Boundary setting: why you need to separate your business and your life

Boundary setting_ why you need to separate your business and your life

Let’s face it, becoming self-employed represents freedom.  Freedom to work in your own way, set your own schedule… and to spend every waking hour thinking and worrying about your business!  We all have other commitments so having a clear boundary in place between your working life and the rest of your life is essential if you’re going to avoid a stress induced meltdown.

Setting boundaries doesn’t just help your personal life either.  It can boost your business too.  I often find that I’ll have a lightbulb moment when I’m loading the washing machine or going for a run when work is pretty much the last thing on my mind.

Working from home

As much as I love working from home, there’s a lot to be said for travelling to an office somewhere else.  Your friends generally don’t expect you to be able to answer your phone and wouldn’t think of popping in for a chat.  When you’re at home you can be thought of as a slacker or someone who can work ‘whenever they want.’  In my case, I can generally only work during school hours so there are huge constraints on my time.  Plus, believe it or not, I do occasionally want to speak to my husband in the evenings!

If clients need to visit you at home there’s always the risk that they’ll turn up when you’re not expecting them.  A friend of mine had a client turn up unannounced on a Saturday morning when she was still in her pyjamas and had her toddler cuddling her leg.

Building your boundary

How you separate your work from the rest of your life will, ultimately, depend on you.  Everyone has their own unique challenges.

Having a physical separation between home and work can be a huge help, even if it’s an office in your house that you go into and shut the door.  The nature of my work means that I can work remotely so clients don’t need to know my address and I don’t put my home phone number on anything work related.  That means that clients either email or, occasionally, call my mobile so I can either see who’s calling or turn the sound off if I really don’t want to be disturbed.

Try putting business hours on your website or Facebook page.  Whilst clients might still know that you’re there all the time they won’t expect you to respond to an email at 11pm if you’re demonstrating that you’ve finished work for the day.

Family and friends

Dealing with family and friends can be a challenge if they’re expecting you to be available all the time.  Having a regular schedule can help.  If you get into the habit of returning calls with a “hello, did you ring?  I’ve just stopped for lunch,” people will get used to the idea that they can only talk to you then.

Switching from work to home

When you work in an office or somewhere away from home there’s a ritual attached.  You have to get up, dress appropriately and travel to work.  It doesn’t just serve a practical purpose, it helps your brain to switch into ‘work mode’ and back again.

There are various techniques you can try to achieve the same effect at home.  It could just be a case of changing your clothes or going for a walk.  You could also try meditation or just having some quiet time away from your desk.  See what works for you.

If you have any advice on making the distinction between home and work I’d love to hear it!

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