The pay as a freelance editor wasn’t much to write home about — in fact, other than to report stories and attend meetings,
I rarely left home during my year covering local news in central New Jersey.
Work began first thing in the morning and bled into lunchtime, dinnertime, bedtime — all the time. Weekends were non-existent, and my social life took a nose dive.
When I go back through my Facebook profile to remind myself of what life was like at the time, I find only three photos from that year. I look thin and mildly content.
Of course, my pitiful lack of a life was partly due to the nature of my job at the time. I was the single reporter, editor, and photographer covering three local towns, which meant a 5 a.m. water main break or overnight hurricane had me covering breaking news at all hours. I’d stay up writing about a municipal meeting that droned on for three hours well past 1 a.m., and then I was up early the next morning to start the cycle all over again.
But if I’m to be completely honest with myself, my lack of work-life balance and resulting FOMO whenever I wasn’t on the job was in large part my fault: I didn’t set boundaries.
In an office setting, you know when everyone generally starts rolling in. Your coworker’s lunch wafting under your nose lets you know that maybe it’s time for you to eat, too. And seeing your coworkers getting up and walking out the door signals that it might be time for you to pack it up and head home.
When you work from home, you lack many of the signals that the workday is complete, and so there never seems to be a good stopping point. It’s your job, then, to create your own signals and set some boundaries.
Now in the off chance I work from home, I try to keep a few key rules in mind:
Set a work start time, set an end time, aim to eat lunch by 2 p.m., never work from bed, and change clothes (preferably into something I wouldn’t mind being caught in during a coffee run).
Distractions, other than my attention-seeking cat, aren’t really an issue for me. The TV always stays off when I’m working. But if I notice a pile of laundry that could use a wash, I might make a mental note to do it during my allotted lunch period, just like I might run errands during my lunch break at work, or I leave it until after work.
The key for me is to create a routine that I can stick to and that signals the difference between work time and personal time. I’ll never make the mistake of not setting boundaries again.
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