Welcome to Work From Home Tuesday. At oDesk headquarters in Menlo Park, California, every Tuesday is a WFHT. With summer vacations planned and kids home from school, working from home can get messy this time of year. Here are some tips to keep your boundaries and work-life balance all year long.
Just because you can work on vacation, doesn't mean you should work on vacation.
With free WiFi available at hotels and airports (a topic for another day), it's tempting to make money while you should be relaxing, but everyone needs a break. If you aren't taking time off, you should be--two days a week and a week or two (or three) each year. Whether your weekend is a Monday and Tuesday, whether your vacation is in March instead of July, whether it's a "staycation" or a getaway, you should take regular breaks from work. It's good for your health, mind and creativity. Start a vacation savings account, and a few months from now you'll be able to put the "I'm on vacation" outgoing message on your cell phone and e-mail and put your laptop away. Make days off and vacations a priority, not an option.
Don't work long hours, just because you can work long hours.
It's really tempting to put in 12 to 16 hour days, when your work is right there in front of you 24-7. Granted, if you are only working three or four days a week, a 12-hour day might be just right for you. But if you are putting in 5 or more days a week, you need to know when to call it a day and put your computer out of sight. Everyone has a time of day they are most productive, but after 8 or nine hours of consecutive work, most people will begin to function with diminishing capacity--in other words, they'll stop working smart and will just be working. Figure out a schedule that works for you and your family, if you have one. Then try to stick to it.
Don't forget what home is about. Don't let the place you live become your 24-hour office.
Home should be a place to decompress. Whether you live alone, have a roommate, or have a family, try to work in a space at your house or apartment that you can get away from--a desk that closes up, a room you can ignore, a big closet you can lock up. Sure, it's convenient, at times, to work around your loved ones. (I mean, how great is it that you can eat dinner and check your work e-mail at the same time?) But these habits take their toll on you and the people you live with--especially if they work outside the home and want to feel like they've entered a work-free sanctuary when they walk in the front door. Even if it doesn't bother you, it may be bothering them. Once again, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
WFHT Recommended Reading
"5 Boundary Setting Tips for the Work Obsessed" from The Four Hour Work Week Blog
"Freelancing and Time Management" from Graphic Design Blog
"Balancing Work and Family" from Freelance Switch
"How to Plan a Freelancer Vacation ... " from Men With Pens
"Is Clocking Out by 5 P.M. Back in Style" from 9 to Thrive
Much like a divorced marriage counselor, my ability to dish out advice is not an indicator of my ability to implement it. However, having worked from home for over a decade, I've learned what works and what just creates more work. (And I admit I'm terrible at putting my laptop away at the end of the day.)