Finding that work-life balance is hard. Especially this year, when physical boundaries between work and home have been blurred to the point of non-existence. Even those who are used to doing remote work didn’t have the same access to cafés, libraries, or restaurants to turn to when they needed to switch up their environment or create separation between their productive space and places of leisure.
This makes compartmentalizing—or in other words, keeping work, personal and other matters in their appropriate mental or emotional boxes—more of a challenge. Although there is value in sharing your personal experiences and goals with your coworkers, not keeping some semblance of separation between work and play can trigger over-thinking, stress, insecurities, and feeling as though you’re not fully present. Here are four strategies to relieve yourself of these risks and redefine these blurred boundaries.
Take the spotlight off your behavior
Without the day-to-day distractions of office life, like spontaneous interactions with colleagues, you may be prone to filling in those mental gaps in detrimental ways. For instance, you may find yourself over-analyzing your performance. This is a cognitive bias called the spotlight effect.
Remind yourself that your colleagues are probably not paying as much attention to you as you think because they are all wrapped up in their own lives. If, for instance, you feel bad about not participating more in a video call, try asking yourself if you think anyone will remember that in a week, a month, or a year. If the answer is no, let it go.
Develop an end-of-the-day ritual
Without a commute or post-work trip to the gym, there’s no hard finishing point or activity that signals to your mind that work is over. That is unless you create one.
Stop negative thoughts
If you find yourself sinking into a hole of negative thoughts, try and use a thought-stopping technique to pull yourself out. As soon as you realize that you’re spiraling into a sea of negativity, firmly tell yourself to “stop.” You can even imagine a red stop sign in your head, if the visual helps. Then ask yourself whether that thought is serving you. If your answer is no, then think of something else that does serve you.
Find a healthy distraction.
Most of us probably reach for our phones or scroll through our favorite streaming platform when we need a distraction. Instead, try to redirect your attention to a healthier stimulus such as reading (non-work-related literature), or engaging in a hobby such as knitting, gardening, or sudoku.
These distractions will keep your mind occupied in a good way and will help you avoid work-related thoughts outside of work hours.