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. This especially holds true in the summer and back-to-school time, when kids are usually home more and we’re trying to squeeze in a little more ‘play time’ since the weather is so nice. Plus, there’s the extra back-to-school busy-ness that always puts more demands on our time. (My girls are entering Kindergarten… so lots of new stuff is needed!)
Many people ask how I do it. As a matter of fact, it’s something I’ve been talking a lot about lately. I recently did a radio show on the topic which you can access at http://businesscharmschool.com
Part of the secret is to keep my business life and my personal life separate by setting some boundaries and sticking to them. Here’s some tips:
1) Set aside an area in your home just for work. Keep potential distractions, like a TV, out of this space. Try to make this space in an area with a door or at least keep it as far as possible from everyday living space. Put some type of friendly “do not disturb” sign on the door to discourage family members from interrupting you.
If you’re a parent, explain to your children that you need private time and consider having an “open-door” time when they can come in and ask you questions. For younger kids, or kids with special needs, like mine, try using a stop sign to signal to them they can’t come in.
With a designated work space, you’ll not only maintain boundaries but also enjoy the rest of your home more, since you’ll avoid seeing your computer and other constant reminders of work you need to do.
2) Keep a schedule. Establish a specific period of time each day that will be solely dedicated to work. The schedule may change each week, but stick to it.
Set it at the beginning of the week and post it on your office door. Highlight the “open” times when you will be available for your family. You’ll avoid overworking and “under-working” this way, and you can provide your clients with specific times when they can contact or work with you.
To make sure you honor your ‘quitting time’ schedule something that pops up to tell you it’s time to go 15 minutes before your day is done in the office. I have also seen others set up backups and virus scans for 5 minutes after the time they quit, so they are (almost) forced to stop!
3) Separate home and business communications. Keep a separate phone line – complete with voice mail – for your business. Don’t answer it after hours. Set up a post office box for business-related mail. This way, you can avoid giving out your home address to strangers, and important mail is less likely to disappear amid the junk. Use email and IM whenever you can, establishing separate accounts for those as well.
4) Do not mix personal activities with business ones. During your scheduled working hours, WORK. At the end of the day, plan the next day, including both work and personal time. Try to keep all work-related activities together so that you can maintain a working mindset during that time. You’ll then feel more productive and less overwhelmed by personal obligations.
5) Know your limits, and do not overload yourself. Communicate with your family about upcoming time requirements. During crunch periods, create a temporary schedule in which everyone pitches in to do housework, run errands, and take care of other family commitments. Since my husband also works out of our home, we often sit down during lunch and go over schedules just to make sure everything is covered.
Make a list of chores and tasks and assign those to family members together. When you have to say no to something your family asks of you, try making the closed door, posted schedule, or job roster the bad guy instead of yourself.
6) Make time for yourself. Get out of the house, exercise, do something fun. Reward yourself for your hard work and don’t lose yourself in work. You are a valuable asset to your clients, so take care of yourself. And no matter how tempted you are to burn the midnight oil, stop when you say you will. Not getting enough rest will increase 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 and spouse for it.
What do you do to get it all done this time of year? How do you handle those boundaries?
And if you are looking for more tips, I’ll be sharing a lot more at my Business CHARM School. Check it out at http://BusinessCharmSchool.com and get my wealth creation e-course for free while you’re there.