Whether you’re the owner of a small home-based business or working as a remote employee, finding a balance between your work life and your personal life can be hard.
It can take time to find a schedule that works well for you, so don’t be too hard on yourself if things aren’t going as smoothly as you hoped.
Simply evaluate where you’re at; think about the changes that worked and those that didn’t and keep trying until you’ve found the right balance between the needs of your family, your business and yourself.
Every business has certain guidelines they expect their employees to follow…even if they work remotely; don’t be late to work, call in when you’re sick, give advance notice for vacation days, etc.
But when you’re self-employed, you’re the person responsible for making sure things get done…a task that is much easier to do when you create a set of guidelines to follow.
When you set guidelines, you’ll instantly recognize whether an opportunity will fit within your criteria for a balanced life (e.g. whether or not you should take on that new client who will eat up 10 more hours per week of your life.)
And, guidelines for your work and home life will help you get more done with less stress.
The following can provide a good framework for creating your own set of guidelines.:
- Minimize distractions
While distractions can happen to anyone, not just people working at home, when you’re working remotely or running your own business, distractions can seriously impact your schedule.
Nobody wants to be spending all of their time playing “catch-up” because they were playing when they should have been working.
Hold yourself accountable for following your internal deadlines, so your schedule will run more smoothly.
- Set the ground rules
As noted earlier, having guidelines in place is important if you want to enjoy your time spent working from home.
Once you’ve determined what you want your day to look like, share those rules with everyone in your home so they will know what to expect.
Set and track working hours
You may be working more (or fewer) hours than you think. Track the time you spend working to get a realistic idea of the schedule you should set for yourself.
Set goals…and reach them
Don’t let yourself get stagnant. If you’re working in a particular industry stay abreast of any changes by reading industry publications, following companies on LinkedIn, etc.
Try to attend at least one “in-person” function every year to connect with others in your industry.
Minimize distractions from family members
To keep everyone on the same page, set your office hours, including break times. If you have older kids at home and they know that at some point you’ll be available they’re less likely to interrupt you.
Working with younger children at home can be more difficult, but to help minimize distractions have something prepared for them to do and take more frequent breaks if needed.
Minimize distractions from your surroundings
Phone calls. Pings. Pop-ups. Your own thoughts…distractions don’t always come from those you share your home with.
You can reduce electronic distractions by turning off notifications and silencing the ringer on your phone, but how do you reduce the distractions of your own mind?
It can be hard to not to distract yourself with stray thoughts about what needs to be done – both at home and for your work – but it’s not impossible…you just need to train your brain to stay on target.
Following are two proven methods that many individuals use:
The Pomodoro Technique
- ⬥ Spend 25 minutes working
- ⬥ Take a 5-minute break
- ⬥ Repeat this process 3 times before taking a longer 15-minute break.
90 Minute Time Management Technique
Another way to help you stay focused is to split up your time into 90-minute windows.
As a pioneer in the field of sleep research, Nathan Kleitman discovered more than five decades ago that just as our bodies move through a series of 90-minute stages from light to deep sleep, then back again, we follow the same pattern of alertness during the day.
When you split your day up into 90 minute periods, then give yourself 20 to 30-minute breaks, you’re able to accomplish more and stay more on task.
Repetition is the idea with any time management effort, so choose a strategy that appeals to you. Keep at it until you’re able to train yourself to focus more deeply and for longer periods of time.
Use old-fashioned pen and paper, or turn off your internet access to help you stay focused on the task at hand.
Other ways to stay focused:
- ⬥ Focus on one task at a time
- ⬥ Take notes when a stray thought tries to distract you
- ⬥ Use noise blocking headphones and/or listen to white noise
- ⬥ Clear your desk of anything you don’t need
- ⬥ Make a handwritten list of the top 3 things that MUST get done
- ⬥ Reduce your electronic clutter (e.g. strive for inbox zero)
- ⬥ Schedule times for checking your email and social media and don’t stray from your plan
Have a dedicated space for your office
The ideal would be a separate room with a door.
When the door is shut, family members know not to bother you except in certain cases (that you dictate).
To help train your mind to stay focused when you go into your office, don’t use it for anything else (e.g. watching movies).
If it’s not possible to have a dedicated office space, try to do your work in an area of your home that’s furthest away from everyone else. (e.g. a corner of your bedroom)
And again, don’t do anything else in that area but work; you’re trying to train your mind that when you’re sitting in a certain spot you’re only doing work…nothing else.
Know when to call it a day
While the advantages of working from home are many, it can be easy to let your work life bleed over into your personal life…especially if you’re trying to build your business.
Shutting down is just as important as staying focused, so try to work within the office hours you’ve set…nobody wants to sit around every weekend while you’re working because you couldn’t get everything done during regular business hours.
And while closing up shop can be much easier said than done, for your own mental health it’s worth putting in the effort.