When working in a traditional 9 to 5 role separating your business and personal lives isn’t a particularly difficult task.
You get up, commute to work, spend 8 hours working, commute home and then you’re free to enjoy your own time as you wish, until you repeat the same work process the following day.
When you work for yourself, however (whether that’s in a freelance role or you own your own business), separating your business time from your personal is arguably one of the most difficult things you’ll have to do.
Whilst it does generally get easier the longer you work for yourself, as you begin to carve out your own way of working, the first few months – or even years – can be particularly difficult and you’ll find you never fully switch off, doings things such as checking your e-mails whilst you’re laid in bed first thing on a morning and last thing at night.
And although it might seem like a great way to develop your business, it can in fact have a negative impact as you become too steeped in work, missing obvious mistakes, making errors and in the end, suffering from burnout.
Therefore, it’s imperative that you focus on your ability to make sure that your business and personal lives remain separate and these 3 points should all help you to do so.
- Use a calendar – no matter whether it’s a cheap calendar that you received through the post or a free online variety, if you’re struggling to separate your business and personal lives, your first step should be to start using a calendar – and make sure your life revolves around it.Firstly, go through the coming 4 weeks and put aside time for actual work. This could be simply a straight block of 5 or 6 days a week with the time 9am through to 5pm set aside or if you prefer, it could be to several two or three hour slots each day.Now you have your working time down, you should pencil in some personal time. It may seem a little strict, but you – and your friends and family – will appreciate it, as you can make arrangements knowing that the time you’ve put aside is solely for your personal life.From here, it’s simply a matter of jotting everything down, from work meetings to Doctors appointments. Pencil everything in and stick to it.
- Be strict with yourself – one of the best inventions for those in business is the smartphone, as they allow you to carry out a whole host of business related activities without being at a computer or in your office.Unfortunately, the freedom that they give you means you find yourself carrying out various work tasks in random places. This is great if you’re on the train or stuck in a queue somewhere, but not a positive point if you’re laid in bed or at the table having dinner with your family.You might not think so initially, but by being strict with yourself and only working during the hours you’ve set aside in your calendar, you’ll find that your productivity actually increases during this time, as you’re a lot more focused and determined.
- Make sure your clients know when you’re at – and not at – work – when first starting out in business, you tend to make yourself available 24 hours a day. Sending e-mails in the early hours of the morning to taking phones calls when you’re eating lunch, combine this with online activity that marks your time (i.e., blog comments and forum posts) and it can seem to a client that you’re always available.Yes, this is great in one respect, as you are likely to be the first person to reply to a new client who is wanting to hire someone new, but in so many other aspects it’s a particularly poor business move.For example, if you’re working with a client and you take phone calls or reply to e-mails on a Saturday afternoon, they’re going to take this as the norm and expect you to do the same every weekend.And then there’s the fact about holidays – don’t ever go on holiday and not tell your clients, unless it’s completely unnecessary. If you go away for a long weekend and a client tries to contact you but you’re not reachable, they’re likely to get annoyed as you’re usually contactable. Tell them that you’re going away for a few days, however and whilst they may not like the fact (you’ve made a rod for your own back by being available all of the time, remember), they’re likely to understand, as everyone’s entitled to holidays.
Ensuring your business and personal lives remain separate is a lot harder that you might initially think – and not only in the physical sense, either. It can be difficult to actually stop working, walk away from the office and start enjoying life, but it can be even more difficult to actually make that move mentally, as it’s easy to think that when you’re not working, you’re not earning.
What’s important to remember is that you need to have your own personal life. You might want to throw yourself into work feet first and be completely dedicated to your business 24 hours a day, but if you don’t take some time out to spend with friends and family – or even just by yourself – your business will eventually suffer.
This article was originally featured on August 17, 2010.