I’ve long maintained folks who work at home work more hours than our commuting counterparts. For many of us, if the computer is on, we’re at work. We just can’t shut down. Last weekend I learned an important lesson because I didn’t shut off Skype and ended up working most of the holiday weekend. Where do you draw the line when you work at home? The way I see it, the problem is twofold:
Set Business Hours
When I worked a regular 9 to 5 job it was easy for me to get in my home frame of mind. I left my job every day at the designated time, went home and did home stuff. I don’t have that kind of luxury when I work at home. You can’t put on your coat and go home when your office is in the same place you eat, sleep and bathe.
It’s easier said than done, but establishing business hours can help you draw the line. Speaking from experience, it’s tough to say, “OK, it’s 6:00. I’m done working for the day” and leave your work at home job. Once you get into a routine however, it’s easy to switch hats.
Getting Into the Right Frame of Mind
This has been the topic of much discussion but I honestly believe clothes help to set the tone. I change into comfortable working clothes when it’s time to get down to business, and wear something else for relaxation time with my family. Yes, I have been known to wear my flannel penguin pajama pants while working from time to time, but the clothes really do help to put me in the proper mindset.
I also find that if I have established business hour, say when my family is at work and school, I have a better ability to focus. I can’t always pay attention to my job when my son is practicing piano or my husband is running power tools. Having quiet time to work each day helps to put me in the right frame of mind. Once the family starts getting down to business, it’s time for me to close shop.
Learning to Say No
I know I said the problem is two fold, but I thought of another. Go with me on this, folks.
If we’re over extended it’s hard to think about home life because there’s so much work to do. Not everyone has the luxury of saying no to work, but if the case load gets to be too much it should be a consideration. I made the mistake of sacrificing personal time to earn more money. Now that I’ve found my balance, I’m so much happier. If you want to separate your job life from your home life, you have to do just that. Separate it. No one can change the situation but you.
Establish “Me” Time
Ok. so maybe “twofold” was a poor choice of words since we’re up to four folds. Can’t help it. The ideas keep coming. Must. Write. Down.
In addition to established business hours, I also have time set aside for just me. I can do whatever I want during that time (usually when my family is sleeping). I use it for my different projects, to do shopping, read a book, take a long bath or what have you.
I was stressed out for years because it was just work/family/work/family. There was no time for Deb. Once I started taking at least an hour for myself each day I was less cranky and less stressed. It’s so hard to find that perfect balance, but once you do life totally rocks.
Stop Doing Fun Stuff During Work Time
Yeah, I know. Five.
So here’s the thing. One of the reasons you might be up working at midnight is because you’re doing too many non-work related things during your business hours. While I do believe Twitter and other social networks are necessary, I also know when I’m spending too much time socializing and not enough time working. And face it, while Google is a great research tool, how many of us go off on tangents when we’re online and spend too much time surfing instead of working. And then there’s the TV. And the fridge. And the neighbor who stopped by with a coffee cake. Once in a while these things are cool, but if you’re spending your business hours doing stuff that isn’t business related, you’re going to cut into your family time and personal time.
Work it Out on Paper
Here’s something i did to help me prioritize and schedule my time better. I wrote down every thing I did every day for a month. I didn’t think I was a procrastinator but I wasted a lot of time doing stuff that had nothing to do with my business. I did the grocery shopping, I worked out, I surfed and socialized. Now, these are important things, but because I did them during business hours, I was working late in to the night and waking in the wee hours of the morning to get things done. So I made a schedule.
I now wake 30 – 45 minutes before my family to work out. I go out to dinner with my friends once a month or meet them during my established lunch hour. I do grocery shopping in the morning after the family leaves, but before my “work hours”. This may not work for everyone, but it helped me to balance work and home. With scheduled activities I’m now pulling less of a juggling act and I’m less stressed. Better yet, I have more time for my family.
Tell me, what do you do to separate work from home when you work from home?