Consultants and freelancers and other professionals who do contract work often have to be very careful about managing their work lives and their play lives. In other words, sometimes it’s very easy to let your work carry into your play and relaxation time. I’ve done it as a freelance writer enough times to know that despite the gains I can make for my business, I actually feel more stressed out in the long run because I’m always, it seems, working.
So what, then, can we do to protect ourselves from overworking and having our lives outside of work become simply an extension of our work lives? What can we do to make sure we’re efficient when we work and relaxed when we play?
Awareness is Key
The first thing we need to do is simply become aware of this concept, of this idea that we should have two separate lives, especially if it’s a problem for us. If you know that you have trouble keeping work and play separate, then at least you’re aware of that problem. That’s the first step in eventually solving your problem. So, if you can just be aware all the time, then you can stop yourself from answering that phone or email off hours. Of course, that’s a tall order to fill. Awareness alone cannot keep you sane regarding your workload.
Set Up Boundaries
For the times when you are not aware that you’re extending your work into parts of your life that it doesn’t belong, you should set up boundaries that can naturally block the work from getting to you. When you go off the clock, you should actually set up ways to stay off the clock. For example, many internet browsers allow you to create specific browsing profiles, in which you can block sites and so on. So when you browse for reasons not related to work, you can use your personal profile that blocks you from accessing certain sites. And this can work both ways. When you’re working on a project, use your work profile. This will help keep you away from sites that are distracting, thus making you more efficient on the job. Likewise, you can create a work phone number, but still have those calls forwarded to your mobile phone during certain hours, but have them forwarded to a voice mail service during off hours. That way, you aren’t at the constant reach of your clients so you can get a little rest.
Communicate Your Boundaries
Such a system won’t work in certain situations, obviously, especially those situations that demand you get everything accomplished in a rush. I understand there are always projects that require intense work over a short period of time. However, for your standard projects, you should communicate your boundaries to your clients. Explain as clearly as possible to them that you are available during certain times and days. Give them a window of time that they can expect you to respond to their emails. If you are clear about your boundaries, then your clients will know what to expect when they hire you. Likewise, you’ll also have to be particular about the jobs you bid on. This means that you should know your limits; don’t take jobs that you think will completely hurt your ability to work and play efficiently.
Hopefully, these three tips can be of some use to you. You might have noticed that separating your work and play will actually make you a more efficient worker. What so often happens is that when we’re on the job and we get distracted, we have to work longer and after hours in order to make up for that distraction. If you can instead eliminate distractions from your work, then you’ll be a more efficient worker. That way you can go home after a day’s hard work and be satisfied with knowing you’ve accomplished your goals that day. You’ll be able to relax with an easy mind.
Guest Author Bio:
This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes on the topics of online classes. She can be reached at [email protected]