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Drawing The Line Between Home And Office, Part 1

Read how to make a mental separation and get down to business when your home is your office.

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If you're of the mind-set that your personal and business lives should remain separate, here are a number of strategies to help you make the transition from one life to another as clean as possible.

Dress up your office for business. For one freelance public relations writer and president of a PR firm, this means putting the name of her business on the door to her home office, so that as soon as she opens her office door in the morning, she knows she's at work. Conversely, when she shuts it at night, she's in a different mode entirely.

When an owner of a marketing consulting firm walks into his office, the pictures on the wall project an overriding message-that he'd better get down to business. Work-related photos and mementos are everywhere, and a huge calendar that tracks business appointments eclipses one wall. People seeking clean transitions and boundaries make every effort to keep children's toys out of their offices and work papers out of the dining room.

Dress yourself for your role. Few who work at home don a suit when they move from the kitchen to their home office. But many people feel they need to be dressed in something other than a robe to get into the mental state of work. One entrepreneur, for instance, relies on shoes to symbolize the transition. Right inside her office door is a pair of comfortable dress shoes, which she slips on when she enters her office for the day. Right outside the door are sneakers; she changes into these when she takes a lunch break or leaves the office for the day. For her, the change of shoes signals the transition from home to work and back again.

Organize your life so you're not jumping back and forth between home and work. One way to handle thoughts about what has to be done in one part of the house while you're in another is to keep two separate "to do" lists. The "work to do" is kept in the living part of your home, while the "home to do" is in the office. If you suddenly remember something you have to do at work while you're watering the lawn in the evening, for example, don't rush into your office to do it. Write it down on your "work to do" list, and bring the list with you when you enter the office the next morning. Somehow, writing down a worry removes it as a distraction. It gives you license to say to yourself, "That's enough of that right now. I'll take care of it later."

See our tip on Monday, October 9 for part 2 of this article.