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Separating work and personal life: 4 tactics you need to know

Running a Business

What’s most important in your life? Is it waking up and going to a job you love and being productive? Is it coming home and feeling cozy around the people you love? Chances are, it’s both. Separating work and personal life is essential to our wellbeing, and also vital to avoiding ever-dreaded burnout.

Technology and the good ol’ puritan work ethic are a deadly combo when it comes to work-life balance, making the scales easier than ever to tip. Here’s how you can keep work and personal life in check.

1. Define “Work” and “Home”

Our minds are trainable. Mentally separating your spaces will help keep “work” and “home” physically and emotionally separated. Home is where you relax, retreat, watch Netflix, cook, and hang with family. Work is where you, well, do your work and feel productive.

The more these two spaces are defined, the more your brain will associate each space with the behaviors and moods required in each area. Training your brain like this is called associative activation. Before you know it, you’ll feel productive when you sit down at your desk. And, you’ll feel super zen when you recline on your couch.

The same way that our brains adjust to “sleeping” in our bedroom – we can train our minds to prep for productivity by defining a workspace – even if you work from home. For example, if you’ve got a studio apartment, you can set aside a small area (I prefer by a window!), for your desk, computer, and other things you need for work.

Try not to mix things up. Don’t do work in your home space. Don’t chill in your workspace (i.e., don’t kick back at your desk with the latest episode of Modern Family running on your computer).

2. Define your priorities and schedule them

Get out your journal or make a Trello board. One side is work; the other is personal.

Define your work priorities: Need to meet with your board once a month? Gotta get that marketing budget put together? Make a list and make a point to schedule the most important things.

Define personal priorities: Do you want to hit the gym before you spend ten minutes journaling each morning? Read to your kids or watch a movie with your S.O.? Write it down.

Getting clear on priorities will help you dedicate time to what you deem most important. Don’t forget to schedule some “me-time” too!

3. Take care of your people

Learning to schedule your priorities will help you manage relationships. You’ve got all sorts of relationships, and each of them needs tending.

At Home

Your spouse, your kids, parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, besties, etc. – our relationships need maintenance like anything else. Set aside a weekly date night, a weekend trip to the park with your kiddos, or family dinner. It may feel silly to open up your calendar app to write family stuff in, but it will help you recognize that there’s plenty of time in a week, especially for what’s most important.

At Work

Work relationships require upkeep too. Scheduling 1-on-1 check-ins can be extremely helpful when it comes to team productivity. We also recommend team retreats!

4. Nip burnout in the bud

If you’re on the edge of burnout, you need a break, probably immediately. Your personal life AND your business will suffer if you don’t nip burnout in the bud. If you’re feeling more fatigued or depressed than usual, check-in with yourself. Burnout could be creeping up, and you need to stop it in its tracks.

Here are some great ways to stop burnout:

  • Take a vacation: Get away, or don’t, even staycations are great for R&R as long as you turn off your tech and tune out of work. Make time for the beach, being a couch potato, and things you enjoy. And please, leave your phone in another room for a few hours, better yet, the whole time. You’ll thank yourself.
  • Exercise: You can write off a gym membership. Take a 30-minute walk 3X per week. Mental health is a growing concern, especially amongst those entrepreneurs tittering on the edge of burnout and depression. To keep your mood in check, you need about 45 minutes of exercise at least 3X per week to give your brain a comparable amount of serotonin and feel-good hormones as an SSRI medication like Zoloft or Paxil.
  • EAT!: You are what you eat, seriously. Try to choose healthier foods that’ll give you the energy to recuperate and be productive in the long term. Cooking can be therapeutic too – put on some good jams, pour a glass of vino, and create something energizing that your taste buds will love.
  • Delegate: This is a tough challenge many entrepreneurs face. You’ve got to bite the bullet and let others do what you hired them to do. If you’ve got too much on your plate, take a look at your to-do list and see if there’s anything someone else can handle. Chances are, there are several list items that a teammate can tackle. Don’t have any employees? That’s okay! Check out Upwork or post a contract gig on a job site. Affordable help is abundant these days, and it’s worth every penny.
  • Talk it out: A good therapist never hurt anybody. If you’re on a tight budget, opt for a state-funded program or find yourself a good mentor. There are tons of free counseling options and groups available to those with limited funds. You can even check Meetup or find entrepreneurial support groups in your area. Plus, you can speak with a therapist via video chat if you want to avoid commute time.

Your business can’t succeed if you’re personal life is tanking and vice versa. Separating work and personal life should be paramount for all of us. It’s necessary for maintaining our own health and the health of personal and working relationships.

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