Here are some more suggestions to help you make the transition from one life to another as clean as possible:
- Set working guidelines for yourself. Workaholics who just can't seem to leave their home offices find that setting a computer-generated alarm to go off at a specific time (say 6 p.m.) works well. It forces them to close up shop and make the transition back to the home-especially if it beeps again every few minutes until the computer is shut down. Other entrepreneurs use family members as their alarms. "Stay out of the office until 5 p.m., but then come and get me" is the order many issue to babysitters or teenagers. Still others cover their computers and fax machines when they leave the office at the end of the day. All these actions signal that the business day has ended.
- Use your phone system to draw the line between home and office. One entrepreneur has three lines in his office-a business line, a fax line and a home line-but the ringer on his home phone is turned off during business hours. And limiting the ring and the accessibility of your business line in your home means you won't be tempted to pick it up if it rings at 7 p.m. and you're in the middle of dinner. Most businesses don't require round-the-clock servicing; an answering machine or voice-mail system can pick up after-hour messages. If you have to be available for crises, however, consider an emergency paging system. People don't like to use an emergency number unless there's a true emergency, whereas they'll call at all hours of the evening if you pick up your business line as a matter of course.
- Commute. Even though many entrepreneurs run businesses from their homes to avoid the commute, some create an artificial one to draw a mental distinction between home and work. In New York City, one writer walks five blocks to the subway each morning, buys a paper, and then comes back to his apartment to work. He uses his "commute" to plan and organize his workday. Others leave "the office" each evening and go to the store, out for a walk, or pick up the kids before coming home again. And one small-business owner's three-times-a-week workouts after work at a gym half an hour away not only provide him with an emotional and physical distance from work . . . but also help him ease the transition between his two adjacent worlds.