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Work/Life Balance for Indies

How many times have you told someone that you work from home and heard the response: "Oh it must be so nice to spend all that time at home!"

Written Feb 29, 2008, read 1678 times since then.
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How many times have you told someone that you work from home and heard the response: "Oh it must be so nice to spend all that time at home!"

Of course, as independent workers who run our own businesses or telecommute, we know that while there are a lot of benefits to working independently, there are plenty of downfalls too. For example, the use of technology and setting our own schedules make it easier to work all the time. But our newfound flexibility can also create dangers of overworking ourselves.  With fewer guidelines about when and where to work, we can easily fall out of a healthy work-life balance.

As someone who can work from anywhere at any time, some of the reasons you want to separate your work from your life include:

  • Family - For many of us, the reason we started our own business or decided to work from home was to increase the amount of time we spend with our families. But when the office is right next to your bedroom, instead of spending that time you saved by not commuting with your family, it can become all to easy to send a quick email…or three…can't it?

  • Friends - Working at home is great, but there's definitely something to be said for the camaraderie you find in an office. For one thing, people popping into your cube forces you to take a break. For another, when you only talk to other people over the phone or online, a feeling of isolation can quickly set in and that can lead to more serious problems.

  • Health - Working too hard or too much makes it more likely that you'll start having health issues because you're not getting enough sleep, exercising enough, or are simply too stressed out because of all the work you have to do.  It’s important for all of us to take a moment away from our desks and enjoy being outside, with other people, or reading a book (that does not relate to work!).

Creating a healthy balance between your work and free time can often be done just by creating new habits. For instance, instead of working from the time you get up in the morning until you fall asleep on your keyboard near midnight, try setting standard work hours for yourself and include regular breaks during the day.  Think about scheduling regular non-work activities such as exercise or lunch dates with friends. Here are a few other steps you can take:

  • Work Away from Home - Sure, you left the comfort of a corporate job so you could work at home. But now that you've tried it, is it really all it's cracked up to be? Working amongst other people (whether you work with them or not) for just a few days a week, can improve your attitude and productivity immeasurably. You can try working at the library, a coffee shop, the park or at a coworking space like Office Nomads or My Day Office.

  • Dress for Work - Maybe you still prefer to work at home. That doesn't mean you have to feel like you are at home. Before starting work in the morning, take time to get ready for work: eat, shower, get dressed and go into your office. When you're done working, turn off the computer and close the door to the office. Don't go back in until the next day. Separating work and life can happen even within a confined space if you take the time to separate the two.

  • Schedule Free Time - If you only plan a break in the middle of your day, it may be too easy for you to decide to skip it and keep working if you don't have a reason to take it.  Instead, try planning an activity for that free time. Make it something that's hard to back out of like lunch with a friend, a movie, or a yoga class. Taking time for yourself will mean you’re less burned out by work, which will make you a better worker.

  • Listen to Nancy: Just Say No - I know it sounds scary if you're running your own business, but sometimes, you just have to say no to more work. If your plate is already brimming with projects or if you just feel like you have a lot of irons on the fire, tell that prospective client you're sorry, but you're just too busy right now. Hey, that might even make you more desirable so they'll wait until you are free and maybe even pay you more!


Whatever you do to make the division between work and life more concrete, it's important to remember that it's always going to be a work in progress. Some weeks it'll be easier to do than others. No one is perfect and there's no point in beating yourself up when you realize you've been working too hard and haven't gotten dressed in days. Just promise yourself to keep trying, then take a deep breath, hop in the shower, or go for a walk in the park. You’ll feel better in no time.

Thanks to our in-house writer Charles Redell, for his writing help on this article.

Learn more about the author, Susan Evans.

Comment on this article

  • front office receptionist 
Bellevue, Washington 
wendy Case
    Posted by wendy Case, Bellevue, Washington | Feb 29, 2008

    You made some great points. Thanks so much for the article!

  • Web Designer - Desktop Publisher 
Quilcene, Washington 
Bonnie Story
    Posted by Bonnie Story, Quilcene, Washington | Mar 01, 2008

    Great, great tips. It really can be tough to resist the siren song of the office when it's "right over there"... Some people can handle it and some cannot. I think that having firm home office "hygiene" is one of the crucial skills that separates successful home-office folks from ones that are back at a J.O.B. two years later.

    As a funny aside, I met some nice folks at the park and started dog-walking with them. One was a retired lady and one was a home-maker. They both confessed to me later that they figured I must be filthy rich to be able to walk my dog during the day... I got a real thigh-slapping laugh out of that one. Little did they know, I had been working in the office since 6 AM servicing my East Coast clients and was heading right back home post-walk for more long hours at the keyboard. Filthy rich indeed... Thanks again for the concise article, it's a keeper! Bonnie

  • Blogging Coach and Copywriter 
Seattle, Washington 
Judy Dunn
    Posted by Judy Dunn, Seattle, Washington | Mar 01, 2008

    This is such an important issue. I'm glad you wrote about it, Susan (and Charles!).

    I agree with you. What people don't get is that many of us aren't worried about getting distracted and off task when we work from a home office. It's just the opposite. It's too easy to go downstairs after dinner and put another 3-4 hours of work in. After 15 years, I'm still struggling with that issue of balance. All good tips here!

  • Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Elizabeth Bowman
    Posted by Elizabeth Bowman, Seattle, Washington | Mar 02, 2008

    Great article! I often find myself so excited about a new business idea that I end up in my home office for a few more hours than I intended. It is so easy when your office is "right there"!

    I also agree with your point about making mid-day appointments with other people outside of your office. This has been one thing that really works for me.

  • Seattle Coworking Space Owner 
Seattle, Washington 
Susan  Evans
    Posted by Susan Evans, Seattle, Washington | Mar 03, 2008

    Thanks, everyone! We're hoping to hold a roundtable discussion on this issue at Office Nomads in the near future - keep your eyes open and hopefully we'll have the invite out soon!

  • Hospitality Trainer & Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Gina DuVall
    Posted by Gina DuVall, Seattle, Washington | Mar 04, 2008

    Thanks for the well-done article. It's a common topic, but it's valuable to continue to address it. The whole topic of "Balance" in general, whether you work from home or not, just need to continue to be looked at. We've gotten soooo busy that it's not OK to have free time, or to not have your cell phone attached to you. Glad you're going to have a roudtable.

  • Founder/CEO of SmartySaver, your online source for savings! 
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 
Melanie Heywood
    Posted by Melanie Heywood, Fort Lauderdale, Florida | Mar 06, 2008

    Oh boy, does this hit home!! I work full time as a consultant on-site and have been also "moonlighting" on my beloved website Listasaurus for the past 2 years, and my husband often gets on me for not having the balance....it's definitely more difficult to STOP working with everything so accessible from the Internet...and running a couple of websites actually makes it more 'round the clock.

    I have a hard time not being online all the time even when I'm on vacation...sheesh!! But I like the concept of it being a "work in progress".

    Also I wish there was something like Office Nomads here in South Florida. I don't think people have the same type of mentality here on the east coast...there is certainly not the same sense of community and I don't think there's as much of the "indie" thing happening. If anyone knows otherwise, do enlighten me...

    :-)

    Thanks for some great input!!

  • Designer of Graphics, illustrations and life 
Seattle, Washington 
Sam Trout
    Posted by Sam Trout, Seattle, Washington | Mar 06, 2008

    Here, here. I had to learn all of that the hard way, loosing friends and straining close relationships by working all the time just doesn't work. I try to work 6-8 hours a day and then keep the rest of the day for socializing and quality time. If i manage my time well and stay working during the day I usually get everything I need.

  • Spiritual psychotherapist and healer 
Seattle, Washington 
Rachel Whalley, MA, MFA, LMHCA
    Posted by Rachel Whalley, MA, MFA, LMHCA, Seattle, Washington | Apr 02, 2008

    FYI, the event Susan mentioned above is now posted and happening on April 15th at Office Nomads. Check it out: https://biznik.com/events/2008/4/15/seeking-balance-a-roundtable-for-bizniks!

  • Seattle Coworking Space Owner 
Seattle, Washington 
Susan  Evans
    Posted by Susan Evans, Seattle, Washington | Apr 11, 2008

    If you enjoyed the article and want to join in on the event, please come and join us - it should be a great event! (see link in Rachel's post)

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