Most people dread going to the office, especially on Mondays. Yes, Mondays are hard for them… So when they hear that more often than not us freelancers work from home, their initial reaction is usually to let us know that we’re not allowed to complain for the next two hours. And let’s be fair, they have a point. We can’t complain too much.
Working from home means saving money (no commute), saving time (no commute), and saving energy (no commute). But, as every freelancer knows, there is another side to that coin. Doing work in the same location where you play with your kids and watch TV with your partner can render the mental separation of work and life tricky. And in the days of 24/7 emailing and Slacking, this separation needs to be preserved at all costs.
So here are a few tips to help you maintain a healthy balance between your work and your life, when both of them share the same address.
Keep it separate
As much as possible, try to create a specific space for work, that is separate from everything else in your home. This also has the benefit of enabling you to deduct some of your rent/mortgage come tax season (one of the requirements from the IRS is that the space is exclusively used to conduct your business – meaning you can’t deduct anything if you work from your dining room table). Whether it’s a full room or a corner desk, dedicating a space to work mode is the first step in keeping a healthy balance when you work from home.
Keep the business hours concept alive
Just like space, time is also of the essence here. Establishing windows of time where you do not allow yourself to do the dishes or watch the news will help you maintain a virtual wall between house chores, entertainment and work. There are of course more distractions at home than in an office. Since you’re alone, nobody will report you to a manager or give you dirty looks if you decide to take a nap after lunch time. And if you do have time to take a nap, enjoy it. But determine upfront, either at the beginning of the week, or the beginning of a day, how many hours you’re going to dedicate to work and/or to everything else. And hold yourself to it. That discipline is truly key to keeping the frontier between work and life as visible as possible.
It may sound trivial, but getting dressed is an efficient way to switch modes. If you stay in your pajamas all day, your body won’t feel the difference between business and pleasure. It’s physiological therefore psychological! Also make sure to change outfits throughout the week. We probably don’t need to tell you why…
No matter what, try to go outside at least once a day. When your timer goes off indicating it’s break time, don’t go on social media, go get a coffee, go to the post office, go around the block to think. Seeing and interacting with other people is one of the best parts of working in an office. Staying home all day isn’t a business day thing. This is what lazy Saturdays are for.
No Procrastination Allowed
If you work in an office, you have a pretty great incentive to get things done: when you have, you can go home! At home, it’s easier to procrastinate and decide to do after dinner what should be done in the afternoon. This is a dangerous path, one that can mess up your work-life balance rather significantly. A few apps actually decided to take that issue by the horns, so feel free to try them out. If you’re more old school, you can nail this on your wall in front of your desk.
So let’s recap: do what you need to do while wearing a daytime appropriate outfit in a dedicated space and time frame you have allocated for your work, and make sure to go talk to another human being at some point during the day.