Long before working remotely was even a thing, I chose to leave my 22-year corporate career to launch my first business--from home. It took a while to grow accustomed to working out of a home office after spending my days among 550 peers since I was fresh out of school. At first, it felt like a taste of freedom, but before long it grew into a megadose of isolative experiences. I had allowed my workaholic behavior to set in as my home office beckoned 24/7.
Today, despite technology that offers virtual face-to-face experiences, these problems remain very real for those who work remotely. I find this to be especially true for entrepreneurs. With the added burden of stress, decision-making, and the management of clients and employees you may struggle to turn off work and spend time nurturing your personal life.
It took a few years, but I eventually mastered the art of finding some semblance of balance with a home office in the picture. Try a few of these tricks to see what they do for you.
Tell your brain when it's time to stop working.
Understanding more about how the human brain functions is very empowering. All of your perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors result from combinations of signals among neurons. By creating rituals at the end of your day you send signals to your brain that it's time to shift from work to something else. Update your to-do list or project management software. Prioritize your next day's schedule. If you are truly mindful, you know the power of meditation or visualization at this point of the day as well. Close your office door and move on to the next part of your day.
Create a workspace that inspires you, but don't become a prisoner to it.
Experts say to have an office space with a door, and I agree. Symbolically closing the door at the end of the day is effective. However, I disagree with the advice to keep work restricted to the office. You're an entrepreneur and you value freedom. My office is beautiful, and it inspires me, but I love the freedom of working next to my koi pond, at the kitchen table, or snuggled up on the floor next to my dog. This is my way of exercising my freedom, even when I have work to do. Spread out. Just make sure to put everything back in the office at the end of the day.
Keep two cell phones.
Until I learned to be disciplined enough to ignore work-related calls and texts during my personal time, I had two cell phones. While the work phone remained with me, it also remained turned off after work and on weekends. I would check for emergency calls, but only periodically. Avoid checking your phone before bedtime and go through your personal routine in the morning before checking in. Study after study confirm the negative effects that staring at the blue screen before bedtime has on sleep. Sleep deprivation is closely linked to stress and depression.
Don't turn to work to fill a void; turn to your personal lists instead.
It's incredibly easy to decide to work during downtime, rather than read a book, do a project, or get out of the house. What works for me is keeping a list of activities I enjoy, as well as one for household projects and errands. When your energy is a bit low from a long day's work, it can cause further depletion to think about what's next. Turn to your personal lists, choose something, and just do it.
Schedule time to worry, plan, and contemplate.
I have two comfortable chairs in my office, but they're not strictly for client use. This sunny corner is perfect for contemplating solutions, creating the next steps to my vision, and employing my tools to lower stress and reframe any negative perceptions that pop into my mind. I actually put this me time on my calendar otherwise, I won't push myself to do it. When issues arise, you can't afford to allow them to distract you from work. If you know you have time scheduled in to address them, your brain can remain focused on the task at hand.
Is an entrepreneur's life ever completely balanced? It depends on your definition of life balance. Working from a home office on a full-time basis can add to the challenge, but it can also add to your sense of freedom and happiness. With a few simple tweaks, it offers many benefits. Enjoy them!