ve tried to use apps and timers in the past, but I find alarms are even more disconcerting than losing track of time. I now keep track of time using Spotify playlists with set lengths so I know when it’s time to take a break or switch tasks.”
Nickolaus Hines, Freelancer
Work-life balance is essential for those who’re working remotely and don’t want to burn out too soon. So, you have to do everything possible to make it work for yourself. Adhere to your schedule, socialize with your friends and family, chat with your colleagues, engage yourself in exciting side projects, because you’re the one in charge of your time now.
At first, it might be hard to draw a line between where your work ends and life starts. But eventually, remote work should give you more freedom to do anything you like from any part of the world. If you try to follow these work-life balance tips and techniques, you’ll see that remote work can bring you more joy than you’d ever expected.