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by Kaitlin McManus | November 23, 2020

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You know what’s nice about going into the office in the morning and then coming home in the evening? A natural separation of work life and home life. I didn’t use to worry about my chores while at work, and I didn’t use to worry (too much) about my work while at home. Now I do both, basically constantly. I am by no means an expert on balancing work life and home life while working from home—there’s no secret sauce for separating the two and no solution that works every day since every day poses different challenges. However, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped me get through the past year.

Use Your Breaks Wisely.

This goes for your lunch break as well as those five-to-ten-minute mental breaks that we all scatter throughout the day. (And, for those who need reminding—no matter how busy you are, it’s okay to take five minutes to brew yourself a cup of tea or to stretch. Seriously, everything is better when you do.) I am a fervent believer that most chores—at least the ones you should do regularly—only take about five or ten minutes of active effort. Maybe this is because I live in a small apartment, but still. Need a few minutes to think about the best way to approach a client email? Go sort your laundry. Stuck on the conclusion to your latest proposal? Go wash your dishes. I know the temptation is there to use your breaks to check social media or even do nothing—and if that’s really what you need for a mental recharge, go for it. But working in mini-bouts of a different variety of productivity during work breaks has been crucial to me when it comes to keeping both my work life and my personal life afloat.

Create an Self-Care Schedule—And See What You Can Stick To.

This is something I experimented with for a few weeks, and I’ve found that I actually like it. Create your ideal schedule for self-care: from the moment you wake up until you’re back in bed, regardless of mental energy or available time. You can put times on things if you like, but I found that I preferred a rough order to a timetable. For example, if I packed a whole day full of self-care, I would read in the mornings before work, go on a walk in the afternoons, cook a proper dinner with fresh food, video chat with friends, and then do my full skincare routine before going to bed (exfoliation and mask included). I don’t think I’ve ever managed a day like that. (What a day that would be though, right?) However, there are days when I read in the morning. There are days when I video chat with friends. There are days I go on a walk before taking a full hour for skincare. And you know what? It’s enough. And it’s kind of fun to see how close I can get to my “ideal self-care day,” but I’m also so grateful even when I can only do one thing on the list. Self-care is self-care, even if it’s just a bit. And part of finding the time for it is putting it on your schedule, even if it’s just penciled in.

Drop the Plastic Balls, Not the Glass Ones.

This advice comes straight from romance author Nora Roberts. She postulates that we constantly juggle all the things we have to do—which she characterizes as balls, which of course are going to get dropped. Dropping the ball is life, we’ve got to deal with that. But some are made of glass, and some are made of plastic. And there are some of each type in every aspect of our lives: work, family, friendships, side hustles, what have you. The idea is that dropping a glass ball is pretty disastrous—like missing a major deadline at work or your kid’s birthday. Things that will be very difficult, if not impossible, to fix if dropped. Meanwhile, some are plastic. They bounce. For example, making a home-cooked meal for dinner or answering a low-priority email today. The world is not going to fall apart if you only have the mental energy to order a pizza tonight or if that email waits until tomorrow morning. The key lies in identifying your glass and plastic balls and juggling what you can, but being okay with dropping some too.

I can’t think of anything that’s easy right now. As a person whose job it is to provide others with career advice, I’ll confide that I’m barely getting my laundry done. And things are probably going to get worse before they get better—while vaccines are on the way, with a third one being approved just today, the CDC has also recommended that we don’t travel to see family this holiday season. Everyone is so fatigued on this virus, this whole year. So do what you can when it comes to work and home, even if it’s not your best. And be proud of what you do. Trust me, it’s a lot healthier to be proud of the things you’ve accomplished, regardless of how small, than to be disappointed in yourself for what you didn’t manage today.

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