Monday, November 2, 2009

Balancing Work At Home, Housework, and Relaxation

I was recently in a coaching class called "Personal Path" in which a particular program helps guide us down the path of life we would like to choose.  There are various aspects of our life discussed, and  we are free to choose an area of focus to affect positive change.  The one that leaped out at me was "decompartmentalizing".

It occured to me that this has been an ongoing issue for me ever since I started working at home nearly two years ago.  It's tough having your office at home for many reasons: First, there's no defined time to "be at work" so you have to be very disciplined in putting down the newspaper and coffee or the dog's toy or the good book.  Second, you are always at home so you see chores that need tending to constantly--it takes a lot of effort to resist just putting in one load of laundry, or just cleaning up the kitchen a bit before heading to your desk.  Of course there are the constant phone interruptions, carpooling needs, and other household necessities that compete with a consistent work period as well.

On the other hand, sometimes there is difficulty in making yourself stop work.  Instead of relaxing with a good magazine after dinner or taking  a walk, you are sometimes coaxed back to the computer by a mysterious force, to touch up an article, re-check your email, or work on your finance and business plan.

It was a difficult balance for me:  I tried establishing "work" times; forcing myself to take breaks; compensating household chore time taken during the day for more work hours in the evening.  Sometimes  relaxation took a back seat for too many days in a row.  The person who works from home can suddenly find themselves either weeks behind in their work, or burned out from constantly working for weeks without appropriate breaks.

What a revelation it was for me to realize that I didn't have to compartmentalize the work, the chores, and and the down time.  They were all me, they were all part of my life.  They all contribute to who I am, what I value, what is important to have in my life, and what makes me happy. 
It doesn't matter whether I am reading a magazine, cooking dinner, or writing a new blog article.  Each of these accomplishments are completed throughout my day as part of my life and my career, and at the end of any given week, they are each part of the sum of what I do that makes this my life. 

Gone was working overtime to compensate for the guilt of enjoying working from home; gone was the guilt for going to a matinee with my husband on a weekday afternoon; gone was trying to schedule which hour I would spend eating lunch and which hour I could spend walking the dog.
I realized I had been negating the very benefits of working for myself.  Those of us who choose to work from home do so for the flexibility it affords.  I can go to a movie in the afternoon (as long as my assignments are completed in time); I can work in the evening if the mood strikes me; and I can throw in a load of laundry while I'm tossing around an idea for my next presentation.

The two weeks since I had this wonderful revelation have been two of the most peaceful weeks I remember having so far this year (except for vacation days for which I decided ahead of time not to work).  My goal for 2010 is to continue to incorporate this mentality into my days.  I envision weeks of calmness, productivity, and a consistently clean home rolling one into the other.  I breathe deeply before deciding I'm going to go read for an hour now . . . because that's what I feel like doing.

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