No Place Like Home
Four ways to prevent the blurring of work and non-work.
I tend to choke on a short leash. My entrepreneurial bent doesn’t allow me to be micro-managed much.
It’s one reason I excelled for a company in my earlier years. In my first week of training, my new boss told me he didn’t care if I called the daily report from my boat as long as I met his quota. I spent a lot of time that year on the company’s top achiever charts. And on the lake.
Left alone with a solid strategy and the freedom to execute it, I tend to shine.
While having that degree of autonomy isn’t always practical or even necessary for success, having margin is. That thin boundary between numerous projects and available time and resources can determine the difference between working from a place of rest or living an unhealthy, hurried lifestyle.
According to CBS News, the healthy margins between work and non-work have disappeared for many who have had to shift to working from home this year. “They [Americans] are putting in longer hours, getting less rest and sometimes even burning out as the boundary between work and home disappears.”
As an entrepreneur, I have long juggled work and home life. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to simultaneously coddle a sick child on my left while engaging on a Zoom call to my right. But I’ll admit, projects that require teaming with others have sometimes taken longer because of that same environment.
When tossing out the office hours brings a load heavier than one can carry, it’s time to put some safeguards around our mental health. The changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic but we may have to fight for them.
If the weight of navigating various roles from home is bringing more fatigue than freedom, here are four small investments that could shift your overload into a healthier reserve of margin.
1. Manage your expectations
Left to myself, I’m pretty bad at estimating time. There’s probably something psychological behind it all (planning fallacy, optimism bias) but the raw truth is I tend to overestimate how far I can go and how much I can get done in one day. These unmet expectations then create a predictable stress, fostering doubt and disappointment.
But the days I operate from realistic and managed expectations? Those are days of maximum productivity. There’s nothing like the mega dose of dopamine that comes from successfully checking off everything on my list to increase my drive for even greater achievement.
Understand your limits and create boundaries around them. What can you do less of? What can you delegate to someone else? And what simply doesn’t matter anymore — go ahead and dump that entirely.
Related: Is Work-Life Balance Even Possible
2. Determine success in advance
It’s hard to hit the mark if your target is hidden. Have a clear vision for where you want to go. Determine, in advance, what a win is for you. At work. At home. In your relationships. And don’t forget your personal well-being.
What determines success in these key areas? These well-thought-through answers should become your non-negotiables in life.
Align everything in life beneath these markers of success and stick to it. Allow these personal priorities to guide you through the sort of pressure-filled decisions that evolve from a culture that tends to revere both availability and speed.
3. Be deliberate about the work/home transition
If you aren’t a fan of work bleeding over into all areas of your life, consider a transitional ritual that signals the end of work. A transition, something physical to help you intentionally change gears, prepares your brain for a shift from the way it’s been thinking all day.
Set a routine. Dress for work, so when work is over you can change your outfit. Create a dedicated space in your home that allows you to concentrate. Ideally, a place you can walk away from when the day is done. Plan something with the kids for the end of the day. I promise they can help you transition from work to home.
The pressing tensions of frequent rumination and problem-solving demand a pause. A constant focus on work can lead to chronic stress. Give your brain a break! In order to recharge and be ready for fresh ideas, the brain has to disengage for regular periods of rest.
4. Respect the rest
A distraction-free space is beautifully simplistic. There's an unclaimed margin in our lives, one where nothing competes for attention. We need to spend more time in this calm place so important things are allowed to stand out.
Rest is not going to happen without effort but it’s worth the fight.
Learn to do the sort of things at home that make you want to ignore all the electronic notifications. Put yourself on the calendar. Schedule time for self-care and important relationships like you would your work appointments.
In healthy environments, home is a sacred place. A happy place where beautiful things can happen. Life is lived and memories are made. We feel protected. Uncontrolled. Free to take risks and offer opinions and pursue our successes. That’s why, in a world of forced pivots lately, it’s important to ensure it remains our safe space. Evaluate and address any feelings of overwhelm that may make it feel otherwise.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer