I'm pleased to share a guest post from Andi Cumbo-Floyd, a writer, editor, and farmer from Virgina. Andi has been an entrepreneur for more than 7 years, and tells us what she's learned about working from a home office.
It's 9:30 a.m., and I'm just hitting my groove when a car pulls down our quarter-mile driveway. I'm not expecting anyone, and I feel my chest clinch.
I glance down at myself and see that, by some miracle, I have changed out of my pajamas and into jeans and a T-shirt. I swing the door open wide--in the rural South, one can't not greet a guest--and see an old friend and her niece here for a surprise visit. I smile as my mind flashes to the computer with my client's manuscript only two pages edited. Then, I close the door behind me and take them to see our farm.
When I Let My Boundaries Be Perforated
I am not always great about setting boundaries around my work time. I believe that this challenge is, in part, because I am a woman, and as a woman, I was raised to believe that my first duty in life is to care for others. It's easy for me to think that doing the dishes or the laundry or running out for just a few things at the grocery store is my responsibility, even when I have work that I have been paid to do on a deadline.
But I feel guilty when I put my work first. I feel guilty telling people on my doorstep that I need to work, and then I feel guilty about my clients because I have not prioritized the work they have paid me to do. Add to that the guilt I feel about having to work in the evening or on the weekend when I don't honor my boundaries, and I end up feeling guilty a lot of the time.
Drawing the Solid Line Around my Work Time
I have not yet perfected my boundaries, but here are 5 things I've started doing that have helped me be a better friend, wife, and businesswoman.
1. I set up work hours for myself.
The first step in getting a handle on when I can and cannot do other things is to establish my hours for myself. As long as I am loose with my schedule, how can I expect anyone else to be otherwise? My schedule is 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
2. I communicate my work hours.
I let my husband, my friends, my social media contacts, and my family know these hours, and I try to gently share that even though I'm home and sometimes wander into the garden during those hours, I am still working.
3. I say no like I work in an office.
It's easy for me to let my work hours slide because I have flexibility in my schedule and I work from home. Yet, when I think about how my friends in a traditional work setting just don't consider doing anything else during those hours, I find myself empowered to do the same.
4. I honor what I accomplish.
On days when I've had to turn down lunch with a friend or turn down a volunteer opportunity because I'm on deadline, I take some time at the end of the day to list what I completed and respect the work and my effort in it.
5. I treasure the flexibility that comes with my work lifestyle.
On occasion, I do take an entire Friday off to spend doing what I want, and from time to time, I go see an afternoon movie with a friend. When I step away from my work hours in that way, I think of these as personal days or vacation because, well, I don't get those as an entrepreneur. I deserve those breaks as much as anyone who works in an office.
So, if you're a woman entrepreneur and feel like you can't say no to other people, to the dishes in the sink, to the needy friend who just wants to talk for a minute for the 5th time this week, you're not alone. But if you can, hear this: you are a working woman, and it's just fine to prioritize your work needs above other needs for a few hours each day. Trust me--you, your clients, and the people you love will be better for it.