Growing up, I distinctly remember my grandmother always telling me that “it was all about balance.” Even then, it was a concept that I struggled with. It was difficult to not swing the pendulum and hit both sides of the gutter. I could either finish my homework or play outside with my friends—but I couldn’t do both. Now, as a working professional, striking that perfect balance is even harder.
For many of us, the pandemic upended our usual routines, schedules, and just about everything in between. You might have become accustomed to the traditional daily habits of corporate life: wake up, make coffee, sit in traffic for an hour, sit at our desk all day, sit in traffic for another hour, spend time with the family, watch Netflix, go to bed. Rinse and repeat, day after day, year after year. I felt a certain societal expectation to move up the corporate ladder, have 2 kids, move to the suburbs, save for retirement and before we know it, we are all driving a convertible straight into the ditch of a midlife crisis wondering where all the time went.
Then, COVID-19 happened. In a lot of ways, the great shake up to our daily routine was probably a good thing. A lot of us suddenly realized just how important our health, our family, and our friends really are. Also, can we all take a moment and recognize the amazing benefits of working from home? We can replace the commute, the business casual wardrobe, and the water cooler gossip with lunchtime workouts, laundry between zoom meetings, and flexibility in our schedule.
Admittedly, I have been working remotely since before it was cool—but the world-wide acceptance of remote work has been a game-changer. There’s only one little problem: work-life balance has become a “work-life blur.” The fact is, a lot of us feel like we’re not really doing anything all that well. I was on a girl’s trip just a few weeks ago and one of the big topics was how exactly we were all supposed to juggle All. The. Things.
Therefore, I want to take a moment to share my top emotionally intelligent strategies on how to navigate remote work and life so that you feel accomplished, fulfilled, and productive in all areas of your life.
1. Add a mental recharge into your schedule
I’m one of those people who live and die by my Outlook calendar. At the doctor’s office they always say, “would you like me to write this down on a reminder note?” to which I proudly reply, “Nope! If I add it to my calendar, it’s locked in.” Just like with the countless zoom meetings and appointments, I have learned to carve out other important time as well. For instance, from 8am-9am every morning—that is my time to drink my iced coffee, go on a bike ride, and do yoga on the back deck. I am religious about it and you can bet it is blocked in my outlook calendar. I hold myself accountable to this time just as I would any other meeting. While my 20-something-self flourished in last-minute plans and fancy-free schedules, I can now tell you what I am doing on a Tuesday…in April…in 2025. I know, fun, right?? Ahhh, adulthood.
2. Have a separate, designated work spot
Right off the bat, I know some of you are reading this and saying this is impossible. Maybe you live in a studio apartment, maybe you are sharing your household with your spouse who is also working from home, or maybe you are working a side-hustle while also caring for a toddler. But even if you can’t conjure up a separate office where you can shut the door, if at all possible, at least have a designated workspace that is distinct and separate from the rest of your space.
Papers strewn across the kitchen island, a laptop stationed at your recliner or worst of all—files stacked up in your bedroom—all mean one thing: you are officially living in the blur. It’s no wonder that your mind is constantly darting back and forth between work and life.
I am a firm believer that it is worth setting up a separate, designated spot for only work. And then, at the time you would usually head home from work, flip the switch and shut it down. Put your laptop in sleep mode, clear away the clutter and shut the door. Physically and mentally.
3. Live in the moment
One evening, I was at the gas station trying to hurry up and get home. An older woman was at the pump next to me and we briefly made eye contact and smiled. I looked away and continued to pump the gas with one hand while also attempting to shovel out a week’s worth of cheddar-blasted goldfish from my floorboard. As I headed to leave, she looked over and said to me, “Enjoy the company of your family.” I waved and drove off.
But something struck me about her words. Sure, I was about to head home and be in the company of my family. I would hastily make dinner and set the table and help with homework and feed the dog and start the dishes. I would tell everyone to brush their teeth and get in their PJs and get their lunches ready for tomorrow. But would I truly enjoy the company of my family? Would I pause and truly appreciate that I am able to come home to a beautiful, messy, chaotic family and then actually enjoy my time with them?
I jotted these exact words down on a post-it note and attached it to my office door. Each day, it serves as a little reminder to be present and truly enjoy the time spent outside of work. Do I get it all right every day? Of course not. There are evenings when we are rushing to soccer practice and the shin guards are too itchy and no one has made dinner and it turns out—we read the schedule wrong and the game doesn’t start for another hour. So, rather then sensibly hitting up the Chick-Fil-A drive through to get proper nourishment in the form of chicken nuggets, we head to Baskin Robbins and have mint-chocolate ice cream for dinner. Because you know what—there are times when you just need to live in the moment.
From Blur to Balance
Ultimately, working remotely has perks that many of us are unwilling to give up. But before we know it, we might find ourselves in an utter blur where there is no distinction between work and life. It’s essential that we somehow find the balance; otherwise, this version of work and life will be just as unsustainable as the last one. So, save yourself the midlife crisis, focus on managing your work-life schedule, and go ahead and get that convertible. After all, it’s all about balance.
These strategies were adapted from the book, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Dr. Travis Bradberry & Dr. Jean Greaves. For more strategies that can help you manage work and life, check out all of the TalentSmart EQ books. To learn about corporate training programs on emotionally intelligent strategies to help with work/life balance, please contact us.
By: Taryn McKenzie, EVP of Client Solutions for TalentSmart EQ. She is a guest contributor for our blog and has been leading teams for over 20 years in the executive training space. For more information, please check out additional resources at: www.talentsmarteq.com.