Guest Post by Lisa Kanarek
Note from Michelle: Watch my blog tomorrow for a review of Lisa's latest book, Organize Your Home Office for Success!
When I started my business twenty years ago, I worked seven days a week. I loved what I was doing and my business was growing quickly. At the time, I didn’t have kids, my spouse worked long hours, so I did too.
After two years of working ridiculously long hours — more hours than when I worked in a corporate office — I burned out. Instead of looking forward to working in my home office every day, I dreaded it. My life was out of balance and I needed to make a change quickly.
I took a week off — it wasn’t easy — and except for returning a few client calls, I didn’t do anything related to work. I had lunch with friends, joined a gym and caught up on reading I’d wanted to do for a long time.
After a relaxing week, I was ready to get back to work. This time, though, I made several changes including adjusting my work hours, spending more time with my spouse and family, and relaxing at the end of the day. Many years later, I’m still on the same work schedule and I enjoy my business more now than when I started.
When you work from home, you’re faced with having to mentally switch from work mode to family mode within minutes. There are eight ways to help you strike a balance between your professional and personal lives.
1. Reach a stopping point every day.
A good friend once told me that she could never have a home office because she wouldn’t be able to stop working. She’s not alone. When you work from home, you don’t have far to go when you get the urge to work on one more project. If you don’t have to take care of anyone but yourself, it probably doesn’t matter how long you work. If you have a family, though, don’t be surprised if you start hearing complaints from all sides. When you stop working, really stop. Close the door to your office or close up your desk, and concentrate on your family.
2. Keep distractions to a minimum.
Some people say, “I could never work out of my home because I would have too many distractions.” As a rule, limit your trips to the kitchen to get something to eat (except at mealtimes), don’t turn on the television, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked by personal activities such as cleaning the house or doing laundry. One of my clients, who was easily distracted, added a mini-fridge to his home office to hold soft drinks and bottled water.
3. Don’t eat lunch at your desk.
When you take a lunch break, leave your office and eat in another part of your home. Changing your scenery and physically removing yourself from your work will help to clear your mind. Also, you’ll give your eyes a much-needed break from your monitor.
4. Take at least one weekday off per month to play.
At the beginning of each month, schedule a day when you’re going to stay out of your office and do something else. This would be an ideal day to catch up on reading, see a movie you’ve wanted to see, or just enjoy the outdoors. Let your voice mail take your calls. You’ll find out that taking a day off will get you ready for a month of productive work.
5. Make a list of fun things you’ve always wanted to do and then start doing them.
If you haven’t made a “bucket list,” now is the time to make one. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit the local art museum but never seemed to have the time. Look online for activities and upcoming attractions. If you’ve lived in the same city for years, consider taking a guided tour of the city. You’ll learn more about your city in a few hours than you have in several years. The point is to keep your business from consuming your life.
6. Use your office for business-related activities only.
Rather than go to your home office to read your favorite magazine or new mystery, go somewhere else in your home. This will keep you in the mindset that your office is for business and the rest of your home is for your personal life.
7. Don’t use other parts of your home for business on a regular basis.
If you have a favorite chair where you sit and read or watch television, don’t use it for work. After awhile, it will no longer be a place for you to relax and get away.
8. Include your spouse in your business.
Even though you may work in unrelated fields, it’s always good to get an outside point of view. Your spouse may be able to give you a solution to a problem you’ve had on your mind for days. The most obvious answer is sometimes not seen by the person closest to the problem. Also, if your spouse understands your work and what it involves, he or she will be less likely to resent all of the hours you put into it.
Balancing your home and office life is challenging. The key is to create a balance between the two so you can enjoy your business and your personal life, especially when they’re in the same place.
What do you do to strike a balance between your personal and business life?
Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of WorkingNaked.com and the author of five books about working from home, including her new book Organize Your Home Office for Success. Lisa works with entrepreneurs and home-based employees through seminars and individual consultations, to create functional home offices that meet each individual’s working style.
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