Separating Life From Work When You Work From Home

Lately my life has gone into "busy mode", but as those of us who work for ourselves often say, it's the good kind of busy. Working from home I often work late into the night and then I'm right back at it the next morning (sometimes without enough sleep). I really love the work I do...I might even be a bit obsessed, and so often it's really hard for me to push away from my desk. While I enjoy the work, lately my apartment is beginning to feel like an office where I also sleep instead of the place I come home to.

If you also work from home, or even if you just often bring your work home with you, you likely know the feeling. You work until you're exhausted and when you go to bed you dream about work. You get to work in the morning before you've even had a coffee or a bite to eat, and even when you're watching TV, your laptop is open so you can continue working even when you should be enjoying some down time.

Winter is coming, which for me usually means I'm more productive as I lock myself away to avoid the cold. This means I need to work harder on balancing my work and personal time since I have no patio to escape to, and no bike trails to spend a warm afternoon exploring. This winter I've committed to maintaining a more balanced work/personal life, and so I'm working on some ground rules to hopefully make sure when I'm relaxing at home, I'm actually able to relax:

No working from the couch, or worse, working from bed
Sloping on the couch or lying in bed with my laptop is admittedly a terrible posture for getting things done. My couch needs to be a place I go to relax, to play guitar, to watch a movie.

No working while I eat
In the morning, I need to make breakfast before I get to work, and sit at the dining table and enjoy my meal. When I eat when I work I tend to eat everything so fast I'm not even satisfied, as if I didn't even notice I ate.

Setting regular hours and scheduling down time
This one is hard since my schedule changes frequently during the week based on client needs, but I need to recognize the need for flexible space in my daily schedule where nothing is planned, and I can just do nothing.

Buffer work and sleep
If I'm working through a really difficult problem late at night, and I really need to get some rest, I really need to be careful to buffer work and sleep. When I go to bed with a problem on my mind, my brain works all night trying to solve it. The problem is the next morning I'm just exhausted with no tangible solution. I need time offline, to read a chapter of that book I've been neglecting so when I go to sleep my brain can focus on something less stressful than work.

Get some exercise
This is a big one since right now I catch my self sitting for hours on end. If my only exercise is pacing around the room to solve a problem in my head, then clearly I need to take some time to go for a walk, do some Yoga, or hit the gym. Exercise is great for relieving stress, and more than that, It's just another thing I can do and schedule which isn't just sitting at my laptop.

Be distracted for the right reasons
If you have a pet you likely have moments where your dog or cat wants your attention so bad they'll just plow through whatever you're doing to get it. My cat will literally sit on my hands in front of my laptop every morning until I pet her. I have a tendency to ignore this as a distraction, but maybe it's better to just take the time to give the cat the attention she needs which gives me an added break in the day.

When my partner gets home everyday I'm often barely able to peal myself away from what I'm doing to say hello. What I should do is pause what I'm doing, and unwind for a second, listening, and paying attention to my life. Work is important, but only because it lets you enjoy the things you're supposed to like the company of those you care about.

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I'm going to do my best to maintain these guidelines over the winter, because as much as I love my work, I realize I feel much better when my life is more balanced. These are just personal guidelines, and I'm sure those of you who share similar concerns might have suggestions of how the list can improve. Feel like you're living out of your office instead of working from home? Drop me a line in the comment section below and share your own tips or plans for living in a more balanced way while working at home.

(Images: Sean Rioux)