The distinction between professional and personal lives for teleworkers is tenuous at best. To achieve optimal levels of productivity, creativity and happiness in both realms of work and leisure, we must develop boundaries. Here are five lessons I’ve learned as a telecommuter:
- Empower yourself to power down. When your workplace is also your home, it’s all too easy to forget where one ends and the other begins. If you leave your computer open, you’ll remain a slave to it; eventually, your work will be less creative and less rewarding. “Just one more minute” almost always turns into 30. Choose a specified time each day to power down your computer, put your smartphone on vibrate, and just relax.
- Compartmentalize to create and recreate. A healthy balance between professional and leisure time begins with establishing clear boundaries. Compartmentalizing involves making and keeping commitments to yourself by creating a designated space devoted to your work. Remove the piles of laundry and the kids’ homework. Formalize routine by establishing a schedule with specific start and stop times, and transition time in between. When the day’s work is done, activities such as working out, gardening or walking the dog can clear the mind, mitigate tension and prevent burnout. Work is work, play is play — strive to be exceptional at both.
- Experiment with your creative cycles. Maintaining a regular routine helps keep you disciplined, but discovering your optimal creative cycle is where the magic begins. Telecommuting liberates you to do both in ways that office environments cannot. Understanding the triggers of creative thoughts can be a challenge; however, periods of deep thinking generally require alternating cycles of rest. Recognizing where one ends and the other begins is key. Try getting up early when everyone is asleep or burning some midnight oil. Periods of work and rest that deviate from the typical 9-to-5 schedule may inspire creative cycles.
- Daydream to dream big. Telecommuting provides space and opportunity to daydream, an activity that companies such as Google and Gore-Tex encourage among their office-bound employees. Rarely inside your cube or while staring at your computer screen does inspiration appear. Instead, insights occur in those odd moments when you’re puttering in the garden, folding laundry or mowing the yard. Although daydreaming might seem counter-intuitive to productivity, it actually increases creative thought.
- Train your mind to focus. Whether it’s our work, our hobbies or our families, wherever we place our attention will grow in our lives. Attention has become fragmented in our device-dominated world. Practices such as meditation or yoga train us to focus the mind, increasing our mental endurance and productivity.
The considerations presented here have helped me establish a healthy balance between my job responsibilities and my need for downtime, though undoubtedly others will be added as my circumstances evolve. Balance isn’t always 50/50, and a successful teleworker always seeks to improve the relationship between professional obligations and goals, personal pursuits and desires.
Lea Green is the social media content manager at PGi and telecommutes regularly. She writes for the PGi blog and is passionate about creative writing, collaborative communications technologies, and improving our planet’s well-being. E-mail Green or follow her on Twitter @lelainey.