So many are now working from home, or at least shut in together. This can abruptly combine your personal and professional life! But it doesn’t have to be a collision; it can be a thoughtful convergence!
In this blog I’m helping you merge your worlds so you can work from home without chaos and frustration.
Even though it may feel like your life is in a blender, the opportunity to work from home is actually a GIFT.
Being able to work from home is a chance to get EVERY area of your life in order.
Think about it: while pounding out eight hours of work, making lunches, tripping over stuff, endless laundry, and timely email response, you might discover that a few balls are dropping. (Insert sarcastic face.)
This is actually a rare opportunity to be PRESENT with your personal and professional life all at once, and it will reveal a LOT.
It will showcase areas in which you are winning, and other areas that need work. It’s a unique chance to see your own life on display:
- What type of work have you previously been prioritizing, home or work?
- Which areas – or people – have been neglected?
- What rhythms don’t exist that need to?
- How is work allocated among family members?
Instead of being embarrassed or frustrated by these REVEALATIONS once you start to work from home, make note of them. Literally keep a list of what you’re learning about yourself, your family, your patterns and habits, and your strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to become mindful of your situation, your needs, the needs of your family, and exposed areas to address.
Refer to your Merging Worlds list often, and make plans address one issue at a time, starting with the most obvious or onerous:
- If your home space is a trash heap that you can’t work in, a space-by-space restoration is needed! (A great resource is my room-by-room organizing ebook Restoring Order to Your Home!)
- If your kids need to be drafted into specific, daily duties, implement a chore chart or incentives! (Our kids get to keep eating our food and sleeping in their beds for doing chores.
- If you are realizing you’ve become a workaholic, start intentionally “restoring order” to your life and building in time for your spouse and kids
- If you are discovering that work gets tossed out the window while you fold laundry and check Pinterest, you will need to carve out a focused space and schedule
You can see that being at home is indeed a revelation of what’s important to you.
Having your work relocated to home is a providential opportunity to course-correct all that’s out-of-order in your personal and professional worlds.
(The other alternative is to be mad at yourself, your space, and your family in this new reality, and that doesn’t move you into the life you really want.)
Being at home trying to produce a service for an employer (or yourself) can be a challenge if you have the wrong mindset. So I’ve got some ideas for you to “blend well!”
INTEGRATE, DON’T SEPARATE
My advice to converge your work and home world is to aim for integration, not just separation. This is especially true if you have family members sharing your space!
If you’re trying to constantly “separate” yourself, you will likely feel irritated when that isn’t happening the way it did when you officed elsewhere.
Your family’s human needs – and even your own – may be neglected in favor of you trying to be “productive,” hidden away from everyone in your bedroom.
Instead, try integrating your personal and professional life.
Integration is an intentional blending of what was previously segregated. It’s a state where you allocate time to everything that matters with an equal dose of boundaries and flexibility.
Since we already homeschool and work from home, we have learned to navigate this issue. I say “navigate,” not “master,” because it is definitely a give-and-take. It requires that we all honor one another and their needs.
For me, this means I work at the dining room table with my kids when they’re working on their lessons. We can talk and laugh if I’m just working on emails or something. When I can, I reach over and help with a math problem. But if I’m in the middle of something, they may have to put that spelling test on hold till my next break or dinnertime.
When I can see that one of my sons is especially downcast or frustrated with his lessons (or with his brother!), I can tell it’s going to need a “mom intervention.” So, I stop what I’m doing and get involved.
When conducting business with others, I have to close myself in my office to take calls or really focus on a project. In those cases, I tell everyone what I’m up to, and tell them what time I anticipate being available. We try to find work for the kids to do during our “unavailable” times, like household chores, lawn mowing, or a certain number of pages to get done in their lesson books. This way, we are all busy at the same time.
I know…all this is easier said than done – so that takes me to my next tip.
EXPAND YOUR WORK WINDOW
Working from home means you don’t have to commute, so you regain time! When combining your worlds, you have the flexibility to expand your work window.
This is great news because it means you can afford to take a longer lunch and more breaks to tend to the people and duties in your home without guilt! You can start earlier when you have some quiet time in the house, or even put the finishing touches on a project after others go to sleep. Customizing your work around your unique situation is a wonderful benefit of working from home.
I’ve found that when I discipline myself to FLOW (instead of being rigid or aggravated) and apply myself with vigor to BOTH personal and professional needs, I am more productive at both!
By allowing yourself a more fluid work schedule, you can be present for the scrape that requires a band-aid and an afternoon chat with a kid who really needs you.
Just today, I stopped the writing of this blog several times to referee some “intense fellowship” between my sons. There were hurt feelings and tears. I had a front porch chat with one and a kitchen discussion and hug with another.
In my experience, when I put off those hot moments “till later,” then later never comes. If I’m too absorbed with my work and inflexible with my family, our relational atmosphere suffers. As the culture-keeper of my home, I want to prioritize people over a false sense of productivity. True productivity comes when you are actually accomplishing what you want in your life, not just grinding out tasks on a rigid schedule.
Integrating my work and home life feels so much more HUMANE than this hard line that the modern world has created, and that we’ve all accepted.
In our culture, not only is there a presupposed wall between home and work, but there’s also a silent priority given to work OVER home life: the average worker spends significantly more time with co-workers than family!
Working from home with an expanded, intentional, flowing work window allows you to turn this model right-side-up and produce BOTH healthy work and a healthy family.
Of course, if time zones or the nature of your work requires specific hours, you’ll have to be creative in expanding your work.
Now, let’s discuss working throughout your day….
BREAK UP WORK INTO SESSIONS
To give attention to both personal and professional matters while at home, break up your work into focused sessions.
Here’s how this can work if you’ve got family at home: Focus on one type of work at a time.
For example, one session could be powering through your morning email triage. Tackle it, then stop. Check on the kids, get them breakfast, lay out a project or lessons for them.
Then, get back at it. Now, tackle a project. Guesstimate how long it will take and go for it. Then, get up and have your first tea break. Run the dishwasher, ensure the kids are alive and on task, etc.
Creating work sessions requires you to examine your work a little more closely than you may have in the past:
- Consider how long each type of work takes
- Note how focused you need to be for each type of work
- Determine which kinds of work require solitude and which can be done with others around
This clearer understanding of your work will allow you to be more flexible and focused when you need to be.
Work sessions are a lifesaver when you’re merging work and home life!
Finally, let’s talk about a healthy and accessible solution to remove yourself from the home environment to tackle your work.
TAKE YOUR OFFICE OUTSIDE
Working from home doesn’t mean you’re stuck in your home office or in the middle of the mayhem.
You can get workspace “elbow room” very easily: take your office outdoors for a change of scene and noise level!
- I take a lot of conference calls on my headset while I’m getting in my daily walk
- Some of my best ideas happen walking around the yard in bare feet with my notepad
- Sometimes I “office” on our front porch and also hold a lot of important family conversations here!
Here are some additional ideas for you to expand to the great outdoors:
- Seek a covered nook on the back patio or deck
- Set up a workstation in the garage where you can land for solitude
- Retreat to the gazebo or shed or barn (I have a client whose office was a shed he built for that purpose!)
I like taking my work outdoors whenever possible. We all need the Vitamin D the sun offers and it’s a welcome break on my eyes with all the screen time my work requires. I especially respond to texts and make phone calls outside. When I “leave the house,” it also indicates that I am intentionally relocating for a short while, and I tend to get less interruptions.
With a little self-observation and effort, the convergence of your personal and professional life can be integrated, instead of irritating; merged instead of maddening!
A healthy, blended work and home life requires a flexible mindset and mutual honor among family members.
Please share in the comments how you handle your converged work and home life, both what has worked and what hasn’t…we are in this together!
Here’s to integrating and reclaiming your life!