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10 Tips for Setting Work-Life Boundaries When You Work From Home

Listen. We won’t even bother rhetorically asking if you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed by every ding, ping, and menacing red-number notification on your every device. We already know the answer.

Because if you’re anything like anyone else living this side of the 21st century, all of the instant-ness of our digital world is enough to drive you mad.

You need boundaries. Working from home certainly has its perks but often, it’s hard to turn work off and turn life on – like fully present ‘on’ – so here are 10 ways you can separate business from pleasure – even when it’s all under the same roof.

10 boundaries when you work from home

  1. Delegate. Smart – and productive – leaders adopt the ‘70 percent rule’ that says that ‘ … if the person you’d like to perform the task is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as you can, you should delegate.’ If you’re still unsure about when to delegate, ask yourself these questions.
  2. Prioritize. Every morning, make a list of those items that need your immediate attention. Anything that can wait, should.
  3. Monotask. In today’s whirling, must-have-it-yesterday society, we’ve been indoctrinated with the belief that multitasking is the only ‘-tasking’ – but more often than not, we do better when we focus on one thing at a time.
  4. Start Early. There’s a reason the early bird gets the worm – they’re up-and-at-’em before all the other sleepy birds – and it pays off. Most successful professionals have one thing in common: They start their day early to have time to quietly plan their day.
  5. Interval Work. Try organizing your workday into 15-minute segments as that’s often long enough to get something done – and short enough to find that time in your day.

PRO TIP: Schedule meetings at 15 minutes past the hour and end them on the hour. In three 15-minutes ‘chunks,’ people can often accomplish in 45 minutes for what they think they’ll need 60 minutes.

  1. Say No. Seriously. It’s OK. Politely decline additional tasks if you’re already overloaded with work. And if you think you can say ‘yes,’ make sure to review your list of priorities first. And if you struggle to find the words, no worries! Here’s a plug-and-play cheat sheet with countless ways to say no.
  2. Avoid Distractions. Resist the urge to check unrelated distraction – Hello, social media! – while you’re working. And if your fingers’ social media muscle memory is too hard to override, consider leveraging some programs like SelfControl, Freedom, StayFocusd, and Anti-Social, which block access to the sticky, slippery wormhole parts of the internet for specified periods.

PRO TIP: Work on just one screen at a time. If you’re on your computer, keep tablets, phones, smartwatches, carrier pigeons and all other tempting distractions out of reach.

  1. Know When You’re Done. Just as you instinctively know when to stop eating, continuing to work on something when your brain is clearly circling the drain is a significant time-waster. Often, you can actually complete the task faster by taking a break and allowing your brain to switch gears for a bit.
  2. Recognize ‘Bonus Time.’ Rather than be frustrated to learn that your flight’s been delayed or an appointment is running late, learn to shift your perspective and view these ‘inconveniences’ as opportunities to tackle smaller, lower-priority tasks that have been nagging you, like responding to an email or returning a call.
  3. Give Yourself Grace. We will all occasionally be distracted by something shiny; we are, after all, human. Accept that you will make mistakes, become distracted or have an overall unproductive day – and accept that it’s really OK. Mistakes are proof that, at the very least, we’re trying. So recommit to getting back on track tomorrow with a clean slate. It happens.

With more and more companies and employees bucking the traditional 9-to-5, brick-and-mortar business model, the new ‘normal’ has become somewhat nebulous as we try desperately to (re-)apply some semblance of structure to our workdays, whatever hours and building they occupy. But setting even just a few of these boundaries when you work from home will serve you well on your way to finding work-life balance.

Want to see how a BELAY Virtual Assistant can help you create – and maintain – boundaries? Read Josh’s story.