By Monika Jansen
People are amazed that I like to work from home and that I get so much accomplished between 9am and 5pm. Add the facts that I’m married, have an 8 year old and 4 year old, and keep an obscenely neat and organized house, and I probably sound all Super Mom-my (far from it, but thanks for thinking it anyway).
Balancing work, life, and a home office require discipline and excellent time management for sure, but you can read more about that in The Four Hour Work Week. I have found that the keys to achieving some sort of balance are both commonsense and easily doable.
Keep your office separate from your home
Do the best you can to keep your office space separate from your living space. This means no working in the dining room, family room, or kitchen! This simple act will help you close the door on work and “leave” the office at the end of the day…and on the weekends. If your work stuff is in plain sight at all times, it is hard to not think about it, and the next thing you know you’re at the computer checking e-mail “just one more time.”
Keep all of your work-related stuff in your office, too: computer, files, software/hardware, books, and supplies. If you can set up your office on a floor in your home that is separate from the main living areas, even better (mine is in the basement).
Set your work hours and keep them. If you need to occasionally start work earlier than usual or work a little later, no biggie. But devote the time you are home before and after work hours to your family, friends, and “regular life.”
To stop yourself from thinking about work after-hours, make a list at the end of the day of everything you need to do tomorrow/this week/this month. Then walk away from it.
Take productive breaks from work
If you work in an office outside of your home, you probably take more breaks than you realize. You chat with coworkers at the water cooler, in the kitchen, in the supply room, in the hallway, before and after meetings, when they stop by your office or desk, at lunch, etc. You might even run out to the nearest coffee shop a couple of times a day.
Feel free to take breaks at home, but make them productive if you can. When I need a break, I do the dishes, unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of wash, fold laundry, pick up the house if it’s a little messy (I’m a little Monica Geller if you haven’t figured that out yet), marinate chicken for dinner. This way, I feel like I am keeping on top of “house” stuff. Do whatever would help you feel like you are balanced and not juggling a million balls. If that means catching up on the latest episode of Big Bang Theory, so be it.
Ignore your smartphone
This is really hard for people to do, but try it anyway. I check my BlackBerry if I get stopped at a long light on the way to pick up my son from preschool between 5 and 5:30. Then I check it after dinner, around 7:30. Then I check it one last time around 9pm. Then I shut it down for the night and I don’t turn it back on til around 7am the next day. 10! Hours! E-mail! Free!
Note that I said I check my BlackBerry. It is rare for me to reply back to an e-mail after hours, because guess what? Only a tiny fraction of e-mails are actually emergencies, and most everything can wait til the morning.
Oh, and on the weekends, I don’t even look at my work e-mail.
So, how have you managed to achieve work/life balance when there’s a home office in the equation?
Image by Flickr user Joie de Cleve (Creative Commons)Google+