If you've found yourself suddenly working from home with no prior experience doing so, you might find it difficult to separate your work and personal lives. How do you keep personal matters from infringing on work, and vice-versa?
Let's take a look at some practical ways to divide your work and home lives when working from home.
1. Make a Dedicated Workspace
Making a mental distinction between work and play is vital when you work from home. This is difficult to do without a dedicated place for work.
Resist the urge to work on your laptop while sitting on the living room couch. Not only is this an uncomfortable position to work in for long periods of time, but it adds too many potential distractions. You don't want to flip on the TV, have discussion with others in your house, or look at a book on the table while you're trying to work.
If possible, make a room into a home office. It doesn't have to be anything fancy---a chair and desk for your computer is fine. At the least, have a dedicated place in the house that your mind associates with working.
2. Set Expectations With Others in the Home
One of the biggest hurdles of working from home can be the adjustments for other people you live with. Your family members or roommates may come in to chat with you, ask for help, or want to have lunch. While they have good intentions, such interruptions can break your flow.
It's a good idea to have a discussion with others you live with. Talk about barriers and expectations for your home work. Explain that you're still responsible for a certain amount of work, and can't let distractions break you away from that during the day.
More practically, you can make some simple changes to integrate with others around you. Come up with working hours when everyone knows not to disturb you---you can even post them on your door for easy reference.
Close the door to your home office when you don't want to be disturbed, or consider flipping a physical sign to show your current status. You may also want to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones to block out noise elsewhere in the house.
3. Limit Access to Personal Materials
Personal accounts available on your computer and phone offer all kind of distractions during the working day. It's a good idea to keep these out of sight so you aren't tempted to waste time on them.
Your smartphone is a big source of distraction. If possible, keep it in another room so it doesn't affect your focus. If you need your phone for work, you should turn off all non-essential notifications. Putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode, or silencing it, will prevent you from picking it up every time you get a notification.
You should also make it difficult to access your personal accounts on your computer. Having social media, online shopping, or entertainment materials available in just a few clicks can sap your productivity.
If you use Google Chrome, you can set up multiple browser profiles to help combat this. Click your profile icon in the top-right corner of the browser and choose Add to create a new account.
This creates a fresh Chrome profile without any of the extensions, bookmarks, or history of your old profile. You can fill it up with just your work-related bookmarks and accounts. Not having easy access to time-wasting sites will go a long way.
Don't forget that for your new profile, you can sync browser data from another computer for easy migration.
4. Create a Routine for Efficient Working Hours
Most people work best with a routine. Instead of working at random times, create a basic schedule and do your best to stick to it. This will help you feel accomplished at the end of the day and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
If you have flexibility for your working hours, create a schedule that works best for you. Some people do their best work as soon as they wake up, while others can work uninterrupted in the evening once their kids are in bed. Figure out what works for you---the Pomodoro Technique is a good starting point if you aren't sure.
Remember that life is a factor in work/life balance, though! Avoid working many extra hours all the time simply because you're working from home. This will make you burn out, which can cause major problems. Don't be afraid to shut down your system and walk away when the day's work is complete.
Also, don't forget to schedule breaks in your working day. It's difficult to properly focus on work for hours on end, so you should get away from your desk a few times per day to stay refreshed. Take a few minutes every so often to take a walk, play with your pet, do a quick chore, or something like that.
5. Craft At-Home Work Rituals
Working from home removes many of the requirements of an in-person job, such as commuting to the office and dressing appropriately. If you struggle to feel like you're at work when doing your job at home, you can use a few rituals to get into the working mindset.
One of the most important is getting dressed for your day. While you don't have to wear a full suit or do your hair, you should wear something other than pajamas to transition your mind into working mode. Don't forget to have a nice shirt on hand for video calls, though!
While not having to sit in traffic on the way to the office is great, you might miss having that time to listen to a podcast or read. If so, you can create your own mini-commute as a substitute.
Before you start your working day, maybe you take a short walk and listen to some music. Or perhaps you do a home workout when you're done working to signify the end of your day. This will help you have a natural transition from "working" to "done for the day."
Finally, you might create other rituals that you only do during working days. Maybe you make yourself a nice breakfast on weekends to signify that you aren't doing any work that day. Or perhaps you always use a certain coffee mug during your working days. Anything small that helps your mind separate the two modes will help with this.
Make Working From Home a Success
Now you know some ways to strike a balance between work and personal matters when working from home. Try to logically and mentally divide the two as much as you can, and you'll both be more efficient at work and better enjoy your downtime.
For more advice, see our complete guide to working from home.