In a traditional job setting, the difference between work and home is fairly clear and easy to see – until you start bringing work home anyway! But when you run a business or have a remote job, it can be harder to spot the difference – and harder to manage things.
Of course, the big question is HOW to manage time! I think the simplistic answer is to set boundaries to maintain control.
From talking to various people, I see two main groups of at home workers – those who get distracted from work by the need to tidy the kitchen, hang out the washing, vacuum the floors and so on, and those who work a lot and find it hard to manage much of the house stuff at all. Which group do you fit into? I have no trouble (well, generally speaking!) getting on with work but end up working too hard and letting the housework slide…
Here are some of my ideas on creating boundaries between business and home, but I’d love to hear your suggestions, too…
- physically separate your working space from your living space as much as possible – if you are sitting in your work space, don’t do home things and vice versa. My article, separating your home office, may give you some new ideas
- separate phone lines if you can – then only answer the business phone during business hours, and the home phone during personal hours. Before you assume this is too expensive, consider a VOIP phone as this is much cheaper than renting a second landline
- tell clients your expectations/limitations – for example, “We work 10 to 4″ or “we don’t answer phone calls in busy periods”. Kylie of Tilda Virtual went further and actually sacked a client to gain back control of her business and family boundaries!
- set clear business hours and stick to them most of the time – if clients see you work outside those hours, they will start expecting you to do so. If you do work out of your usual hours, make it clear it is unusual or mask the fact - sometimes I work late at night but program the email to go to my client the next morning so I am not advertising the fact of when I did the work.
- if possible, use a different email address for friends and family than for business. Set up filters for incoming emails and just concentrate on business emails during business hours.
- learn to say no to clients or extra work – or at least say it won’t be done straight away. Know how much work you can deal with in a day/week and refuse to overload yourself
- if you have people visiting you during the day, try putting a sign on the door that says “Business in operation – please call back later for a personal visit” so people can see you are serious about your business hours. If you want, you could leave a pencil and notepad by the door so they can leave you a message
Sometimes it seems impossible to make those boundaries, but the reduced stress and lost time is well worth the effort. Good luck with it!
Use your words and time wisely!