Working from home sounds ideal when you’re a parent, but the lines between work and home can quickly become blurred as multiple schedules and family demands encroach on your business obligations.
To keep your work life separate from your personal life, I’ll share with you some boundaries that I diligently stick to.
1) Setting aside an area in my home just for work. It’s called a bedroom but at only 7X13 feet in size, it could easily pass as an oversized closet. Here’s a video of it if you liked to see inside my office.
I do my best to keep potential distractions, like a TV, out of this space. I do have a door on it which is important and my office is as far as possible from my everyday living space. I even put a friendly “do not disturb” sign on the door to discourage family members from interrupting me.
As a parent, I explained to my children that I require private time to work if they want lots of presents under the Christmas tree this year. 😉 I do however have an “open-door” time when they can come in and ask me questions or just get a hug from mom. With a designated work space, I not only maintain boundaries but also enjoy the rest of my home more, since I avoid seeing my computer and other constant reminders of work I need to do.
2) Keep a schedule. Establish a specific period of time each day that will be solely dedicated to work. For me, I develop a full week schedule on the weekend for the upcoming week. Then I take about 10 minutes at the end of each work day to plan for the next as I never know when I may need to schedule an appointment in like when a kid needs a dentist appointment or I break a nail and need a quick fix. My schedule may change each week, but I do my best to stick to it. I set schedule at the beginning of the week and post it on my office door. I highlight the “open” times when I will be available for my family. I avoid overworking and “under-working” this way, and I can visually provide my clients with specific times when they can contact or work with me. I find one of those dry eraser calendar boards work best which you can pick up at Staples or your local office supply station.
3) Separate home and business communications. Don’t answer it after hours. I keep a separate phone line – complete with voice mail – for my business. A cell phone will work too or try RingCentral which I use for my 1-800 line. RingCentral allows me to set my business hours and it won’t ring outside of them thereby sending the message to my answering system. Plus all calls pop up on my computer screen with their easy to use desktop software so I can even screen calls while working at my computer. I really like RingCentral as now my potential clients can call me on a 1-800 number and I found I get more calls this way.
5) Set up a post office box for business-related mail. This way, I avoid giving out my home address to strangers, and important mail is less likely to disappear amid the junk. Personally, as a single mother who respects the privacy of my family, I’ve never given out my home office address to any clients. If they ever want to meet up I can hire a board room locally or just meet at a local coffee shop for consultations or dropoffs of files. I use email and Skype whenever I can, establishing separate accounts for those as well.
6) Do not mix personal activities with business ones. During my scheduled working hours, I WORK! At the end of the day, I plan the next day, including both work and personal time. I do my best to try to keep all work-related activities together so that I can maintain a working mindset during that time. That way I feel more productive and less overwhelmed by personal obligations.
7) Know your limits, and do not overload yourself. I communicate with my family about upcoming time requirements. During crunch periods, I even create a temporary schedule in which everyone pitches in to do housework, run errands, and take care of other family commitments. I make a list of chores and tasks and assign those to family members together. When I have to say no to something my family asks of me, I try making the closed door, posted schedule, or job roster the bad guy instead of me 😉
6) Make time for yourself. I try to get out of the house daily, exercise, and just do something fun. I always reward myself for my hard work and I don’t lose myself in work. I am a valuable asset to my clients, so I take care of myself. Be it eating healthy, excercising, getting my nails done or having a massage now and then. And no matter how tempted I am to burn the midnight oil (and trust me my OCD side of me is always tempted), I always stop when I say I will. Not getting enough rest just increases my stress and hinder efficiency.
Most important, do not compromise on these boundaries.
When you give an inch from your work life, your personal life will take a mile. Stick to your guns – kindly and lovingly, but firmly. You’ll be a better parent, spouse and business entrepreneur for it.