Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Boundaries and Borders

For entrepreneurs, small business owners and those of us with home based businesses keeping work and personal life separate becomes a significant challenge. With only one filing cabinet, business and personal files have no choice but to co-habit. If your office is the corner of the family room, tax time may find you with receipts all over the dining room table while you sort, add and prepare for your annual tax submission. Even if you have a large corner office, you may find that there is some information that always gets handled from your office and therefore you keep those files stored at the office.

When tax time is over, or the big project is complete, whichever is your reason for extending beyond your "office", it is important to develop boundaries and borders that separate work life from personal life. Working animals, such as sheep herding or seeing eye dogs, have defined cues that tell them when it is time to play and when it is time to work - the harness for example. Without these cues and without clear separation the animals become confused as when they are working and when they are just playing.

The same is true for the rest of us although thank goodness we don't have to wear a harness to tell us when we are at work. Wtihout this clear distinction, however, our lives become imbalanced, productivity decreases and destress time disappears. Here are some tips for home based workers to help maintain boundaries and borders:

  • Start by designating an office. No matter how small or large, ensure that the space is preserved for your business work space.
  • Separate your files by using a different colour label or file folder for personal and business files. Ideally, use different file drawers.
  • Schedule your time so you know when you are "on the clock" and "off the clock". The timing of the work day is less important than the designation of the working hours.
  • Use specific cues to tell you when you are at work. This could be a coffee mug that is reserved for work hours, a pair of shoes that you "go to work in".
  • If you are working on a big project that requires spilling onto "non office" home space, try designating a large basket to house the project work during non work hours rather than allowing it to takeover the living room completely.

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