I was wrapping up lunch with a friend yesterday and as we were discussing various work-related stuff for her, she said:
"My biggest recent decision has been to not work from home anymore."
I thought she meant she'd rather go into her office than negotiate for one or two days a week where she could work from home, thereby avoiding her commute. Rather, what she meant was that when she leaves her office at the end of the day, she carries nothing work-related home with her. The evenings, then, are meant for time with her husband, relaxing, or - God forbid - sleeping.
While many people (especially entrepreneurs) enjoy the idea of working from home, we have to be very careful to not always work at home. Just because we can work at any (and every) hour of the day doesn't mean we must.
In order to be better balanced and offer our best selves to our families, there must be clear dividing lines about work and home. Whether your office is out in the garage or 20 miles away, we have to be rigid and deliberate about when and where work happens. Work can happen anywhere, but it mustn't happen everywhere. All the time. At any given second. Now.
Here are three tips I use in order to make sure I don't overwork from home. I'd love to hear yours as well (details on a cool contest are below).
1. Set a schedule, and follow it
If you work from home (or need to), give yourself a time at which work will stop. For me, it's around 4:30, when I pick up my daughter from school. From then until she's in bed, I don't work. I won't answer the phone, reply to email, or open my laptop. That time is not for work. It's for dinner or TV or Legos.
2. Establish "No-Work" zones
Along with having a schedule to protect your time, you need areas of your house that are free from work. I only work from two places in my house: my office and the recliner in our living room. The kitchen table isn't for work (it's for eating and putting stickers on). Neither is the bed. Or the couch upstairs. Or my daughter's room. Blending your home and your office can be great, but by having physical boundaries, you'll be better able to mentally separate work and leisure.
3. Give yourself time between work and bed
Whether it's an hour or five hours, don't fall asleep immediately after wrapping up work. There will surely be times when you need to burn the midnight oil, but be sure to have a conversation with your wife, watch The Daily Show, or even indulge a hobby before you turn in. Give yourself at least half an hour of non-work time in order to close out the day well and refuel for tomorrow.
What about you?
How do you best separate work and home life in order to be better at both? Any tips for those of us with a home office?
Share your best idea below. On Monday, I'll pick the best tip to receive a signed copy of Simplify Your Life. Be sure to spread the word!