I’m gonna be honest with you here for a sec, ok?
If you’re working from home during a global pandemic, especially if you’ve got children who require care and/or at least a vague stab at an education, balance isn’t possible. It’s not. The expectation that we can successfully balance in some instances double or even triple our usual workload is a fallacy. If that’s you, PLEASE don’t feel guilty that you’re not thriving in your spotlessly clean home and baking scones right now. Please.
Every time I see a well-intentioned but thoughtless post in my feed counselling that I should ’use this time to improve myself,’ My first thought is ‘bitch, WHAT time? I understand that for some people that coronavirus has afforded them a mandatory pause in their life, but for many of us, We’re doing more than ever before, often without the checks, balances and rituals that help keep us functioning at or near the top of our game.
I love my job and I love my family, but when placed together, those circles just don’t overlap in a way that affords balance. So what do we do? We improvise. We adapt, we overcome. In other words? We Bear Grylls that shiz.
Here’s what I’ve found helpful so far, [acknowledging my privilege as someone with a warm safe home, and operating as a partnered parent.]
- Pomodoros. You’ll get more done in short, concentrated bursts of work with adequate breaks than you will staring at your computer screen for 8 straight hours. The pomodoro method is a way of breaking down your work day into specified intervals with enforced breaks. Your intervals can vary based on your needs but i try and work with 25 on, 5 off. You can use the breaks for anything, as long as you get up from your desk. I mostly use mine for cleaning up Weetbix that’s cemented to the breakfast table and folding the mountains of laundry that my kids somehow still generate. Sometimes I’ll take a walk or do a stretch. Either way take a break.
- Get up early. I am the ULTIMATE night owl. My entire life, I have been at my most functional during the night, and am the person who will squeeze every second of possible sleep out of a morning. But, in managing the WFH juggle, I’ve found that it’s exponentially easier to be a solidly productive employee if I can knock out the bulk of my work early in the day than if I’m logging in to start the day at 5pm after a day of homeschooling when I’m feeling raw and ragged and resentful. In the space of a few weeks, I’ve become a person who gets up at 5am. Sounds horrendous I know, but when you’ve knocked out the bulk of your work day by lunch time, you’ll thank me. Promise.
- Make time to play. Whatever your circumstances, prioritise the things that bring you joy.. It might look like tending a veggie garden, dancing in the living room, learning an instrument, kicking a football. Remember the things you love, and make space for them in your day, even when you’re knackered- because when you’re feeling maxed, it’s these little bursts that will fill your cup again. The pace of a digital marketing role can be frantic at times- remember to slow down.
- Find a way to communicate with the outside world. Whether it’s a Slack thread, a group chat, smoke signals or carrier pigeon, find a way to stay in touch with your team and your friends. At TDP we work collaboratively across most of the accounts we manage, and our team Slack threads are not only a source of information, they’re a source of laughter, and connection too. I miss my colleagues more than the Bobby of 6 weeks ago would have ever thought possible, and our team comms are a daily reminder to me that I’m so lucky to work where I do.
- Be ready to change direction. When you work in client-facing digital marketing, you always need to work with some degree of flexibility, but we’ve never found that to be more true than in the last 6 weeks. The needs of our clients and our community have shifted so dramatically, we’ve had to work with greater agility than ever before, from content reviews and messaging adjustments to entirely new offerings pulled together in the space of a few days. We’re in awe of how our clients have adapted, and we’re striving to match that adaptability in how we serve them. I’m so proud of the work that we’re doing at the moment!
- Lean in to what needs your attention most. If balance isn’t possible, learn to triage. Work out what’s urgent, what’s important, and what can wait ‘til the end of the day [or worst case, tomorrow.] Prioritise the things where you’re working collaboratively and your teammates need your contribution before they can make theirs. If the home front is turning pear shaped, stop work for a bit and do what you need to do to get it back on track.
Ultimately, instead of striving for balance? I’m celebrating my ability to juggle, and remaining squarely focused on survival with small sparks of delight in between. It’s not amazing, it’s not profound self-improvement, but it’s what I can do with the resources that I have, and that’s ok by me. ✌🏻