Winning the Tug of War Between Your Home and Office Life

Guest Post by Lisa Kanarek

Note from Michelle: Watch my blog tomorrow for a review of Lisa’s latest book, Organize Your Home Office for Success!

When I started my business twenty years ago, I worked seven days a week. I loved what I was doing and my business was growing quickly. At the time, I didn’t have kids, my spouse worked long hours, so I did too.

After two years of working ridiculously long hours — more hours than when I worked in a corporate office — I burned out. Instead of looking forward to working in my home office every day, I dreaded it. My life was out of balance and I needed to make a change quickly.

I took a week off — it wasn’t easy — and except for returning a few client calls, I didn’t do anything related to work. I had lunch with friends, joined a gym and caught up on reading I’d wanted to do for a long time.

After a relaxing week, I was ready to get back to work. This time, though, I made several changes including adjusting my work hours, spending more time with my spouse and family, and relaxing at the end of the day. Many years later, I’m still on the same work schedule and I enjoy my business more now than when I started.

When you work from home, you’re faced with having to mentally switch from work mode to family mode within minutes. There are eight ways to help you strike a balance between your professional and personal lives.

1. Reach a stopping point every day.

A good friend once told me that she could never have a home office because she wouldn’t be able to stop working. She’s not alone. When you work from home, you don’t have far to go when you get the urge to work on one more project. If you don’t have to take care of anyone but yourself, it probably doesn’t matter how long you work. If you have a family, though, don’t be surprised if you start hearing complaints from all sides. When you stop working, really stop. Close the door to your office or close up your desk, and concentrate on your family.

2. Keep distractions to a minimum.

Some people say, “I could never work out of my home because I would have too many distractions.” As a rule, limit your trips to the kitchen to get something to eat (except at mealtimes), don’t turn on the television, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked by personal activities such as cleaning the house or doing laundry. One of my clients, who was easily distracted, added a mini-fridge to his home office to hold soft drinks and bottled water.

3. Don’t eat lunch at your desk.

When you take a lunch break, leave your office and eat in another part of your home. Changing your scenery and physically removing yourself from your work will help to clear your mind. Also, you’ll give your eyes a much-needed break from your monitor.

4. Take at least one weekday off per month to play.

At the beginning of each month, schedule a day when you’re going to stay out of your office and do something else. This would be an ideal day to catch up on reading, see a movie you’ve wanted to see, or just enjoy the outdoors. Let your voice mail take your calls. You’ll find out that taking a day off will get you ready for a month of productive work.

5. Make a list of fun things you’ve always wanted to do and then start doing them.

If you haven’t made a “bucket list,” now is the time to make one. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit the local art museum but never seemed to have the time. Look online for activities and upcoming attractions. If you’ve lived in the same city for years, consider taking a guided tour of the city. You’ll learn more about your city in a few hours than you have in several years. The point is to keep your business from consuming your life.

6. Use your office for business-related activities only.

Rather than go to your home office to read your favorite magazine or new mystery, go somewhere else in your home. This will keep you in the mindset that your office is for business and the rest of your home is for your personal life.

7. Don’t use other parts of your home for business on a regular basis.

If you have a favorite chair where you sit and read or watch television, don’t use it for work. After awhile, it will no longer be a place for you to relax and get away.

8. Include your spouse in your business.

Even though you may work in unrelated fields, it’s always good to get an outside point of view. Your spouse may be able to give you a solution to a problem you’ve had on your mind for days. The most obvious answer is sometimes not seen by the person closest to the problem. Also, if your spouse understands your work and what it involves, he or she will be less likely to resent all of the hours you put into it.

Balancing your home and office life is challenging. The key is to create a balance between the two so you can enjoy your business and your personal life, especially when they’re in the same place.

What do you do to strike a balance between your personal and business life?

Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of and the author of five books about working from home, including her new book Organize Your Home Office for Success. Lisa works with entrepreneurs and home-based employees through seminars and individual consultations, to create functional home offices that meet each individual’s working style.

Image Credit: yuri_arcurs/StockFresh

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  1. Numbers 6 and 7 are absolutely critical!
    I could have saved myself tons of mental anguish if i had done that at the start. (And, I have offices at home [2 of them- for different aspects of work] and at my corporate facilities!)
    Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. recently posted… Not for children- REALLY?My Profile

  2. It really does makes a difference to keep your relaxing areas work-free. Otherwise it’s hard to keep your business and home life separate.
    Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Create More Storage Space in Your Home OfficeMy Profile

  3. Wow – some great tips here! I run two home businesses, and one is as a cookbook author, so my kitchen is still work. It’s hard for me to turn off sometimes. Thanks for the tips!
    Anthony Caruso recently posted… Guilt Free Penne in a Creamy Pumpkin Sauce with ChickenMy Profile

  4. Thank, Anthony. Considering that for many families the kitchen is where they spend a lot of time, it would be hard to keep your business and personal life separate. But you have a good excuse.
    Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Create More Storage Space in Your Home OfficeMy Profile

  5. Great tips Lisa! I will bookmark this to go back over and over again to keep reminding me. Thanks for sharing!
    Tim Villard recently posted… Blogging ideasMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Tim. They’ve kept me from working too much.
      Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Create More Storage Space in Your Home OfficeMy Profile

  6. This is some great information, Lisa!!! I love this! I am printing it up and hanging it next to my desk ;) Because I need to see this every day! LOL Especially NOT eating lunch at my desk in front of the computer! UGH haha Thank you, Michelle, for posting this! I have added Working Naked to my bookmarks :)
    Kimberly ~ Gypsy recently posted… Last Post for October Ultimate Blog ChallengeMy Profile

    1. I still have to remind myself not to eat lunch at my desk. Sometimes I get on a roll and don’t want to take a long break for lunch. I’ll grab something to eat and then keep working. I’ve figured out, though, that in the long run, I’m more productive when I step away from my desk throughout the day.
      Lisa kanarek recently posted… How to Get Your Family to Respect Your Business, Not Resent ItMy Profile

  7. I really need to work on these, Lisa. Balance has never been my best skill. But I have recently started working harder on #8 and it’s been so helpful to get an outside point of view.
    Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Steal Blog Traffic Like a PirateMy Profile

    1. I agree. Most of us focus closely on our businesses and lose sight of the next steps we need to take to move us forward. I’ve found that a spouse is good for when you want to vent, too!
      Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Get Your Family to Respect Your Business, Not Resent ItMy Profile

  8. Some really great tips, I agreed that when you’re working from home then you need to build balance between your work and family. You should have a proper time table, still you can’t always follow it but try to stick to it as it really helps you to manage your family and professional life.
    Aaron recently posted… Goa Carnival 2012My Profile

  9. Excellent post. It’s very tough to balance things out, especially when your work tends to take priority over everything else. Being balanced is a great goal.
    Darren recently posted… Google Panda SEO ChecklistMy Profile

    1. It’s true that being balanced is a great goal, although not an easy one to achieve. What makes it even tougher is when you’re the boss and you’re responsible for everything that happens within your company. Many of us created our own businesses so we’d have the freedom to spend time with our family, so mastering balance is tricky, but worth the effort. Thanks for your comment.
      Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Get Your Family to Respect Your Business, Not Resent ItMy Profile

  10. I hate to say this but I’m guilty of #3. Gotta start changing it up a bit I guess :)
    Jan recently posted… Respiratory Therapist Job DescriptionMy Profile

    1. That’s definitely a common habit! Start with lunch away from your desk every few days until it’s a new habit. There will always be exceptions, but you may discover that you’re more productive after a lunch break away from your office. You can do it. :)
      Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Get Your Family to Respect Your Business, Not Resent ItMy Profile

  11. I need to be more careful of my hours. I start late and end late. I like to sleep in until 9 or 10 am and don’t stop working sometimes until 7.30 or 8 pm. I need to change this.

    I think it is a good idea to sit down first thing in the morning and write out what you are going to do that day. How many hours are you going to put into such and such a task (if it requires a lengthy period of time). You then need to prioritise that workload so that you do all the urgent things first and leave the less urgent and less important things until last.

    Thanks for sharing this one Michelle

    Your friend across the pond

    David Verney recently posted… Seven Ways to Make Money With Your BlogMy Profile

  12. Good idea, David. I don’t know what I’d do without a list. Actually, I wouldn’t accomplish a thing! It takes a lot of effort for me to stay focused so a list is a lifesaver. Thanks for the tip.
    Lisa Kanarek recently posted… How to Get Your Family to Respect Your Business, Not Resent ItMy Profile

  13. […] if you liked Lisa’s guest post yesterday on my blog you will love Chapter 8 where it came from.  It’s all about time management and inching […]

  14. Great tips and I can honestly say I operate using all 8 of them. I love schedules, plans, to do lists, work time, family time, breaks every 45 minutes and my husband is the greatest secretary around! :)
    Rhonda Neely recently posted… This is tearing couples apart…I say Bull!My Profile

  15. Awesome tips indeed. Thanks for sharing this informative post. :-)
    Tina Pierce recently posted… Contact UsMy Profile

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