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What’s a Work/Life Balance?

female blogger

A few weeks ago, I followed examples set by Bridget and Wendy, and gave you guys the opportunity to ask me anything. While Bridget and Wendy were both great about answering all the questions asked in a single post, I’m sort of using your questions as material for entire blog posts (so far, mostly on Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s site). Today, I want to answer Bridget’s question here, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

How do you separate “work time” from “free time” when you’re working from home? Do you have a schedule or a stopping point, or do you overdo it every day like me? 

I’ve written about my daily routine (or what used to be my lack of a routine) a couple times before. After my car accident last summer, my schedule (along with my body) was so out of whack that I ended up having a panic attack. It was terrifying and exhausting, but an eye-opening experience nonetheless. I knew then that I needed to find a way to separate “work time” from “free time”, in order to avoid a repeated attack.

At the end of this month, I will officially have one year of working remotely under my belt – and it’s taken exactly that amount of time for me to find a work/life balance I am happy with. With that being said, I’ve seen a lot of those “day in the life” posts going around recently, and I thought about doing one of my own, until I realized it would look a little something like this:

iphone alarms

6:30 a.m. – Wake up, stretch (or workout), shower, make coffee
7:00 a.m. – Open my laptop and start working
9:30 a.m. – Pack up and commute to my coworking space
12:30 p.m. – Take a short lunch break
4:00 p.m. – Finish up work and commute home
5:00 p.m. – Go for a walk (as long as it’s not pouring rain)
6:00 p.m. – Make dinner, do dishes, clean the kitchen, etc.
7:00 p.m. - Watch a show, write a blog post, work on other side projects, etc.
10:30 p.m. – Read in bed before falling asleep

It’s basically the exact routine I mapped out for myself after my panic attack, which means I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. So, to answer Bridget’s question, I try to stick to a schedule! I always start work at 7:00 a.m., and I try to finish up around 4:00 p.m. And to stop myself from “overdoing it”, I choose 3 tasks from my never-ending to-do list each morning and make it a goal to get those things done. If I can do more, great! But if I only get those 3 things done, then I can close my laptop at 4:00 p.m. and call it a day.

Now, the one thing you’ll notice in my M-F schedule is that it’s full of work (including my blog and side projects) and not a lot of “life” – but to me, this is life. I mentioned it briefly a couple weeks ago, but my career is my top priority right now. I’m not trying to climb a corporate ladder or anything like that… I just want to take every opportunity that comes my way and make the most of them, to see where it all leads me.

Beyond my position at RateHub.ca, this blog has opened a number of doors and helped me build some incredible connections. There are so many passion projects I want to start, as a result, and none of them will come to life unless I make the time for them – now. So, I’ll continue to work hard Monday through Friday, then take time on the weekends to relax and see friends… or just curl up on the couch and binge-watch a new show for two days (no judging!).

What’s your ideal work/life balance?

Flickr: dawolf

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Binge watching on my weekends is the best remedy for a crazy work week! :-)

    My days look very similar to yours, but now that I am going part time at my full time work, I’m looking forward to making my schedule my own. I’d rather work later if it means being able to take a break to go to the gym for an hour or see a friend for breakfast.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      I should’ve mentioned that I do have the luxury to work my own hours – to a degree. I’ve definitely taken breaks during the day when I’ve needed to, and made up the time later in the evening… but that also sucks too, because then you lose your night to work! Anyway, all about finding a balance.

      March 18, 2014
  2. My work-life balance is okay right now, but it’s going to go up a notch pretty soon. I get up at 6:30, do the blog thing (commenting/reading) before getting a shower at 7:15 or so. Then I’m at work by 8:30. Work until 4:30, then come home. Sometimes dinner is ready by fiance, sometimes not, so that changes my evenings. I decompress until about 5:30, then it’s dinner prep time. With nice enough weather my 4:30 – 5:30 is run time (until July or so and it’s too stifling to not run in the morning). Evenings become blogging time again, and then I go to bed around 9:45 (yep, that early!).

    The weekends are when I have more “life” time. But honestly, I need to start having better boundaries on the blogging stuff – it is eating all my free time. And I’m not even getting paid for it :)

    That being said, my work is going to go up a notch soon because I will be taking more of a director role (which is hilarious in and of itself) so I need to throw myself into doing the best I can in my new position. Maybe I can ease back once I get a hang of everything, but right now it is going to take priority.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      I LOVE that you go to bed that early! LOL. I was the same for a while, but then insomnia screwed it all up… I now know it’s better for me to stay awake until at least 10:30-11pm, so I can sleep right through the night.

      Exciting about the new role at work! And don’t discredit yourself. Didn’t you read my last TGIF? “If you weren’t capable, you certainly wouldn’t have gotten this far.” It’ll be an adjustment, but I know you can do it.

      I don’t get paid for any of the blog stuff I do either… are we crazy?

      March 18, 2014
  3. We just had a survey come from the Canadian Teacher’s Federation asking exactly that question – work/life balance. Questions such as how much time is spent outside of school hours (evenings and weekends) doing job work. How often do you miss out on life events because of mandatory evening commitments, or to keep up with marking /planning etc.

    There are a lot of jobs out there where the job isn’t really quite over when the work day is. DH works for the municipal govt and they have to take a rotation turn on the after hours phone. Lordy the calls they get. “Why have you shut off my water?” “You have no water?” “I have cold water but you @#$@#$ have shut off my hot water! I am going to sue!” “Sir the city has no control over your hot water. That would mean something is wrong with your hot water heater”. That one was at 2 AM. ahhh good times.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Good teachers are the most dedicated “employees” I know – because they work for their students! I can’t even imagine how much time lesson planning / marking takes up…

      March 18, 2014
  4. The balance between life and work doesn’t look too bad to me.

    Work-life balance also doesn’t just have to be a daily thing… I’ve gone weeks, months, and years of running at full speed only to relax later on. It’s worked out OK-ish so far :)

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Ditto! That’s a good call. I had almost no life for the two years I was also in school, on top of all this. I’m glad that phase is over!

      March 18, 2014
  5. After spending 4 years working all the time and having no “life balance”, I don’t know what to do with my free time anymore. You’d think that I would by now since it’s been over 9 months since I left that job, but I have yet to really establish or reestablish any hobbies. Since I live with my boyfriend, we don’t really go out. It’s still too cold and snowy for me to want to get outside to run. Instead I find myself watching hours of tv each night – which isn’t really what I want to be doing with my time. (Although it is a lot better than working 70 hours a week and getting burnt out!)

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      It’s definitely better than getting burnt out – but hobbies are fun! Do you like reading? I consider that a hobby, haha.

      March 18, 2014
  6. kelly #

    ha! I’m married and have 3 kids…not sure there is such a thing as balance when you put work into that mix as well….i just “try” not to juggle too many things..so i REALLY really enjoy family movie nights/weekends..where we just sit together and watch movies all weekend…its not always the kids fav things BUT i think when they are older and get out on their own they will look back at those times and realize we DID have fun and it was a good time. I don’t want to sound like its all bad my hubby and i made the choice to have kids early…but there are times when i/we didn’t think it would be this hard either..but I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Sounds like a good life to me, Kelly. :)

      March 18, 2014
  7. Nice work. Good balance from what I can see… something for me to strive towards ;)

    Having a stopping time is key but I haven’t gotten the hang of it yeah haha

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      It took me like 10 months to finally force myself to stop at a certain time. It’s different for work versus school though. I really didn’t *need* to be working in the evenings… and honestly, working too much made me a less productive worker (and a grumpier one, at times). But then I realized I was doing that to myself – nobody was making me work late, except for me! So, now there’s a stop time. And I try really hard not to check my email after like 7pm or so, and definitely not on weekends.

      March 18, 2014
  8. It’s good to know that others also take a while to find a balance that works. Since I’ve been working freelance I find that my work often slips into my evenings, and my tv-show-binges sometimes find their way into my days. Whoops… Setting timers in the day is a smart idea. I might borrow that.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Do it! Timers were essential to creating my routine.

      March 18, 2014
  9. Thanks for sharing this! It’s nice to have some insight into your work/life. I wake up at 6:45 am, blog/comment in the mornings, work from 8:30am – 5pm, then usually have some sort of side hustle, blog, friend, workshop in the evening and I usually go to bed around midnight or later. I am a night owl, so it’s hard to have to go to work so early. Currently, I’m feeling very unbalanced and it’s something I am working on.

    March 17, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      I think it helps that I’m not much of a night owl. I can stay up ’til midnight if I have to, but that’s about my max, haha. So I like to get things done early in the evening.

      I wonder if tracking your time would help you find some balance? Like writing down how many hours you work, how many you blog, how many you do… who knows what else. I bet you’d find a few wasted hours that could help you either identify something to axe from your schedule or figure out how you could work smarter.

      March 18, 2014
  10. Dayle #

    Hi Cait,

    The dynamic of my work/life balance is much different than yours, just because my job is such that I show up at 6:30 every day and leave at 2:00. I rarely work from home, unless I am home sick and need to do a little something. I work extra hours, but they are scheduled (ie. staying until 6pm or starting at 5am) and I’m paid overtime for them.

    But to answer your question, I am always striving for life balance in general. I have my full time job, and lately I’ve been working 5-10 extra hours per week, so there’s that. I’m on the executive for my softball league, which involves twice-monthly meetings, and lately a lot of work on my own time, pursuing sponsors, planning tournaments, ordering and sorting prizing, things like that.

    Other things I’m involved in – I play volleyball once a week in the winter and run the team, softball once a week in summer and run that team as well. I’m a committed gym-goer, and I usually go to the gym or run on a daily basis. I take about one day off per week, but I work around my schedule. Some weeks I take zero days off, and some weeks I take two. I’ve signed up to run 4 races this year, an 8K, two 10Ks, and a half, so I’m training for those. I also enjoy yoga when I can fit it in, am in a bookclub, and also in a new relationship. I take continuing education courses September thru April. Last semester I took two, but it was a bit much so I’m only enrolled in one right now.

    I try to balance all of my committments above with a right-for-me amount of alone time to read or do housework, I love going to concerts and sports games, as well as hanging with family and my friends. A lot of my goals for 2014 are around the right balance between work, family, friends, fun, responsibilities, fitness, sleep, etc. So far so good!

    Thanks, I really enjoyed this post!

    Dayle

    March 18, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Two words: time management. You are killin’ it, haha.

      March 18, 2014
  11. I struggle with work/life balance too. Firstly because at my full-time job sometimes I’m working 40 hours, and sometimes I’m working 60 hours (no overtime, it’s the arts after all) and I still have a part-time job at a music hall that eats into my evenings when my full-time job is quiet, so I roughly work at least 50-60 hours a week on average plus commuting time, plus the fact that there are some weeks (like this) where I’m basically only coming home to sleep.

    So it’s hard for me to figure out when to ‘relax’, it’s always been a problem and will continue to be until I quit the part-time job or find a full-time job that is more regular.

    I’m moving soon so I hope that our new place will offer opportunities to kick back and relax in a new space (private yard, gardening, backyard reading, etc) but in the winter it’s mostly Netflix, maybe a dinner with a friend and the occasional flick in a movie theatre :(

    March 18, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      It sounds like you know what you need to do – it’s just a matter of doing it (either quitting your PT job or finding a different FT one). Hope you find a balance you’re happy with soon!

      March 18, 2014
  12. I have a 6 week old daughter so it’s pretty rough being the parent and also the business woman. But we’re getting there. It’s slowly getting better (she’s really a great child) and I can resume my work full ‘steam’ again.

    March 20, 2014
    • Cait Flanders #

      Good luck in your journey to find that balance. :)

      March 23, 2014

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