How to Separate Your Work from Your Home and Family Life

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Another AHBBO Article
Flipping the Switch ... How to Turn Off Your
Business and Turn On Your Life

© 2013 Elena Fawkner

So, you work from home.  Good for you!  No boss looking over
your shoulder, no wasting time commuting to and from the office,
no-one setting your hours for you or telling you what to do.  No
one to care if you're wearing your rattiest clothes or don't take a
shower before 10:00 am.  And how about no life and no time for
yourself while we're on the subject of what you don't have any
more?  Sound familiar?  If so, read on.

Escaping the regimented structure imposed upon you by the
corporate world may have been one of the driving forces that
prompted you to seek a way to work from home.  One of the
often-overlooked advantages of such a structure, though, is that
it IS a structure.  It has limits, it places you at a certain place at
a certain time, and it dictates what you will spend your time on.
In other words, it establishes boundaries in your life.  The
boundary between work and home, work and play, on duty and
off duty, company time and your time.  You could leave work at
the end of the day and your time was your own.

Sure, you may have had other obligations but at least your work
was confined within the boundaries of a workplace and a workday.

Working from home, for all its advantages, can sometimes have
the disadvantage of removing the boundaries between work and
home, work and play, work time and your time.  For some, the
problem may manifest itself as a tendency to procrastinate when it
comes to work activities or a lack of personal self-discipline may
become unavoidably obvious.  For such people, the formalized
structure of a workplace separate from the home may suit them
better than the independence and autonomy of a home business.

This article, though, is concerned with those at the other end of the
spectrum.  Those who have absolutely no difficulty at all in motivating
and disciplining themselves to work from home.  So much so that
their home business literally takes over their entire lives.

In my time online, I've heard many people say that they sit at their
computers for 18 hours a day working on their businesses.
Oftentimes, they will still be working at 3:00 am and go to bed at
7:00 am for a few hours before getting back in the saddle.  They say
this as if it is something to be proud of.  I don't know about you,
but working from home, when and if I am finally able to achieve it on
a full-time basis, will be first and foremost a lifestyle choice.

By that I mean I expect my decision to work from home will result
in an enhancement of my lifestyle in that I won't have to commute
for over an hour to get to and from work each day, if I want to start
at 5:00 am and finish for the day at noon I can do that.  If I want to
work all weekend and take two days off during the week I can do
that too.  I can choose the projects I want to work on, I can retain
the rewards of my own efforts and I am answerable to no-one but
myself.  Although I understand that I will work as hard or harder
at home than I do at the office, I certainly have no intention of
merely exchanging one form of prison for another.

So, it perplexes me that some people seem to think it is a Good
Thing to shackle themselves to a desk for 18 hours straight and
break only to snatch a few hours sleep before starting all over again.
But, if that's how they want to live their lives, that's entirely their

But what of those who want more balance in their lives but find
they simply can't 'flip the switch' on their home business so that
home becomes a retreat again once the workday is over?  If this
is you, here are six suggestions to help you turn off your business
and turn on your life.

1. Confine business activities to an exclusively "work" room

If possible, confine your business activities to a certain area of the
house, preferably a room that is exclusively used by you as your
place of work.  The advantage of a room as opposed to an unused
corner of the living room is that when work is done for the day you
can literally and symbolically shut the door on it.  Out of sight, out
of mind.  If you don't cordon off your work area in this way, you
will be reminded of work whenever you enter the living room.  Even
though you may not be physically engaged in work, you will still
be mentally engaged and that's the same thing.

2. Separate communications systems

Have separate communications systems for home and work.  That
is, you have one telephone for home and one for work.  The same
for fax machines and any other forms of communication.  When
you are working, you should have your home answering machine
on.  When you are home, you should have your work answering
machine on.

3. Establish a routine and structure similar to the workplace

As stated earlier, the structure and routine of an external workplace
has the advantage of allowing you to leave work behind at the end
of the day.  By establishing a routine and structure similar to a place
of work, you can still benefit from this advantage.  Now obviously you
don't have to be as regimented as you would be if you worked in a
corporate office.

You don't have to start at 9:00 am, work till noon, take a one hour
lunch break and then work through until 5:00 pm.  You can set
whatever routine and structure you like.  The important thing is to be
disciplined in sticking to your routine, whatever you decide it is.  If
you prefer to work from 5:00 am through 10:00 am and then from
2:00 pm through 4:00 pm that's fine.  This structure allows you to
enjoy the hours from 10:00 am through 2:00 and after 4:00 pm as
your own.  There is room for flexibility here.  Work however is most
productive for you but stop once you get to the end of your allotted
work time.  If you haven't finished what you started, then pick it up
again in work time.  Don't allow 'your' time to be encroached on by

4. Minimize distractions and interruptions

By implementing suggestions 1., 2. and 3., you will also be
establishing an environment where distractions and interruptions are
minimized.  For example, if you have school-age children, by scheduling
your work time to coincide with their school time, you will minimize the
distractions and interruptions you will inevitably face if you try and work
while they're at home.  By having separate communications systems,
you won't be interrupted with calls on your home phone while working
(your answering machine should be getting these calls so you can
return them on "your" time).  By having an exclusively "work" area
in your home, and making sure that other members of your household
respect this space for what it is, you can help others remember that
when you're in your room you're working and are not to be interrupted
for things that can wait until you're "home" again.

5. Rituals

Rituals can play a useful role in flipping the switch at the end of the
workday.  For example, you may already have a routine that sees you
working until 6:00 pm, the time your partner returns home from work.
Perhaps you share a glass of wine together at that time.  Why not
think of your shared glass of wine as an "end of workday" ritual.  By
making a habit of doing this, your mind will soon learn to associate that
glass of wine with the end of the workday and flip the switch on work
in automatic response.

Another idea is to wear a certain item of clothing while working so that,
when you take it off at the end of the work day, you mind makes the
connection between its removal and the end of work time.  A baseball
cap, a particular pair of shoes, whatever it is doesn't matter.

6. Plan to take days off and vacations

Finally, when establishing your routine and work schedule, don't
forget to schedule days off and vacations.  And make sure you take
them.  You may decide to take Saturdays and Sundays off, or your
"weekends" might be Tuesdays and Wednesdays or Mondays and
Fridays. Whatever works in best with your lifestyle, do it.

The same goes for vacations.  Don't underestimate the rejuvenating
effect of taking a week off entirely.  Not only is it good for your overall
health and mental wellbeing, you will probably find that you are that
much more productive when it comes to getting back to work for having
taken a true time out.

Hopefully you can see that working from home does not have to
mean turning your home into a place of work.  Working from home
as a lifestyle choice should mean that the quality of your life is
enhanced as a result of your decision, not diminished.  By practising
these simple disciplines day-in and day-out you can be sure that
even though you are taking care of business, you are also taking care
of something even more important.  Life.


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