the work/job/life balance – an idea on enforcing boundaries

One of the challenges us “part-time” entrepreneurs face is the creep of our “5 to 9″ (i.e. the side-projects) into our “9 to 5″ (our employment). We are duty bound to our employer to work for them while they are paying us, and it has become a core ethic of mine to have at least some sort of integrity in this area. I know very well the difficulties of having a lightbulb moment whilst working for the man, and trying to keep going with what I should be doing.

The other challenge is keeping the “9 to 5″ and the “5 to 9″ separate from our home/family/personal lives, ESPECIALLY when you work from home on both your job and your own stuff like I do.

Here’s the approach I am taking to try and keep things seperate…

  1. Recognize that you need boundaries to protect the different aspects of your life from each other. It IS important. I love my job, I love my business, and I love my family – so the challenge is that if I don’t separate them they’ll all smoosh in together and none of them will get the attention they deserve. Can you relate to this? Recognize the fact that YOU NEED TO DO THIS. Without this, you needn’t bother because it’ll just annoy you.

  2. Work out your week. If your work 5 days a week for an employer like I do, block that time as being for your employer only. Then work out the amount of time you want to spend working on your own stuff. In all of this, make sure you are leaving PLENTY of time for your family, your friends, and just to chill out.

  3. Separate everything you can. So for me, that looks like this:

  4. Keep separate journals for your job, your business, and your personal life (I am a mad journaller – If you ever see me get hit by a bus make sure you grab the black Moleskine…),

  5. If you are a heavy computer users, create separate profiles on your computer. (For Mac users, check this out. If you are a Windows user, get a Mac… nah, seriously, check this out. Then get a Mac). In each of those user account, set up ONLY the email and messaging you need to do that particular function. So for me, I have three accounts: One is for my job with only my job email, my work documents, and a Virtual PC instance that’s just for my job. Another is the Tall Poppy Group user with my emails for that stuff, my IM accounts, my documents for Tall Poppy Group, and anything else I need. The third (and the most important one) is the personal account. This is for watching movies with the wife, etc… This one is important for me because I find myself getting distracted by my job or my business whenever I see stuff that has to do with it. Separate them. Eliminate the problem.

  6. For the transitions between “job time”, “business time” or “personal time”, do something. For me, if I am working from home I will get up, shower, and get dressed for work – even though I am not going anywhere. It serves as a mental shift from one thing to the next. When I finish work, I change clothes, go for a walk, whatever – I do something that shifts me OUT of that head space and into one that is ready and has it’s best for my family.

The separation needs to happen in your mind first. All the things I’ve mentioned above are there to facilitate me mentally shifting gears into the next thing that I am doing, and then to protect me from accidentally downshifting into the wrong gear while I’m doing something else.

There you go. This is in progress at the moment. Evidence of this is the fact that I am blogging this during my 9 to 5… My “job” profile on my computer is syncing up email which I need before I can do anything.