A couple of weeks ago I shared a photo of my “office” on Instagram. And by office I mean my couch in my living room.
So many of you responded with your own version of an office, whether it was your dining room table, a coffee shop, or sharing space in your kid’s playroom. And two people asked how I separate my personal life and my business life when I work from home all day.
It’s kind of funny – I took a spin through the internet to see if there were any ideas worth trying and a lot of articles started with “get dressed like you’re going to an office.” Now, I get dressed because I take the dog for a walk first thing in the morning but that has more to do with not showing my neighbors my undies than preparing to work. So this blog post isn’t going to include that tip – some days I wear jeans, some days I wear workout gear, and some days I get right back into my pjs and get down to business like a boss. One of the perks of working from home that I will ALWAYS take full advantage of.
I live in a one-bedroom apartment and over the past 6 years of self-employment, I’ve spent 95% of my workdays on my couch. I like it to be cozy and quiet so I almost never venture to a coffee shop or coworking space. I work from my kitchen table on occasion (generally post-webinar or masterclass) and even more rare, I work from my bed.
One thing that has always helped me put some mental space between work and my personal life is to choose a specific time to end my workday.
That time is usually around 6pm when my boyfriend comes home – he works a 9-to-5 so that helps me stick to normal work hours.
Pre-boyfriend I was definitely prone to working as late as I liked. If I was on a roll, I would sometimes grab dinner and happily keep working until 9pm or 10pm. When I wanted more structure to my days and more time off, I would schedule things in the evening to force myself to stop. Watching the hockey game at 4pm, meeting my girlfriends for dinner at 5pm, aerial class at 6pm.
End-of-the-work-day rituals have helped me stick to this plan. I feed the dog, take him for a walk, and then workout and/or make dinner. I’ve been getting Hello Fresh and Blue Apron deliveries for almost three years now and taking the time to cook dinner from scratch has been helpful in slowing down and creating space at the end of my workday.
Now, what about the pile of laundry? Or that book you haven’t been able to put down? Or the errands you need to run that try to steal your focus in the middle of the day?
I’ve handled this in two ways . . .
1 | Setting a time limit to take care of personal and business tasks. So I might spend 11am-12pm working on a blog post and then unload the dishwasher and make lunch from noon to 1pm. This works because if the task has a place in my day, it’s less likely to feel distracting.
Or 2 | Do all personal things in one morning. I tend to feel more unfocused on Fridays so sometimes I do laundry and run errands and schedule lunch with a friend all in one day. Fridays also end up being good days to do all those annoying admin tasks like tracking stats or bookkeeping.
But, the biggest thing in keeping my personal + biz life separate when it’s all happening in one space has been setting boundaries.
I take this as a 100% selfish investment in my sanity. I know that stepping away from my work and spending the evening or weekend doing other things is necessary for me to be ready for the next work day. Creativity and motivation are like batteries and they need time away from work to properly recharge.
I also don’t have email or social media alerts on my phone. No Twitter, Instagram, Facebook notifications PERIOD. And if I need to check my email when I’m out of the house during the day (which is RARE), I log in through my browser. That means I check and respond to notifications while I’m working and don’t feel obligated to respond to anything when I’m not.
I also kept this rule when I worked with clients. I was available during normal 9am to 5pm work hours and unavailable nights and weekend. If you have needy clients who don’t seem to have off-hours, add your work hours to your email signature and even into your contract. That way there’s no mistaking when they’ll receive a response to their 47 emails.
Lastly, it’s really helpful to track how long tasks take (especially those that pop up in your calendar every week like writing blog posts or scheduling social media) so you know how many tasks you can add into each day + week and don’t accidentally force yourself to work later than you expected.
And one more thing: If you are just starting to work from home, you may have noticed that there is a serious sense of guilt that comes with stopping work at night. You have a million tasks on your plate, YOU are doing all or most of them, and the workload and the number of ideas you have are ENDLESS. That guilt is so difficult to ignore (but is slightly good because it means you’re incredibly driven and passionate about what you do), but I want to let you know that at some point IT WILL GO AWAY. It took a few years for me, but as I created a more focused game plan, gave a bunch of tasks to my virtual assistant, and made time off a real priority, it finally started to fade.
Leave a comment and tell me how you separate personal + business when you work from home.