As entrepreneurs, we’re immune to thinking that work carries over into our personal lives. For example, this past weekend, I went out of town with my family. While I was able to unplug a little, I still had to respond to work-related emails. I even had to schedule an emergency conference call with a couple of team members. Here is what to do when life bleeds into work.
But what happens when the opposite occurs? You know how it is. Maybe you and your partner quarreled before you left in the morning. Perhaps you or a loved in is dealing with a serious medical emergency. The list can go on and on.
The point is, sometimes, life doesn’t care what you need to get done professionally. That’s not only stressful; it also makes being productive almost impossible. Thankfully, there are some actions you can take when life bleeds into work.
In my opinion, this is the most effective way to keep your work and personal lives separated. But, this is also easier said than done.
The first place to start is creating a schedule. I do this every week to help me prepare and optimize my time. But, it also lets me and others know when I’m working and when I’m off the clock. During those hours that I’m at work, that’s all I’m focused on. But, at home, I disconnect.
It takes a lot of willpower to achieve this. But, one trick that I use is keeping my personal and professional lives separated. So, when in the office, I don’t take personal calls. I log out of my personal online accounts, like social media and email. During my downtime, it’s the opposite.
To make this a whole lot easier, I share my calendar with others. Now my family can see when I’m working so that they know not to disturb me. I also block out when I’m out-of-the-office so that my downtime isn’t interrupted by work.
“Make a commitment that, while you are at work, you will focus solely on work,” says Kim Littlefield, a career management executive. “Put your personal issues ‘in a box’ on a ‘mental shelf.’ Tell yourself you will deal with them at another time.”
“Sometimes, whether the personal issues are positive or negative, we allow ourselves to become absorbed in them while work that needs to be done continues to pile up, resulting in added stress,” adds Kim. To make this possible, try reciting mantras like “I will not bring my home life into work” during your commute. It’s an easy way to help transition your mindset from home to work.
Adjust your schedule.
Ideally, you should work when you’re at peak productivity. That just means tackling your most difficult or essential obligations when you have the most energy and concentration. For most of us, that’s a couple of hours after waking up.
But, life doesn’t always work that way. Maybe you or your family member is currently experiencing an emergency. Let’s say that it’s a medical crisis where you have to visit a doctor twice a week at 9 a.m. That’s typically when you would be working, so you’re going to have to adjust your schedule — hopefully just temporarily.
Prioritize and delegate.
I’m not going to lie; this is a challenge. But, you must stop juggling multiple things at once. Remember, multitasking doesn’t work. It does more damage than good. To get around this, identify what your main priorities are and focus on them.
As for everything else? Master the art of delegation. For example, if your child needs to visit their doctor and you have to attend an important meeting, see if there is another family member who can take them. I’m fortunate enough to have parents and siblings who can lend a hand. But, if this isn’t an option, check in with other people you trust like a neighbor or friend.
At work, go through your to-do-list and pinpoint the tasks that you can assign to others. Reducing your workload will give you the availability to dip out if you must.
Don’t overshare at work, but don’t under share either.
Sometimes you just need to vent. That’s not an excuse to ramble on or dwell in your problems. You just need to get whatever’s eating you up off your chest. When you do, you’ll feel a little more relieved and have a clear enough head to focus on your work.
I wouldn’t exactly talk to your employees about your problems. But, there are times when you may want to disclose some information with them. For example, if you have to undergo a medical procedure and will miss some time, then be honest with them. However, you don’t need to overshare either.
In most situations, though, I would turn to your support system. I have a friend who I can turn to whenever I’m in a slump or going through a stressful time. He’s great at listening. But, more importantly, he’s brutally honest when I’m irrational and always has top-notch advice on how to handle the problem.
But, if you don’t have a support system, please join a support group or seek professional help. Besides having someone to talk to, they can provide you with the coping skills you need to navigate through this turbulent time.
Make the time to take care of yourself.
You’ve heard this a million times. But I can’t stress this enough. If you want to be healthier, happier, and more productive, then you need to take care of yourself.
In your calendar, schedule time for some sort of physical activity. It doesn’t have to be much. Is there a 15-minute gap between tasks? Go outside for a walk. It will clear your head, improve your mood, and get your body moving.
Instead of ordering out for lunch or munching on snacks from a vending machine, fill the office with healthy snacks. After lunch, set aside a couple of minutes to reflect, journal, or meditate. And, be a little selfish and add a self-care routine to your calendar.
View work as an escape.
Some of you may be scratching your head at this one. But, it’s just slightly changing your mindset.
I wish I came up with this myself. But, it was something I learned from my mom. She enjoyed her job and co-workers. Not only did that make for a healthy and productive work environment, but it was also an outlet for her. If things weren’t going great at home, at least she had an escape and distraction for those eight hours.
Take some time off.
Depending on what’s going on in your personal life, it may be in your best interest to take some time off — like if dealing with a medical or mental health emergency. I know that you want to remain productive, and you have a ton to get done. But, it’s the only way that you’ll overcome this crisis. Besides, no matter how hard you try, it will continue to interfere with your work. And, you’re going to need this time to get your life in order, or it will continue to bleed into work.
Besides, taking time off will ultimately make you more productive. You’ll be more productive because taking time off gives you a chance to recharge and process ideas. It also boosts creativity, reduces stress, and gain new perspectives.
Nina Gass is a content writer with a diverse background who understands the struggles of small business owners, freelancers, and company founders. Her content delivers insightful and actionable advice to improve time management, productivity, and sanity despite wearing numerous hats and juggling multiple responsibilities in work and life.