5 Tips to Help You Define the Boundaries Between Work and Home (and Improve Your Productivity, Too).

When you work from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and home.  You may be doing it without even realizing it.  Do you ever sit down to work on a business project, and the next thing you know you’re emptying the dishwasher or reading a magazine?  Or maybe you’re spending time with your “sweetie,” but you keep checking your email every time you hear the slightest ping or buzz from your phone or some other device.

While this may sound harmless, it really is sinking your productivity while making you seem busy all the time.  You find it hard to focus on the task at hand (even when the task is just relaxing) because you always feel like you should be doing something else.  And here’s the thing: you have this nagging feeling because you should be doing something else!

When you sit down to work, get to work.  When the workday ends, relax and let the workday end.

I know that can be easier said than done, so here are 5 quick tips to help you define your boundaries, boost your productivity, and focus on the task at hand.

  1. Establish your workday.  Have you actually sat down and defined your workday? If not, it’s probably hard to focus because you’re working without structure. What hours would you like to work on your business? When are you most productive? It doesn’t have to be 9 to 5, and it’s not written in stone, but you definitely need a timeframe to work within. Take breaks during the day, but don’t get side-tracked by household chores or marathons of “The Brady Bunch.”
  2. Let everyone know when you are available and then be completely available when you say you will be available.  People are more likely to respect your boundaries when you lay them out clearly.  Doing this will lessen interruptions from family and friends, but knowing others are expecting you will also help you focus on getting things done within the timeframe you set forth.
  3. Banish the PJ’s to the bed.  Make sure you get up each day and actually get dressed.  You don’t need to put on a suit, but pajamas don’t exactly say, “Let’s get to work!” Yes, what you’re wearing can affect your mindset and productivity, even if you’re not aware of it.  Besides, you can’t possibly be ready to handle everything that the day might throw at you if you’re not even prepared to answer your door.
  4. Create rituals to help you transition to and from your workday.  Develop a routine that marks the beginning of your workday and helps you get busy.  Then develop another routine or habit that marks the end of your workday and helps you to switch gears. It could be as simple as turning on your computer at 8am and turning it off at 4pm.  Or, it could be that you need to work out, eat breakfast, meditate, and then start working.  Do whatever works for you.
  5. Set up “no work” zones.  Set aside time and space that is free from working on your business.  For instance, take a day or two off from work each week to rejuvenate and reconnect with the people and things that are most important to you.  Don’t forget to create work-free areas in your home.  At the very least, make your bedroom a sanctuary, not an extension of your office.    

Follow these 5 tips and get a jumpstart on creating that much needed separation between work and home.

© 2011 Tiffany deSilva, Order and Balance, LLC

Want to reprint this article?  Feel free to do so as long as you include the following message:

Tffany deSilva, founder and CEO of Order and Balance, LLC, specializes in helping entrepreneurs get organized, get focused, boost their productivity & their bottom line, while strategically building a business that runs seamlessly and successfully, so they can have more time to fully enjoy life. Visit http://www.orderandbalance.com  to receive your copy of the FREE report, “Stop Wasting Precious Time and Money: The Keys to Overcoming Your 21 Biggest Productivity Problems” or vist www.orderandbalanceforsuccess.com to get a copy of “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Money-Wasting and Time-Draining Mistakes Women Entrepreneurs Make.”

9 Response to “5 Tips to Help You Define the Boundaries Between Work and Home (and Improve Your Productivity, Too). ”

Kristina Shands
May 16, 2011
7:01 pm

Comment :

I seriously needed this post. Thank you so much. I tend to work all day and run errands in between projects, which leaves me feeling like I never stop working. I will definitely put your tips in place.

Sue Painter
May 16, 2011
7:43 pm

Comment :

This is an interesting list to me. My work and personal life flow so easily from one to the other that I really don’t make “zones” in time or geography. I love the easy flexibility I have, it feels freer to me than a set routine. But I know that many people need routine in order to stay productive, too.

Heidi Alexandra Pollard
May 16, 2011
8:03 pm

Comment :

Thanks for this great post – I believe some structure really adds to productivity – for me I ended up purchasing an office space 10 minutes from home so that I could truly switch between work and home time. Sure the lines still get blurred from time to time but I am sensing a lot more productivity since doing so!

Linda Pucci
May 17, 2011
4:35 am

Comment :

These are great tips! Although I don’t work from my home, and do pretty well with my boundaries, I do slip up with checking my Blackberry for emails. You are SO right about having focus on a single thing. Why is it we think multi-tasking is good???

Mary Ellen Miller
May 17, 2011
7:45 pm

Comment :

Great tips Tiffany. As a “solopreneur” who is based out of a home office I have had to use several of these. Your no work zone (and likewise a work zone) is a very important tip. When I am in my office working the door is shut and it’s like I’m in another world. I also agree about no PJ’s. I shower/dress/wear make-up etc. even if it’s a day that I’m home with the dog. That way I always feel like I’m in work-mode.

Jeff Brunson
May 18, 2011
7:39 am

Comment :

Thanks Tiffany! I’m in my 10th year on my own, as it were. One of the major components of my transition from the corporate life was ‘time.’ Being the created thing it is, time had its hold on me … or should I say, my thinking. It took years to feel as free as I do right now. At the same time, your tips are so very valuable so that I don’t let another enemy get a hold; lack of focus. Thanks again.

Jan Hume
August 18, 2011
11:05 am

Comment :

Thank you so much for this. I have been working from home full time for the past 3 years running a small (1 person) non-profit. I’m feeling completely burned out and realize it is because I “blur” and don’t set boundaries. I’m looking forward to trying your suggestions. Please keep the advice coming.

Tiffany deSilva
August 18, 2011
1:51 pm

Comment :

Hi, Jan. Thank you for your comment. I’m happy you found this helpful. It can be difficult to maintain boundaries when you’re working from home. It’s something we all have to work on from time to time.

From Mr Hunt's office
April 12, 2012
7:35 am

Comment :

Some excellent tips- so tempting to stay in your pjs isn’t it.

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