When I first began working from home on a part-time basis and making my own schedule, I loved the flexibility that came along with it. Simple things, like being able to run errands throughout the day, eating lunch whenever I wanted, and talking with friends on my own time were all brand new freedoms I enjoyed as an author.
But some people thought my flexible work-from-home schedule meant I wasn't actually working. This left me open to friend and family requests of me doing favors throughout the day--anything from running errands, emergency babysitting, and picking up packages.
Initially, I agreed to many of these requests. But, I quickly realized if I agreed to random requests, I was going to spend my evenings and weekends trying to make up for it.
It was obvious that I had to make it clear to my loved ones that I still have a job. Boundaries were going to have to be necessary.
Once I did this, I was finally able to take back control of my schedule and get things done.
So if you also work from home, whether you are a remote worker or a full-time freelancer, it's important for you to create similar healthy boundaries with the people you know.
Here are three things you can say to people who don't understand what it means to work from home:
1. "I'll have to call you back when I'm finished working."
The best situation might be to ignore calls from family and friends altogether during the workday. But that's not always easy either. So if it is necessary, make sure they understand that you aren't in a position to have a long conversation.
If you realize that your friend just wants to vent about a personal issue, or your sister wants to spend an hour chatting during her drive to a doctor's appointment, be firm in saying, "I'll have to call you back after work." After doing this a few times, people will start to understand that you are working during the day.
This concept extends even more so when it comes to text messages and social media. These can rob even more of your time. There is nothing wrong with letting your friends know that you would be happy to have a longer conversation as soon as you are free from work.
2. "I'll need to check my schedule first."
Working from home will most likely mean that you have a more flexible schedule than before. It is true that you might be able to to help others out more--with anything from picking up your friend's dry cleaning to driving your nephew to drum lessons.
But when you are more available to help others than you are to get your own work done, this becomes a problem. Don't forget, you aren't the go-to person for everyone's last-minute favors and errands.
If you automatically say yes to anything that is asked of you, then this is what you will become.
This is when you say that you are going to need to check your work schedule first.
First of all, it will make it clear to people that you are actually working. Second, it will give you time to contemplate whether it is something you want to do in the first place.
3. "I have some tight deadlines to meet."
It's tempting for anyone to put off work for something more relaxing or fun--even a simple coffee date with a friend. But having too much leisure gets in the way of more important work.
To truly be successful, this involves the discipline to turn down things that might keep you from reaching your goals. Even when well-meaning friends tell you things such as "Loosen up a little," you need to keep in perspective what is more important in your situation.
Simply explain the truth, that you have some tight deadlines to meet. There is no need to explain further. The word "deadlines" will convey to your friends the sense of urgency that you have, and the fact that it takes priority over having fun at the moment.
Tighter Boundaries Are Sometimes Necessary
Setting tight boundaries is not always easy. Of course, you would probably like to spend time with a friend or grab a coffee with a neighbor. But keeping your boundaries loose to the point of affecting your work isn't doing anyone any favors in the long run.
This may involve a difficult conversation from time to time. So let those people know how much you value your relationship with them. But just like they do, you have work you need to do too--from home.