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Summary:

One of the things that I struggle with most when I’m working from home is wrapping up and finishing for the day. Quite often, I’ll mean to finish at, say, 6:30 pm, but then another email drops into the old inbox, or I’ll move onto “just […]

Image by sxc.hu user blu_arim

Image by sxc.hu user blu_arim

One of the things that I struggle with most when I’m working from home is wrapping up and finishing for the day. Quite often, I’ll mean to finish at, say, 6:30 pm, but then another email drops into the old inbox, or I’ll move onto “just one more” task, and before I know it it’s late into the night and I haven’t even started thinking about dinner.

When working from home, separating “work” and “home” is one of my biggest challenges. I’ve developed a few strategies to try to deal with this over the years.

Here are the three strategies that I’ve found work best for me:

Have a clearly defined end time and stick to it.

This is an important one for me because if I don’t, I’ll tend to find myself working later and later. Having a goal end time also means that I try to get all my tasks done for the day by that time which makes my afternoon more productive. Of course, sometimes an emergency will pop up that needs dealing with there and then, but I try to make sure that I only extend my working time for emergencies.

If you need to use the Internet after the work day is finished, don’t open your work email.

If I open my work email and see an important email, I’ll be tempted to want to open it and deal with it. By making sure that I don’t open my work account in the evening, that temptation is removed. Another tip: if you have two computers, it can be a good idea to designate one as your “work” machine and one as your “home” machine.

If possible, have a home office in separate room designated for the purpose of working in.

If you have a separate room (a study or office) that you can set aside for working in, it means that you can leave the room, shut the door, and be done with your work for the day. It also have the benefit of meaning you don’t get distracted by home chores during your working day.

Unfortunately, my current apartment is too small and doesn’t have a separate room that I can use, so I’ve got a couple of methods that I use to delineate “home” mode and “work” mode:

Use a drop leaf-table as a desk and fold it away at the end of the day.

This means that when the desk is folded away, the work day is done. It also has the benefit of saving some space in my small apartment.

Towards the end of the day, try to get out of the house and work at a coffee shop.

That means that when I finish at the coffee shop and return home, I shouldn’t be doing any more work.

Following these methods, I find that I am more productive during the day and don’t find myself working late into the night as often.

How do you clearly define “work” time and “home” time? What strategies do you use to make sure thatyou finish on time?

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By Simon Mackie

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  1. I have seperate work and personal laptops. When I’m done working for the day I close my work laptop and move it off my desk. My personal laptop does not check the work email account.

  2. I have to pick up my wife at the end of her work day (and mine too). Believe me, that is more than adequate incentive to finish work on time.

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  4. I use WorkRave to track time spent working each day.

  5. I have set office hours from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm. I strive to knock off the three most important items on my to do list and then quit. Often I’m able to do this before “office” hours are over. Don’t work more than you need to.

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  7. Great tips Simon. I’ve long struggled with this too… time to rethink a few things.

  8. Simon

    Some solid ideas here. One tip from me — i make it mandatory to have five pc-free, gadget free hours every day and make one weekend day totally un-connected. it really helps me focus more and get a lot more done.

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  12. Very useful ideas. I have to put a number of things here in practice. I have at least 3 email accounts but I never separate work/home stuff although one of them is really related to the school I work for.

  13. When I worked at home I found it helped to “go to work” the same as when you actually go to an office. That is, get up, eat, get dressed, don’t start working in your pyjamas, don’t get distracted doing household chores etc. People say working in your pjs is a “perk” but actually it just means you’re blurring work and life.

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    “Towards the end of the day, try to get out of the house and work at a coffee shop.”

    This is the only thing that works for me.

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