Career & Education / WFH / Work/Life Balance

5 Ways To Create More Work-Life Boundaries When You Don’t Have A Commute

By Thursday, September 17, 2020

Cups of coffee frantically poured into a tall purple travel mug. On-the-go breakfast of peanut butter toast. Racing out the front door, shoes unlaced, each morning. Speed walking to the bus, headphones on full blast. Once aboard, the feeling of relief that there is nothing to do for a moment but listen to music and stare out the window.

These are the details of my mornings I didn’t know I’d grow to miss, until now. With much of the labor force working from home these days due to the pandemic (myself included), we’ve lost a major transition in our days – the commute. While commuting is considered a dreaded chore for most people, there’s no denying the specific role it plays in someone’s routine, which is separating “home” from “work.” Without the distance between the two, we risk merging the two worlds.

While there’s no denying that working from home is somewhat of a privilege, it’s still something that we, as a society, are getting used to. Personally, a sense of mental clarity and separation has proven to be central to my energy levels for the day, so I’m trying as much as possible to recreate it in my remote routine. Here are a few things I’m doing to achieve some much-needed separation between work and my personal life.

The Morning

Roll out of bed, grab your coffee, and start tapping on your laptop from the couch. Any of this sound familiar?

Prior to the pandemic, my early commute served as part of my morning routine.  It typically involved some kind of exercise (even if just walking to the bus stop), fresh air and coffee drinking, as well as an essential chunk of time for me to fully wake-up before work. I’m not naturally a morning person, and working from home makes it really easy to sleep in until the last possible second.

This was my instinctive approach for a while. But since our current situation does not appear to be going away any time soon, I’m realizing that I need a more sustainable way to go about my workdays. Here are some things that have been helping, that may just help you too.

Hitting Snooze One Less Time 

I’m notorious for snoozing my alarm approximately 14 times before actually getting out of bed. I really struggle to wake up in the morning and have just kind of come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be someone that wakes up at 6:00 a.m. to do yoga.

That said, I’ve been working on getting up a mere 20 minutes earlier then I might otherwise, leaving time and mental space for drinking some water, coffee, and eating something before actually sitting down at my desk.

Getting Dressed

Here’s something interesting. My friend Alex began posting her outfits on Instagram each day at the beginning of quarantine, adding to the accountability of her morning routine.

“I know myself well enough to know that I would have stayed in my pajamas indefinitely if I did not give myself an excuse to get dressed every morning. Posting an outfit on my Instagram every morning became the start to my workday. It created a deadline for me because I made a point to get dressed and post my outfit of the day before the workday started, which brought some regularity to my morning routine,” she recently revealed to me.

I can certainly relate to this. Like making my bed or washing my face first thing in the morning, getting dressed is a small accomplishment that sets my day off right. In addition, it’s also a practice that resonates with what I would have done when I actually had to go into the office. Getting dressed, even when I could easily spend the day in pajamas, makes me feel more confident and composed, ready to tackle what’s next. Plus, there’s something nice about putting an outfit on that makes you feel good.

Breathe Some Fresh Air 

Getting outside in the morning is one of the most concrete ways to recreate that commuting headspace for yourself. As you may have guessed from my “not a morning person” confession, I can’t always make myself go for a stroll before getting to work, but I try to do this a few times a week, whether it be running, walking, or sometimes even just sitting on my porch for five minutes. At the end of the day, no matter how small the task or effort, don’t underestimate the impact of things that motivate you and create a sense of normalcy to your life.

After Work

Ending the day intentionally is equally as important as starting it off right. It’s disorienting to finish work and then try and relax in the same space as, or adjacent to, your at-home office set-up very nearby.

The commute home is probably what I miss most about my old work routine. It’s a relaxing time of day when you can take your time and allow yourself to fully unwind, before doing something else like making dinner, socializing, or just watching TV. Without the physical separation of work and home, it’s easy for the stress of your job to spill into your evening. Here are some ideas on how to achieve that mental separation after work.

Reward Yourself

There’s motivational magic in having something to look forward to. Rewarding yourself for a day’s work will also help you feel like your workday has officially ended. This can be something as simple as a delicious snack, or time carved out to practice a hobby. If it helps, try writing down a daily reward in your planner or calendar; this will not only give you something to end the workday with, but it’ll also provide as a sense of structure.

Move Your Body

I find the best time for exercise (not necessarily a workout) is around 5:00 pm. This way, I can shake off the day, expel any frustration, and finish the day feeling refreshed. Sometimes that looks like a pilates YouTube video in my living room, other times it’s a walk in the neighborhood while listening to a podcast. While I don’t do this every day, I never regret it when I do.

Ashley is a freelance writer and on-going contributor at TFD based in Toronto. An avid traveler, she recently returned home to Canada after two years living abroad in Vietnam and Japan. She loves to read, try new things in the kitchen and get outside. You can learn more about her work here and can follow her adventures on Instagram @ashley_corb

Image via Pexels

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