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WFH: Set a Schedule to Create Work-Life Boundaries

I have it on good authority that creating boundaries while working from home is hard. I’ve got a CEO in the back bedroom, an 8-year-old in Grade 3 home-learning and me at the dining room table. Everyone needs something and it’s hard to get work done.

One way I maintain my sanity (read: mental health) is by setting a schedule. And spending time in nature plays a large part!

Walking in East Coast Park is an important start to my day, sometimes carrying coffee, sometimes not. Yoga used to be like clockwork before these latest restrictions put the kibosh on outdoor classes. Sigh.

As the workday begins, I oscillate between meetings and writing and helping my daughter get on her school calls and to complete assignments. That means that from 8:00 on, I’ve got a list with times and tasks that include breaks for just me and checking on my husband and daughter.

Things like, checking email 8:30-9:00, meeting 9:00-9:30 and setting the weekly newsletter get 30-60-minute slots during the day. Check off those items! I l like to crank out writing in the morning while my mind is fresh with words and ideas (like now) and that’s usually between 8:00-10:00, barring meetings and other deadlines.

Lunch around noon is short but sometimes includes some outdoor time, as sunshine and nature are really good for your body clock and stress levels. Research from the University of Illinois reports that lunch breaks boost productivity. So, grab that laksa and park it.

Experts contend that taking breaks during the Work From Home (WFH) day is important to keep stress levels lower. In these Covid times, it’s imperative to cater to this suggestion. Work-related depression and anxiety are yet another type of pandemic, as companies lose over a trillion dollars in lost productivity per year, according to the World Health Organization.

While making time for myself to switch off is challenging (especially when CNN has such bad news!), I also try to sit down on the balcony with a coffee and catch up on phone messages or find a nature show on TV. Teaming up with my husband, we schedule walk breaks where we a loop around the East Coast Park which takes about 30 minutes. Sometimes we do two in a row and sometimes we schedule a second loop after lunch. Sometimes, we talk about work and plans for the evening and weekend. Sometimes, we don’t talk at all and that’s a nice break mentally, too.

I spend 2:00-3:00 making sure my daughter finishes the school day with something completed. Back to work 3:00-4:00 setting up next day’s tasks and banging out any last-minute writing. By 4:00-5:00, I’m mentally spent and I really need to be done (or done-done, as we used to say in the newsroom). In the evening, I try not to check emails unless there’s something pertaining to the next morning’s deadlines.

Like the Japanese concept of forest-bathing, called shinrin-yoku, I rely the most on taking breaks outside the house. Shinrin-yoku emerged in Japan in the 1980s to produce physiological benefits. In 2021, I am lucky to live on East Coast Park and have a really nice condo property to walk around, which has flowering trees, a fishpond and even a turtle amongst the koi fish.

That’s my jam. When you need to jam on work, plan your day with times to get stuff done, cut it off when you’re losing focus and give mental health breaks a try. And have you heard the birds lately?

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