Every military spouse can recall a handful of stories about how military life complicated family plans. For some, those complications disrupt adding to their family and for others, keeping a great job. I’ve even had to leave a job or two myself due to a PCS. That’s why when I found a job I could do virtually. It was a beautiful addition to my resume and family life.
However, no job is perfect and even working virtually can come with its own set of complications. Luckily, the good that comes with virtual work far outweighs the struggles. If you’re working virtually and trying to find more balance in your day-to-day, here are a few tricks I’ve learned that have helped bring harmony to my life.
Hint: As you read, keep in mind that each trick reinforces the others.
1. SET BOUNDARIES
As military spouses, we have a lot that demands our time, focus, and energy. Everything from community involvement on base to volunteering with the spouses group, we know what it’s like to need more hours in the day. It can also be easy when working virtually to feel pulled to the needs of work at all hours of the day. With cell phones and handheld devices, access to us has never been easier. This is why it’s our responsibility to set firm boundaries. You can do this in a lot of ways, but the following are a few that work for me:
Turn off notifications. Email, Slack, and social media accounts are great tools, but I only allow work notifications to come through during certain times of the day and then have them set to stop when I am no longer available. This allows me to be fully present for whatever task is at hand.
This technique helps those on my team and those in my family know exactly what to expect from me. Here’s the catch—you have to actually follow through. When your notifications are turned off, do not respond to an email from a client unless it’s a true emergency. We tell people what to expect from us by our actions. People will push you until you say stop. Live within the boundaries you set, and people will follow your example.
Set physical boundaries. When I started working virtually, I spent a lot of time pondering my office location. Not wanting to waste space, I considered setting up in the master bedroom or the kitchen. I quickly learned that finding a separate location from everything would be the healthiest approach.
Separate your work space from your home life. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, as I know many spouses who are happy to work at their kitchen tables. For others, seeing a sink full of dirty dishes or laundry on the floor can be a mental distraction that takes away from the ability to be fully present with work tasks. This can also be said in reverse, as it is sometimes hard to be fully present for your family when your computer is in the same room and easily accessible.
Virtual work tip: Schedule the “Do not disturb” function when you are out of office to avoid distractions.
2. ESTABLISH ROUTINES
In the same way that brushing your teeth before bed tells your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep, you can also establish routines to tell your body it’s time for work.
Like I said in my first point, having an established office space is a great tool for keeping distractions at bay, and it can also be helpful in preparing your mind for work. Just by sitting down at your designated work spot, you’re sending a message to your brain that it’s time for business. I’ve personally found that getting dressed for work also helps get me into the right mindset. I don’t always dress to impress, but simply being out of my pajamas tells my brain I am done with rest and ready to work.
Virtual Work Tip: If you struggle to separate home from work, try wearing shoes to your home office. This tricks your brain into thinking that it’s go time!
3. SET OFFICE HOURS
Create a schedule and stick to it. Setting office hours provides structure for the day, helps you to prioritize tasks, and allow your clients and team members to know what to expect from you and when.
When I first started working virtually, I held to my office hours really strictly. Even if I was finished with all projects, I would stay in my office and find other things to do to acclimate to my set hours. Now, I can tell that my day is coming to a close without even looking at the time.
Virtual work tip: As a military spouse, keeping office hours consistent can be hard. Be sure to keep your team in the loop when changes arise.
4. LEARN TO SAY NO
Arguably the hardest lesson to learn in life: learn to say no.
It can be difficult to say no to projects or clients when you are passionate about your work. I remember when my spouse joined the military, I was amazed at the number of people that I met who were living out their passions.
To avoid overloading yourself, listen to your gut about what will fill your cup. Are you happy at work? Do you enjoy the tasks you have said yes to? We all have to do things we don’t want to do sometimes, but at the end of the day are you proud of what you’ve accomplished? In a year from now, can you look back and be satisfied with what you’ve built? If the answer is no, you may need to consider saying no to more things.
When I began my journey to learning this hard lesson, I had to say no to WAY more than I was comfortable with, but it helped me calibrate and now I can be honest with what I can take on.
Virtual work tip: Ask your friends and family to hold you accountable. Let them ask you tough questions about what you allow on your plate.
5. USE YOUR COMMUNITY
One of the best aspects of military life is the spouse community. Lean into your community! Ask them to hold you accountable to the boundaries you set for yourself. Tell them to call you out for saying yes when you should say no. Ask for help when you need it. Remember that you are human and need people to rally around you, but don’t forget to give to your community as well.
Virtual work tip: Share this blog post with your community to encourage them to join you in finding harmony in this military adventure we call life.
I hope these tricks help in your journey of working virtually and living the military life dream! I’d love to know what tricks you have found that help bring peace to your life. Share a time when you’ve had to bend a few of your own rules to make way for the military.
Andi Adams is the Marketing Lead at WISE Advise + Assist Team. She studied Public Relations at Lee University and has a variety of PR and marketing experience. Receiving multiple certifications, including Crisis Management and Spokesperson Training, she enjoys ongoing learning. Recently returning from Japan, she loves the fast pace of military life. A mom to one wild little boy, she loves personal development and photography.