Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Keeping Your Personal Life Separate from Your Business is an Essential Component in Time Management

Those of us who work at home face some unique challenges when it comes to the issue of time management. Often, well intended friends and family assume that since we don't actually leave the house and go to an office, we don't have a 'real' job that our time is theirs and we are free to be at their beck and call for errands, favors, or just a friendly ear. We somehow manage to become everyone's fallback baby sitter, errand runner, and general gopher. It can be very distracting, time consuming, and absolutely destructive to the flow of our workday. We also tend to be hungry for human interaction, which makes us justify our desire to be available to them. In other words, it is very important that we keep business separate from our personal lives. We need to establish boundaries with family and friends and kindly and honestly inform them when we can and cannot be available to them.

Sometimes our friends and family can be the most insensitive to how demanding our work can actually be. If you're like me you get paid for what you accomplish not the number of hours you work (though some weeks I really wish I could get paid by the hour) so every minute of quality work time counts and it seems to take two minutes of work time to get back in the flow of our work for every minute of our interruption. If the phone rings, don't answer it while you are in the process of working. If you feel you must return the call during work hours, wait until you reach a stopping point rather than interrupting the flow of your work.

It sometimes helps if you can set time limits for your tasks. This provides you with a deadline and a sense of urgency. Use programs such as Lexa Software which can be found at, (you can try this software free for 15 days and it is $25 to buy it) or the Achieve Planner which can be found at (this is a 30-day free trial and is $49 to buy but the software shows great promise and might be worth the monetary investment). These programs both allow you to divide projects up into small chunks and give yourself time limits for completion. A sense of urgency with completing tasks greatly improves the chances that the task will be completed on time or early. It also prevents avoidable procrastination by telephone call or visiting neighbor by providing you with the mental prod that you have work to do.

It is necessary that you treat your business like a business if you wish for others to do the same. One way you can do that is to set specific office hours. Only answer the phone, email, and instant messengers for work related or emergency issues and make it clear to friends and family that local gossip and idle chitchat do not qualify as emergencies. Be kind but be firm when you tell people that your office hours are sacred and cannot be broken lightly. If it happens once, it will be expected again.

Cutting out on the non-business related phone calls, messages, emails, and visits will provide you with explosive growth as far as time manageability. Also, setting office hours provides boundaries of sorts. It keeps you (a little bit) from getting so burned out (by spending countless hours in the office) that you can't concentrate on what is at hand and provides you with some family time so you don't forget the people you are supposed to be doing this for. Having a work schedule, believe it or not, also adds legitimacy to what you are doing in the eyes of friends and family. They will see that you are taking your business seriously and they will begin to take it seriously as well. Combine these two things with some minor organizational hints and tips and you will be amazed at how much more work you get done in a shorter span of hours.

Time management issues aren't simply an issue for those of us who work from home, it's an issue all over. People lose time, waste time, spend time, and treat it as a second-class citizen. Time is the one commodity that can never be regained. When it's gone it's gone. I would rather much rather have my time go to pursuits that bring me joy than used improperly while working and as a result having work invade my 'fun' time.

About the author::

Peter Dobler is a 20+ year veteran in the IT business. He is an active Real Estate Investor and a successful Internet business owner. Collect more free software and bonus content for your own web site at

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