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Creating Healthy Boundaries: How to Effectively Separate Work from Home

Creating Healthy Boundaries: How to Effectively Separate Work from Home

When you decided to take the leap into self-employment, you likely knew that there would be sacrifices. Long days mean that you miss dinners with the family, and impromptu situations that require your immediate attention often result in not being able to attend family affairs because work has to come first.

Admittedly, there are going to be times where work is going to squash family plans, but if you find that it is the rule rather than the exception, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.

Why It Is In Your Best Interest to Create Boundaries

Although it may seem like multi-tasking between these two major areas of your life is a good thing because you get more done, the reality is that mixing the two can have some negative side effects. For instance, when your head and heart aren’t fully involved in one or the other, you’re only half-living, which isn’t fair to your business or your family.

Further, trying to do too much, which can lead to clear work and home boundary violations, can dramatically increase your stress levels. At a minimum, this raises your risk of headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and an inability to handle issues effectively. Worst case scenario, you have a heart attack or stroke and can’t recover.

So, even though there will be times when you have to take care of work at home or home at work, it is in your best interest to at least establish some boundaries. That way, you are able to deal with both effectively, without sacrificing your health or happiness in the process.

Guidelines to Creating Healthy Work and Home Boundaries

In order to achieve this goal, there are a few basic guidelines you can follow that will assist with creating boundaries that are effective, yet not so strict that they are impossible to follow. Here are a couple of them to consider implementing.

    • If possible, turn off your cell phone and email alerts. This one can be difficult, especially if you live and breathe by your cell phone or email inbox. However, most messages can wait for your attention, meaning that you are wasting quality family time by stopping every time either one alerts you. If you can’t turn them off, at least keep them on silent and just check them every couple of hours. That way you’re not totally distracted from showing your kids or your spouse that they are worthy of your time too, but you aren’t missing out on important work information either.
    • Let go of being a micromanager. Don’t be the employer that micromanages everything and everyone to the point where your employees are afraid to act without your input. You’ve hired them for a reason (hopefully it is because they are good at what they do), so you need to trust them to do a top-notch job even when you’re not around. Ask them to limit their contact with you after hours unless they have an emergency. This will stop all of the unnecessary phone calls and text messages and let you enjoy some of the fruits of your labor.
    • Be productive while at work so you don’t have to bring it home. Some small business owners are constantly bringing work home simply because they don’t make it a point to take care of things while on the clock. Fortunately, this can be easily rectified by working on some basic time management skills. For instance, when you get to work every morning, create your daily to-do list so you know exactly what needs to be done. Or, if you’re working on a major project, turn off your phone and close your door so you can focus.
    • De-stress on your way home. This guideline is particularly important if you tend to take your workday stress home with you. One of the worst things you can do is take out your business-related frustrations on your spouse and kids. If classical music soothes you, play it to unwind as you drive home from work. Or, if you prefer something light-hearted, a radio station that features comedians might just do the trick. Maybe total silence is what you need to let go of the day you had? Do what works best for you. On days that you work out of your office at home, make the doorway an invisible “drive” in which you switch out of work mode before entering the rest of the house. Don’t worry; you’re issues will still be there waiting for you the next day, so you can let them go for the night without fearing that you’ll forget them.
    • Set time limits when boundaries have to be crossed. There are going to be times when you’re going to have to cross boundaries and take care of work at home or home at work. Unfortunately, it’s one of those necessary evils of being a small business owner. However, if you do find yourself in that position, you can minimize the damage by setting time limits so that you don’t let one area of your life totally overrun the other. For example, if you do need to do paperwork at home, set a timer and commit to stopping when it goes off. Or, if you must tend to personal business on work time, schedule it in your calendar like a meeting and return to work when the time is up.

Creating healthy boundaries benefits you, your family, and your business. Follow these five basic guidelines and you can have it all. Minus the stress that is.

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.