The Most Important Conversation I’ve Had About My Business Ever

important-conversations-everIn my last post, I had mentioned that I wanted to tell you what my favorite infomercial was and dissect it so we can all learn about why it’s successful. Well, I decided to change things up a bit because a few nights ago, my wife and I had what was probably one of the most important conversations ever, and it’s directly related to what I do online. This message that I want to share with you, which came as a result of our discussion, is more important than any infomercial tactic, blogging tip or online business strategy that I could possibly offer.

(And in case you are wondering, the infomercial was P90X.)

The Issue

The subject of our discussion was my work schedule. The problem was: I didn’t have one.

As someone who has been somewhat successful online thus far earning a passive income, I do have the ability to work less hours, and if I really wanted to, not work at all. However, having this freedom to work whenever I want has put negative thoughts in my head about adhering to an actual schedule.

Why would I want to “force” myself to a schedule and work during specific hours of the day, when I have the freedom to work whenever I want?

I now know the answer.

The Problems

There were a few problems with the lifestyle I was living prior to this life-changing conversation:

1. It was hard to decipher when I was working, and when I was not.

Because I wasn’t on a schedule, it was often hard for my wife to know exactly when I was busy, and when I was not. Sometimes I’d be in my office doing work related things, and sometimes I’d be in my office doing non-work related things. If she wanted to talk about something, or needed some help with the baby, sometimes I’d be in the middle of something important, and sometimes I wouldn’t. It was tough for both of us.

2. Work was never “done” for the day.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, working from home is tough. It takes a lot of discipline to really clear your head of work-related items when you’re not working, because those work-related items can so easily be done at any time of the day.

Although my current income streams only require just a few hours of work per week, I spend a lot of my extra/free time working on new projects to diversify and expand my passive income portfolio. Because of this, I feel like I could always do more work. And that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

I compare it to a piece of artwork, or a painting – how do you ever know when it’s finished? It just seems like there’s always more you can do to make it better.

Not having a schedule made it really hard for me to stop.

3. Randomness.

Not adhering to a schedule = total randomness.

This is a tough one, because a lot of us want to break free from that 9 to 5 schedule where it seems like everyday is exactly the same (I was there not too long ago). But at the same time, it’s that schedule that keeps a lot of our lives sane and less chaotic.

With a different schedule every day of the month, you can imagine how hard it was for my family and friends to understand when I was available, or when it was okay to plan certain things that may involve me one way or another. Now, especially with a baby in the house, sticking to a schedule is more important than ever.

The Solution

My wife and I (civilly) came up with a solution for this dilemma. It’s basically a two part solution:

  1. Create a schedule
  2. Separate work stuff from non-work stuff

Creating a Schedule

It was obvious that I needed to create a schedule, again not only for my wife’s sake, but for my own as well. Both she and I would then have a clear understanding of when I am working and unavailable (except for Emergencies, obviously), and not working.

Before creating a schedule, I gave myself some guidelines:

  • I didn’t want a straight 9 to 5 schedule.
  • I wanted a long lunch.
  • I wanted to allocate time on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night to write blog posts for SPI, since I know that’s when I write my best material.
  • I want the schedule to be flexible, meaning I could trade time here and there throughout the week.

The nice thing is that if I don’t have anything to work on, I could really easily just scrap those hours for the day and not worry about it. However, if I do have work to do, we all know exactly when that work is supposed to happen.

Separating Work Stuff from Non-Work Stuff

How many times during the day are you actually working when you’re supposed to? Probably not as much as you should.

I wasn’t.

In fact, after literally keeping track of everything I did during a normal day, I noticed some rather disturbing issues, especially when it came to checking my emails, checking website stats, opening my Facebook account (personal, not the fan page), and reading the news.

Basically, I did a lot of non-work related things when I was supposed to be working. On the flip side, I was working (or thinking about work), when I probably shouldn’t have been.

So, how did we solve this problem?

It may sound a little odd to you, but I purchased a new MacBook Pro laptop computer.

Here’s why (and no, it wasn’t because I wanted a new laptop. That wasn’t even on my mind until this came up):

The computer in my office (an iMac) is where I did everything, including all of those personal things. It was hard for me personally to keep those things totally separate. By buying a laptop that is specifically just for personal, non-work related items, I can more easily focus on work when I’m supposed to work, and not be tempted to work when I’m doing personal stuff.

Furthermore, because the laptop is portable, I can literally separate work from non-work stuff by keeping the office and the computer in it off limits during non-work hours.

I deleted all of my personal email accounts from my mail client on my work computer. I imported all of my personal bookmarks and files into the laptop, and deleted them from the iMac. All of my instant messaging and chat software (excluding Skype, which I use for business only), has been transferred as well.

In the past couple days, living with this new setup, I’ve begun to notice major changes in my life, both in how much work I’m actually able to get done, as well as how I feel when work is “done” for the day. I’m more able to enjoy time I spend not working, and life just seems that much better now.

My Final Thoughts

I’m really glad my wife and I had this discussion, and I think it’s one that everyone should have because it’s really easy for work-related things to get out of hand, making us forget sometimes why we’re really working in the first place.

And even if you’re single, it’s important to understand these principles too. Especially when it comes to knowing when work is done, so you can really enjoy your time to play.

If you do any kind of work from home, do you work on a schedule? How do you make sure you keep business and non-business related things separate?

Thanks you so much for your support, and I hope you found this post valuable as a blogger, entrepreneur, employee, husband, wife, or person.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Pat,

    I have an excel s/sheet with an editorial calendar. I use this to plan all my main to-do during the weeks.

    Like you, my ‘work day’ goes from 6am to 12pm with many pit stops in between. But having the s/sheet keep me focused. I know what needs to be done and by when – it helps prioritize and backsliding.

    Finally, as a small biz owner it’s hard to completely switch off. One way I do this is swimming. It really clears the cobwebs. I used to go walking/jogging but the temptation to check the phone is always there…

    Sometimes you have to switch off. Otherwise the little ol’ brain turns to goo.
    Glad that things are working out. Looks like you have the ‘problems’ most people aspire to :)

    Ivan

    • Pat

      Thanks for your comment, Ivan. It seems like a lot of people experience the same type of stuff, and it’s no wonder, because us entrepreneurs and small business owners are constantly thinking about our businesses.

      Right now, I’m using my iCal calendar to setup my schedule. So far, it’s been working out great and so far, I’ve been able to “turn things off” fairly well.

      And yea, the phone IS always there too. Gotta stay focused!

  • http://www.healthydonating.com Tom

    Well, after being a reader of your blog for several months, I was under the impression that you MUST have had some kind of time schedule you strictly adhere to. (i.e. I have enjoyed it so much). Now let’s brace ourselves for extremely valuable content is to come soon. :)

    • Pat

      Hey Tom, I know a lot of people have told me that too, but nope – it was all randomness pretty much, although I was getting a lot done. I think now, with this schedule in place, I can get even more things done, because my focus is where it should be, and I should be a happier person too.

      Cheers!

  • http://tootable.com Liam Campbell

    Pat,
    Thanks for this post. I find myself in the same position… there’s always work to do and my laptop is used for work and play. There’s also now a lot of crossover with Facebook and other social media b/w work and the personal. Great idea to try and separate the two as much as possible.
    The other problem I find is while researching a specific thing for a job, I am often fascinated by some new program or website and can’t help but convince myself I’m doing R&D (which I guess I am), but it’s a distraction from that specific piece of information I’m looking for. This is a relatively recent problem for me and I think it’s something a lot of people encounter who have a variety of interests and spend time researching on social media sites.
    Any ideas that help us to focus on the work at hand are always helpful.
    Thanks for the post and keep up the good work (when you’re supposed to).
    Liam

    • Pat

      Oh yes, the whole crossover thing with stuff like Facebook and Twitter – it’s hard to delineate clear boundaries. Also, good point about the “R&D” excuse, which I find I’m using all the time as well. Especially with how fast technology and things on the internet are changing, it’s hard not to get caught up. Thanks, and all the best to you!

  • http://livingyourbalance.blogspot.com Tammy

    I hear you Pat.

    This has been my down fall for everything I have done.

    I have the same sort of schedule as you now. I only have one time frame locked in and thats my articles that ive been posting on my facebook fan page at 8pm every night.

    I schedule things that have to be done durring that week and Tues, Weds and Thurs are the days I do the most work as these are the days my 4yr old is at daycare. So when he is home we spend more time together.

    I work later at night when my son is home and after dinner which is when my partner will spend some time with the kids. Its working out realy well. The point of all this work is to spend more time with my family, so working on the balance for the time being is a priority for us. My partner and I had the same discussion and this is where we are at right now.

    I work from my laptop so that all my work stuff is seperate. The home PC is used by everyone so thats where I do the fun stuff online, lol.

    Awesum post again. Its realy good to see that we can make changes when the reason is big enough, and our families are the reason we do what we do.

    Hope April is enjoying this new schedule too :)

    Cheers
    Tammy

    • Pat

      Hey Tammy! It sounds like you’ve had the same issues as me and you’re already on track to making sure you get things done at the appropriate time. Nice! Please let me know if you’ve found any other tips that might prove useful for our situation along the way. Cheers!

  • Bart

    This post definitely strikes a chord with me. Since I started to work on my own projects (aside from my full time job) I have had a difficult time relaxing simply because of the lack of separation between work and non-work time. It is a tricky exercise.

    I also would like to add that it isn’t easy to tell yourself “Work is done for today, it’s time to relax.”. When working for yourself, there’s always work and you are the one that can get it done.

    In the end, it is something everyone working for themselves should learn to master, otherwise, burnout is just around the corner (not immediately, but eventually).

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Pat!

    • Pat

      Anytime Bart – I definitely think you’re right, that in order to succeed and be happy working from home, time management and telling yourself when things are done is something that you should strive for and learn to master. Thanks again for the email about 1password and dropbox. So far, they’ve proven to be very useful, and I may write a blogpost about it too :)

      Cheers!

  • http://www.markcancellieri.com Mark Cancellieri

    Pat,

    Be sure to give us an update on how this works out in the longer run.

    I know in my own life I definitely could use better separation between the work I do for my blog and non-work. Separating my day job isn’t too difficult since I have an office job, and I refuse to bring work home.

    I really need to do a better job of “firewalling” my time and avoiding distractions.

    • Pat

      It’s really great that you refuse to bring your office work home with you. Now that i think about it, I had that problem as well, because we always had projects due and clients to get ready to present to, and things could always look better.

      I’ll definitely keep you updated on this and how it works out in the future. Thanks Mark!

  • http://www.list2closeassistant.com Serita Diana

    Great post Pat!
    To answer your question, yes, I have a schedule. There are times that I will shift work hours to later hours in the day due to personal things going on in my life, like a meeting at my kids school or their doctor appointments, but I do my best to adhere to the schedule I have set for myself. Maybe because it was drilled into me when I was in real estate, but flexibility is the key. That is the key difference between a 9 to 5 and working for yourself. I’m sure that once you start using your new schedule you will be even more productive than you are now. Good luck with it!
    Serita

    • Pat

      Hi Serita, I think you said it perfectly. The benefit or attraction to working for yourself should be the fact that we can be flexible with our schedule. But, we should still have schedules to be flexible with.

      Well said, thank you Serita!

  • Howie

    Just days away from marriage, this post came at the perfect time, Pat….I definitely have to forward this one on to Julie. Lately, there’s been a thin line between what is work and what isn’t work for me. There seems to be a whole art and science to product launch, and general marketing, that I definitely have spent alot of time, beyond actual product development, reading blogs, posting on forums (increasing post count=increasing familiarization and credibility by providing value to those forums)…..I could argue that all those things are really necessary, even when Julie just things I’m wasting time glued to the computer again…lol

    This post is definitely something we can learn from and apply as we move forward into marriage. Thanks Pat! :)

    • Pat

      Oh man! Just a few days left before the big day. Congrats again Howie! I remember what those days were like, because well, they weren’t that long ago, hehe.

      I’m glad this post was good for you, and I hope you and your fiancee may be able to avoid some issues down the road by talking about this type of stuff now.

      I know exactly how hard you work Howie :)

  • http://MyMobileAdventures.com Erin

    I am full time work-at-home for a large global corporation, and the smartest thing I ever did was dedicate an extra bedroom in my house to WORK ONLY. I can close the door and “leave work” every day – the symbolism of that really works in terms of disengaging. Like you, I have a “work computer” and a “home computer” and I don’t mix business and pleasure when it comes to online time. It really does work!

    Erin

    • Pat

      Great stuff, Erin. Thanks! Yeah being able to close the doors, so far, has been great. Even though I know my work computer is right there and I could go at anytime, just physically having a separate area for work only makes it easy to turn work off in my brain. Glad to know it works, even in the long term! Thanks Erin!

  • http://inventionaddict.com/blog/ Stephen Bozzone | Invention Addict

    Pat,

    Excellent post. I like the idea of a defined space for work inside the home.

    Lately my problem is procrastination. The last three days I planned to have a great deal of free time alone from distractions but I can’t seem to work on my MITs (most important tasks–see Zen Habits for explanation).

    Any tips?
    -Stephen

    • Pat

      Hmm, what are the things that you do instead of what you believe you should be doing? Depending on what those things are, you can find a way to put a stop to them (or set them aside), so you aren’t tempted to procrastinate or give yourself an excuse not to work on something.

      What also helps me fight procrastination is knowing what my goals are, and knowing that ever little step I take is one step closer to finally reaching that goal.

      If you’re issues are business related, my go-to quote for that is this: “Every day you don’t have something online for sale is a day of potential profits lost.” I’m sure you can rearrange that statement to fit any type of situation.

      Hope that helps! Anyone else have any procrastination busters?!

  • http://cashdoodle.com Dexter Ford

    Great post.
    As a freelancer who supplements his income with t-shirt sales, I also find it hard to determine when I’m ‘working” and when I’m not. Since so many of my RSS feeds are design inspiration sites, which I could look at all day, I find it hard draw a line. Is this research or entertainment?

    I’m not in a place yet where I can afford both a work and a personal laptop, but I think I’ll take a stab at translating your method to creating a separate work and personal profile on my Macbook, and switch to a different room when Im not working.

    • Pat

      Oh man, I know what you mean about look at design inspiration sites. I too could spend all day looking at them, and like you said, how do we define what is work, and what becomes just pure enjoyment. I think a separate profile will definitely help. I think a few people below have mentioned the same tactic.

      By the way, I’ve thought about doing t-shirts online before too, but heard it was a tough, competitive industry. Is that true, and how are things going for you? Any links you’d like to share for your stuff?

  • http://www.helmsleymedia.com Emmet

    Great point Pat. This is something I really struggle with, and causes me to lose sleep all the time. I find myself thinking about business ALL THE TIME, instead of just during “work” hours, because I have no set work hours. Us entrepreneurs tend to eat, sleep and breathe our businesses, so it’s tough to turn that off.

    The biggest challenge for me believe it or not is the fact that I am single, have no children and very few obligations in my life. As a result of this there is nothing forcing me to be disciplined with my time. Sometimes I miss the structure of a real job, but not that much ;-)

    • Pat

      I know what you mean, Emmet. I think you might have to create an environment that gives you the illusion that you have some sort of structured job, except that you’re just working at home. But yeah, it’s definitely a tough thing, and I’m glad you said it’s even harder because you’re single and don’t have those obligations to possibly stop you from thinking about business all of the time. I know a few single friends who struggle with the same thing.

      Good luck, and try not to work so hard!!! Hehe. Cheers!

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    Pat,

    I can see how the lines get blurred so easily but with the baby here now, it’s a change you made for the better. Just don’t get stuck with 9-5, ew, who wants that? ;) Have a nice breakfast with your family, and maybe adhere to a 11-2 schedule or something.

    I like how you purchased another laptop to differentiate the office work from personal work. Probably for the best.

    • Pat

      Hehe, yeah I know it’s all for the better, and like what someone above mentioned, the benefit of what I do working from home is the fact that I am able to have a flexible schedule, but I should still have one.

      Thanks again for your comments Moon, as always!

  • http://www.betterlearningbetterearning.com Steve | BetterLearningBetterEarning.com

    Pat,

    Right there with you friend. If you haven’t noticed, I have a full time job and can only do my blog work on evenings and weekends. To make it work well, and put the time in that building a high-traffic site needs, it takes many hours, as you know. I don’t want it to come at the expense of family relationships, friendships, and health.

    That’s why I’m chipping away here and there, as I can, on my site. Don’t think I’ll be able to get a MacBook Pro out of it though.

    • Pat

      Steve, sometimes it just takes a little bit here and there to really start to see results, but I’m glad to see that your working but not letting it have an impact on your family, friends and health, which should be the most important things in life.

      Although this isn’t totally related, did you ever hear about that person who died at their computer playing Second Life for 8 days straight? Unbelievable…

      • http://www.BetterLearningBetterEarning.com Steve

        No – didn’t hear about that guy who lost his life playing second life! Another way your could streamline your work is to use more guests posts. Have you seen how http://www.dumblittleman.com does it? Truly becomes passive when content creation is up to others as well. We both have some misgivings about it, but several A-listers are moving to this tye of arrangement.

  • http://ascenttofreedom.wordpress.com/ DJ Wetzel

    Hey Pat,

    I completely agree with the value of a totally separate work space (computer) for work and personal use. While everyone may not have the luxury of buying a brand new computer to separate these issues, many operating systems have user profiles. You can simply have a user profile for work and one for personal use. This is not ideal, but it could work if you are unable to simply purchase a brand new separate work space.

    You are also right on about blurring the work/personal lines at home. My wife has also brought up the face that since I work on a laptop, in our living room, with the tv on, there doesn’t seem to be much “work” going on. When in fact, I may be crafting a blog post, responding to comments, doing real research. So it is important to MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. If you are your family understand your schedule and know what to expect, all of your lives will be much more harmonious.

    • Pat

      DJ, great call on the user profiles. Since I have an actual separate workspace, I think I needed the new notebook, because a different user profile in the same workspace would help a little, but not enough in my situation.

      Also, great point about managing expectations. I think that’s a very important issue that all people should talk about with others, and figure out for themselves as well.

      Thanks dude!

  • http://www.realestatecareermentor.com Marty Green

    Interesting post Pat, a topic I have struggled with over the last 6 weeks or so. Here is my scenario…

    I work all day managing offices and a lot of bodies. Sometimes the pressure can be overwhelming. I come home from work exhausted, help my wife make dinner and crash hard and most nights would go to bed by 9pm. Keep in mind I’m up in Canada and it is really grey right now with the winter, so everyone feels lethargic.

    I try to work out when I get home, but most nights either I came home too late to work out or too hungry. I end up missing work outs and having less energy the next day. I fall back in to old habits of procrastination (which I hate).

    I would try to work a little bit each day on my website, but found it hard to put together an hour of quiet time to work at it. I knew I had to do something fairly drastic and this is what I have done…

    Every day I wake up at 6am. This is not a huge stretch for me as I normally would crawl out of bed at 7 anyways. From 6-7 is blocked time for me now. It’s in my calendar, in my phone scheduler and on my computer. I must do something between 6 and 7. No excuses. The house is quiet and this works well for me.

    So now I’m either writing something for my website or working out. The choice is mine, but I find alternating back and forth working well. I am a creature of habit and this is working for me. I do heavier work outs on the weekend with weights etc.

    I now have more energy, my mind is clearer. My coffee intake is down and I feel great. I am energized at the start of each day and can deal with whatever work throws at me and then some. I am starting to see results from my website as well. Sure I have a bad day here and there where I don’t get in a full hour. But I know those days are still better than the days before where nothing happened at all. My body and website are starting to look better. The key for me is time blocking.

    Oh and this morning, I did P90x plyometrics. Bring it! Haha, yeah I love those infomercials too!

    • Pat

      Marty, thanks for sharing your scenario. Isn’t is amazing what just an extra hour of work can do for us each day! And it’s great that you’re dedicating that extra hour to YOU and YOU only, which I think is very important.

      I’ve been doing these bootcamp classes at 24 hour fitness on Tuesday and Thursday, and they seriously almost make me throw up they are so good. LOL. I do feel like I have a LOT more energy now since I started going to these classes a few weeks ago, and they are a part of my schedule too.

      Love it. No excuses. Let’s get things done! Woot!

      Thanks Marty!

  • http://www.thegreenninja.org jen

    Thanks Pat. The problem with working from home is that you are always in your work space. I am facing some of the same struggles right now. I am working on my office space though, so that I can close the door at the end of the work day and leave the work there. I work strictly from a laptop computer, so I can carry the laptop with me into other rooms after my work is done and I want to play. It’s hard. Especially right now without an office. But I’m getting there!

    • Pat

      Hey Jen! Good to hear from you again!

      I’m doing the same thing – literally shutting the door to my office when I’m not supposed to be working. Before, I’d always be tempted just to walk through the doors to check email or facebook or something, but now with the doors closed, I remember that it’s not the right time.

      We’re both getting there! Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.ryanerisman.com Ryan Erisman

    Some good points Pat. I try to use time blocking…set a certain amount of time to work on a specific project or site and quit when its time.

    The laptop is a good idea, I do pretty much the same thing. However as a fairly new dad myself I must advise you, its a good idea to shut it and hang with the wife every now and then too. Even if it means suffering through Desperate Housewives or the Bachelor ;)

    • Pat

      Thanks for the reminder, Ryan. I know now that even though I’ve done my best to separate work from non-work stuff, I still have to balance the non-work stuff as well. Luckily, my wife and I are on the same Wavelength as far as TV goes:

      -Lost on Tuesdays
      -Modern Family on Wednesdays
      -Rented DVD on Thursday

      :)

      Thanks again!

  • http://www.carellistudios.com Mike

    What I’ve started doing and found really works is:

    -The day before, decide which 5 tasks if completed would make a very successful day
    -Then take those 5 tasks and number them 1-5 so that you’re mind already gets in the process of working on them
    -Schedule them in your calendar if possible
    -Then work as fast as you can to complete those 5 tasks
    -Once completed, you tell yourself that you’re done for the day

    Its amazing how at the end of the day, I now can congratulate myself for working and completing the most critical tasks. Otherwise the lists can just go on and on!

    p.s. I’m hoping the ipad will create the same work/personal seperation that you created with the macbook

    Cheers

    • Pat

      Thanks Mike, this is great advice. I was looking into the iPad too, and I may pick one up for the same reasons, and to investigate potentially developing something cool on it. I already have some ideas.

      Thanks again!

  • Adam

    It is always better to remember that pareto principle.Facebook,emails,twitter ….find the 20 percent that brings 80 percent of results and have them in your mind all day.That is what matters and that is what is required especially for people working online from home.

    • Pat

      Thanks Adam. In fact, I’m reading the 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch right now, so I can get even more done.

      “Starve the horses, and feed the stallions.”

  • http://sarahhallphotography.wordpress.com/ Sarah H.

    Great post! This is an important issue in our house too since we have a similar situation (my husband works at home and we have a new baby). I love your idea about separating your 2 computers, work and non-work. Creating your own schedule is definitely hard work! ;)

    • Pat

      Thanks Sarah! How are you and the new baby doing? Hope all is well!

  • http://www.jewelry-secrets.com Jewelry Secrets

    Seems like you hit a nerve with this post. It does seem like work and personal mix way too much. People ask me how much I work and it feels like I’m working 24/7. But, that’s because I don’t set aside any schedule to work and anytime to play. It’s all just one big mix of plork. Like now for example, I’m reading and leaving a comment on your blog, while my post is waiting for me to finish… It’s so easy to get distracted. Especially since what we do is online and so is everything else. Get us away from the computer, then you would get some production. But then again, you wouldn’t make any money either. I hope your schedule works well for you. We’ll be watching…

    • Pat

      It is REALLY easy to get distracted, like you said. I think we’re all still learning about what works best for us, and using good examples from others as well. Even through we’ve found a solution, we’re always striving to make things better and more productive, so we can ultimately live a happier lifestyle, which is really what working so hard is all bout, right?

  • http://www.ingresosalcuadrado.com Franck

    You’re a wise man Pat. Maybe, you should put a top on your earning/month, and once reached relax and enjoy your time. Write Tim Ferris’ life principles in your white board or post them on a wall. Have them always visible

    • Pat

      Great suggestion, Franck. I have a corkboard right by my computer that I may utilize just for that. Thanks!

  • http://www.idrawdigital.com Drezz

    I’m glad you’ve started on the path to dividing your personal life from business. A large majority of people who work from home suffer from the inability to disconnect from their work. It can lead to a huge strain on your marriage and other aspects of your personal life. I’ve been a strong advocate of keeping work “at work” and your personal life on your personal time.

    It doesn’t work for everyone, but in your case, you have to make it work, since your office is integrated into your home – which is your sacred space. The minute that work life begins to creep into your personal space, you’re going to be in a world of trouble.

    My boss couldn’t discern between home time and business time, and worked while he was at home and went as far as building a luxury office for staff connected to his home. He claimed it was for efficiency and comfort. It was a disaster. His wife left him for one of the staff, he was forced to sell the lavish home/office, and he’s only now starting to get back on track.

    That’s a worst-case scenario, but its a fine example of why you need that separation. Bringing that work mentality into the home can lead to disaster. I know first-hand – my wife is a teacher and is constantly working after school hours. It puts a tremendous strain on our relationship. I’d hate to see that happen to you and your wife.

    Once you close the door, that’s it for the day.

    • Pat

      I’m glad we had this discussion early, before anything drastic happened. And you’re right, I pretty much have no choice because I do work in my own space at home.

      Sorry to hear about your boss, that’s just a terrible story that I’m sure isn’t all that uncommon actually. Thanks for the encouragement and support, Drezz. If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know. Thanks! Cheers!

  • http://hotblogtips.com Keith

    I struggle with this as well, working from home has been great to me in many ways, but I am a workaholic and can’t seem to say when the workday is, or should be, done. Luckily, I live alone and I can be selfish about it, so when I fell I am getting burned out, I take some time off…

    • Pat

      Keith. I think you and I are the same type of person, because I consider myself a workaholic too. But yeah, since you live alone, you can just take time off if you want, but do you think that by living at home, you may be working too hard and not even knowing it? Someone who commented above was talking about the same thing – not having obligations that could help you control how much you work.

      All the best to you Keith. Thanks!

  • http://www.moneycrush.com Jackie

    My basic schedule is this: Start work between 4:30 and 5:30am and work until 5:45am. Leave for my job shortly before 6am. Work on my stuff for all or part of my lunch hour, and then again for at least 4 hours (often from 3pm-7pm). If there are family plans or things I need to do to help out my son or husband, those take priority and I just get less sleep. Weekends are flexible but I usually take one entire day off.

    • Pat

      Sounds like a good schedule, Jackie – although it’s much too early for my blood, hehe! I like to keep the weekends free as well, except if I have to catch up on anything, and of course my Sunday night blog posts.

      Cheers!

  • http://www.webbizfinance.com Tyler WebCPA

    Nothing like the wife to bring a little order out of chaos, eh? I am just as much on a schedule when I work from home as from the office, but I am not nearly as far along as Pat. Maybe when I buy a new computer?

    • Pat

      She is indeed my support system, and keeps me in check at times. Cheers dude!

  • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

    I have placed myself on a schedule to work only during daylight hours. When the sun goes down the laptop gets shut off. No ifs ands or buts.

    “Working” to long I found that I was doing more wheel spinning than actual work.

    • Pat

      Great point, Ms. Freeman. For many people, after a certain amount of work, work doesn’t become productive anymore. The time varies for many (I work really well at night), but it’s important to realize and understand when this happens. Thanks!

  • http://www.chezfat.blogspot.com Brian

    Hey Pat, this is so important. I haven’t had a conversation with the wife about this but I always try to focus soley on the biz during obvious non-personal times… like when she’s at work or when everyone is asleep in the morning or evening. This keeps me grounded and focused on the family.

    If I ever drop the day job then things might have to get more formal but I always make sure to keep the personal time the number one priority unless I’m by myself… then it’s all business. :)

    • Pat

      Thanks Brian! Indeed, when the wife is out and I’m all by myself, then I really make sure to crank things out as much as possible. It’s not that I can’t do work when she is home, it’s just I want to make good use of quiet time in the house when I know I won’t get disturbed. True that!

  • http://www.rodolforodarte.com Rudy

    Good system, Pat. I have a similar set up with an iMac that is just used for music and video(fun stuff). My Dell Studio laptop is where I do design and coding work, so if I am using my laptop, chances are I am in the zone, or at least trying to get there. Are you using any type of solution to keep any files in sync between the two machines? Or is it total isolation between the two?

    • Pat

      Nice Rudy, it sounds like your system is working well for you. It’s the opposite for me though, the mobile device (macbook) is the personal stuff, and the iMac is the work stuff. I don’t think one way is better than the other, but you can take work with you really easily if you wanted to, plus you can play games on your iMac which has a larger screen, hehe! For me, I can be on my lappy downstairs or whereever and not worry about work then too.

      Right now, it’s not TOTAL isolation, and I use dropbox (http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/go/dropbox/) to share files if I need to. It’s been working out ok so far. I’ve investigated MobileMe, but I think I like DB better.

  • http://www.alliedtime.com/ Roger

    Pat, I just use a notebook that I carry in my work bag. I write down my daily to dos the night before, organize them and cross them off after its been completed. This keeps me on track throughout the day, and makes sure that all my “vital” work is completed.

    • Pat

      Good stuff Roger. For a while I used to write down my to-dos the night before, but I’ve learned that it’s tough to 1) gauge how much can be done in one day, and 2) try and finish everything on the to-do. So lately, I’ve just been creating to-do lists for various projects and finishing them as I go, without holding myself accountable for finishing a particular task in a certain day. This way, I don’t get bummed if I see that something I meant to do wasn’t done, and I’m not tempted to go back to it when I’m not supposed to.

      If you are good at gauging how much work you could do though, then writing down your to-dos like you do is great!

  • http://www.colbycheeze.com Colbycheeze

    I totally agree with this. I have been more and more scheduling time to do certain work / non work related things. My focus has been on increased productivity, rather than the personal situation that you have, however I think it ties together.

    It’s good to hear that you and your wife are doing well and adjusting to your new lifestyle. I wish you two the best, and look forward to seeing you grow in success!

    • Pat

      Yeah dude, I think you make a great point – productivity. I think it’s super important to be as productive as possible when you do want to get things done. Those little minutes of inefficiencies totally add up.

      Thanks Colby, and I wish you all the best!

  • http://www.makemoneyontheinternet.com Chris Guthrie

    Hey Pat, I gotta be honest that I was hoping for a solution you came up with that would apply to my situation as well and sadly I don’t think this will work. I have a command center in my office:

    http://www.makemoneyontheinternet.com/the-command-center-is-better-than-dual-monitors/

    And I use the 3 screens both to work and play Xbox on so that I can leave the living room TV open in case my wife wants to watch a stupid show like biggest loser (2 hours long seriously? I’d rather just work out for 2 hours than watch people work out).

    So my problem remains – having work / personal life done in the same room. I gotta rethink how I can get enough work done in the day but I do constantly struggle with figuring out how best to balance the work / life schedule.

    • Pat

      Hey Chris, sorry that my solution doesn’t work out for you, but it’s all about creating an environment that helps you live how you want to live. It seems like it will be a tough job for you to figure out how to balance out work / life with your current setup, even though it looks pretty awesome.

      Wishing you the best. Cheers!

  • http://www.building-character.net Meredith

    Yep Pat… this is all too familiar in my home. I started my blog last December – and I’m pretty much still in the honeymoon phase with it – I check my stats all the time – constantly thinking about what’s next – still learning what it takes to build and maintain a successful blog. And this isn’t even my day job!

    And I’m gearing up to build another one – one that is related to my day job…

    I figured out that it was time to separate (although not entirely – because some of my various lives live in harmony) and prioritize my work life, my blog life, my family life, and my own life. I like your idea of a separate computer for non-work time – but that’s not in the cards for me right now. I’m just practicing using my calendar. It actually takes a lot of work – but when I get around to planning my time and sticking to it, I feel more accomplished, and my family benefits from having me present.

    That’s really what it’s all about.

    • Pat

      Yeah, the stat checking thing gets me too, although I’m getting better at understanding that checking stats is more entertainment, because doing so doesn’t make my business or blog any better than it was before I checked the stats, for the most part. Of course, it’s nice to keep track ever once and a while for progression and for motivation, but I was checking sometimes 10+ times each day before, because it only takes a second, which turns into a few minutes – but those minutes definitely add up.

  • http://evengrounds.com/blog Julius

    I realized through this post that a good work schedule not only benefits me but the important people in my life as well. Thanks for pointing that out. Also, I do most of my work at home, and I made a schedule wherein I work in the morning, do personal things in the afternoon, and spend a few more hours working at night. So far it has been okay, but after seeing many ideas in your post, I am thinking of improving my work schedule.

    • Pat

      Hey Julius, I think there’s always room for improvement, no matter how well you think things may be working out. And you’re absolutely right, it’s just as much about the other people in our lives as it is about ourselves.

      Any thoughts on exactly how to improve your particular work schedule, or what approach your going to take?

  • http://spanglishbaby.com Ana Lilian

    I’m so happy I read your post today. I really needed it. I’ve been feeling antsy and nervous because I feel like I’m always busy, but never accomplishing. I hate the feeling of not taking care of myself because there’s always something to do. I’m sure it just boils down to me not being organized. I’ve tried it tons of times, but I have a hard time sticking to it. Especially since my time revolves around my 2 YO’s schedule.
    I like your idea of the macbook. I already have that set up, but I like your idea of completely separating both.
    Thanks!

    • Pat

      Hey Ana, I know what you mean about having to work around your child’s schedule, at least at this very young age. My wife and I had to adjust our entire sleeping schedule to match our sons sleeping pattern. It’s hard work, and staying organized does help, but remembering exactly why we’re working so hard helps me keep going with it. All the best to you!

  • http://www.seorankings.com Wesley LeFebvre

    HI Pat,
    Good stuff. I definitely feel my personal relationships suffer because I too work full-time from home. I am rarely “off”, and when I’m “on” often time I’m working on “off” stuff. I really need to create a schedule too and stick to it.

    I’m not a Mac guys, so I’ll have to come up with another solution, rather than using yours. :) It think it’s a good idea though!

    Best,

    • Pat

      Hey Wesley, it sounds like you’re just like I was, exactly. What about just a separate laptop, or like other people said, just a separate, personal profile/user on your existing computer?

      • http://www.seorankings.com Wesley LeFebvre

        Yeah, I like the separate laptop idea. Good tip!

  • http://www.upgradereality.com Diggy

    Heya Pat,
    This is so true man!I also work from home full time and I don’t really have a schedule. Sometimes I wake up and spend the entire day in front of the computer. IT is indeed like you say though, I always feel like I can do something more. But a lot of wasted time (like checking facebook and skype) creeps in my work time. And sometimes when I want to take time off I get inspired to work because my office is right there. My only schedule is that I take Saturday and Sunday off completely. Mon-fri I spend as much time working on my things as possible.

    Good for you that you chose a schedule!
    Cheers!
    Diggy

    • Pat

      Hey Diggy. I think it’s good that at least you are disciplined enough to give yourself the entire weekend off, because a lot of people can’t seem to do that either when mixing up their work and personal lives. Are you okay with the way things are for you now as far as schedule and stuff? If you are then you don’t really have an issue :)

  • http://sidsavara.com Sid Savara

    Hey Pat,

    I do the same thing – I have a separate work laptop, a separate “blogging” laptop and a separate “just for fun” laptop.

    I also have an ebook reader for the same purpose, I only put ebooks on there that I use to learn things that I can apply to my life – and my casual reading I do via RSS feeds, at my computer, or physical books. For me those little physical differences are really powerful.

    • Pat

      Nice, good stuff Sid! What device do you use for an eBook reader – a Kindle or something of that sorts? Any temptation to possibly get an ipad in the future?

      Thanks!

  • Ben C

    I was just thinking about this type of issue today and how I could change it. I work full-time as a software developer and then come home and work on my own software/web/geekdom stuff for another 5-8 hours a night. Productivity at my full-time job has slipped a bit for reasons you mentioned, checking webstats, social sites, and even working on personal projects. To make matters worse, I have a pretty flexible job in terms of hours, as in I usually show up anywhere from 8-11 daily and that time is usually a function of how long I was up the night before working on personal stuff. Since personal and work stuff have been meshing together lately, the word randomness has certainly come into play and that has had a negative impact on production. Showing up in the morning at a different time everyday also leads to more randomness. When it comes down to it, it’s all about a schedule and being as productive as you can with the time you have allotted yourself. Once the timer has gone off on one portion of your schedule, move on to the next. Damn that sounds so much easier than it’s going to be.

    Thanks for the ideas and inspiration, just what I was looking for.

    • Pat

      Hey Ben, I’m glad this post has been able to inspire you to hopefully make some changes productivity-wise for what you do. It seems like you have a lot of time to do some really great things during the day, it would seem like a waste to finish a day off with not very much accomplished, which is what I’ve been feeling every once and a while because of the whole randomness thing. Some randomness is necessary, I think, but for some things like work and keeping a balanced life, randomness shouldn’t take over everything.

      Thanks for the insight dude! Cheers!

  • http://beanoriginal.net Lodewijk

    It doesn’t happen that often anymore that I read (really read) a post non-stop from start to finish, but I did with this one. I recognized so many things, and some of your insights have been creeping up on me lately too. But to see them all together really gives an insight in the problem mess. And the realization that I’m in the middle of all of this too.

    I’m in the situation where I’m working for an employer (part-time), I’m working on the start-ups (with different people), blogging for myself and also (very much) being actively involved with my family (besides my wife also a 9-mo old baby and 3-yr old toddler). This not only leads to cross-overs between private time and work time, but also between one activity and the other.

    Thanks, I’ll be investigating how your solutions might help me as well.

    • Pat

      Hi Lodewijk,

      Wow, what a great compliment. Thank you!

      Sounds like you’ve got a lot of great things going on, with the potential to have a number of different projects take off for you. I like that, as I feel I’m in the same boat. So definitely organizing the structure of things and our schedules would help us get more done, and have more time for family as well. I’ll definitely keep everyone updated. Thanks!

      All the best to you!

  • http://poweredbyintuition.wordpress.com/ Angela Artemis

    Pat, thanks for your post today. I couldn’t be more timely. Yesterday, I received a last minute dinner invitation, that I declined because I was behind on posts for my blogs. While I did finish one post last night – I couldn’t help but feel that I’d cheated myself out of nice evening. I’m experiencing the same dilemma in that my friends and family don’t know when it’s okay to call, since I don’t have a set work schedule either. I have a full time job that I’m able to work from home plus the blogging, and of course all the other responsibilities aside from work. I think I am going to have to create a schedule – and stick to it. Thanks for making me see that.

    • Pat

      I’m glad I could time it well for you, Angela. I know how you feel about saying no to things you really want to do to get things like work done. I’ve been there many times, especially when I was working my 9 to 5 job which required so much extra work beyond just a normal 40 hour work week. While working from home, we have the ability to work a flexible schedule, which we should use to our advantage to do the things we want, but we often don’t because there can always be more work to do.

      Thanks for the insight, and best of luck to you with everything! Cheers!

  • http://itarsenal.com Robert

    Pat, awesome reflections here. I’ve had this epiphany hit me several times before. Especially the “works never done” trap. Schedules are good NOT evil, even though I get the vibe sometimes they’re going out of style. I run my day through a pretty solid system that hinges on using a calendar. I wrote a thorough post on it if you’re interested: http://thelifedesignproject.com/the-workflow-of-work/

    The blog is killer lately, great work.

    • Pat

      Thanks Robert, I appreciate your kind words.

      And thanks for the link too. I’ll check it out right now, and I encourage others to do the same! I don’t think there’s such thing as learning too much about how to make our lives better and more organized.

      Thanks!

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  • http://www.mywritingexperiment.com/ Travis

    Very good post, Pat. It’s all about balance. It is definitely tough to find the right balance. I am struggling with that myself as I divide my time between my full-time job and side business…leaving no time for R&R. Thanks for these tips…I should probably start scheduling some fun time for myself!

    • Pat

      Hey Travis! Definitely schedule some fun time for yourself. For some though, like me, it was hard at first because doing business online and blogging is fun for me, but it should be in the work category, at least in my situation.

      All the best, Travis! Thanks!

  • Shaun

    Hey Pat, just thought you’d like to know this article was linked to from lifehacker and made one of their front pages posts. Heres the link to what they said. http://lifehacker.com/5490459/use-two-computers-to-keep-your-work-and-home-life-totally-separate
    ~Shaun

    • Pat

      Oh wow! That’s awesome. Thanks Shaun! Tweeting this out right now :) Cheers!

      • Shaun

        Hey not a problem. Figured you would have noticed it on your stats eventually if there was a slight increase. Just quite an accomplishment I thought you should know about.

  • http://threefrogsdesign.com/blog/ Jenny

    Hi Pat, I’m new to your site and have been enjoying all your fabulous articles. Creating a schedule is a common solution, however, I never really thought about physically separating the activities on separate computers with limited capabilities and moving to a different environment. That’s a brilliant idea! The physical act automatically puts you in a different mind set. Thank you for this.

    • Pat

      Thanks for stopping by, Jenny, and I’m glad you’re enjoying my articles.

      Yeah, at least for someone like me, I need that physical separation in order to be fully, 100% vested in what I should be vested in at the time. It’s definitely a battle!

      Thanks again for stopping by the blog, and I hope to hear from you again soon! Cheers!

  • http://www.superawesomedating.com David

    Hi Pat,

    This is what I do, it might help you or someone reading this:
    I give a number to tasks I regularly do like 1-write content 2-link build 3-work out 4-attend toastmaster…and so on. All the numbers are related to tasks that need to be done to push my business, my websites, and myself further. I then take these numbers and write them down on a calender, like (making this up) tuesday is a 1 and 3 day, wedseday is a 1,3,4 day.

    So while I have no ridged structure like 9-5, every day I have it in my head that these are the tasks that need to be done, and i make sure to get them all square away before I go to bed. The advantage of this is it helps eliminate that “randomness” I know perfectly well what your talking about, as well as staying on task, as well as when knowing when your done for the day. Hope this helps, it works well for me.

    This blog is a fantastic resource, keep up the good work.

    • Pat

      Good stuff David, thanks for sharing your system.

      By the way, how do you like Toastmaster? I’ve been wanting to join a toastmaster’s group here in San Diego, but with the new baby haven’t been able to open up some free time for that quite yet.

  • http://www.ministertoyouth.com Allison

    You are a genius, Pat. This is great. Although I cannot implement all of the tips in your blog (I don’t really need to spend $1,200 on a new mac, no matter how much I want to justify it), I realize that I do need to set up a basic schedule and adhere to it.

    I have to say, it takes discipline to avoid checking your personal emails and Facebook between work items. Everyday is literally a battle to stay focused. How smart to eliminate the temptation altogether.

    • Pat

      Thanks Allison. I wouldn’t say I’m a genius though…hehe.

      It’s just all about figuring out what’s not working, and why it’s not working, and doing what you have to do to get to where you want to be. In this case, it was the environment and work setup that was the underlying problem.

      Thanks for your comment, and I hope to hear from you again soon! Thanks!

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  • http://www.ehow.com/members/writerighter-articles.html WriteRighter (Rick)

    This is an awesome post Pat! I can definitely relate because for me, I just started using Google “Tasks” through my gmail account, which stays on my desktop constantly so that I can keep focused and refrain from procrastinating, and it really, really does work. I’ve also found that the reason I would procrastinate so much was because of “information overload” when I would try to remember all my tasks without writing them down–HUGE mistake. Time management with focus and boundaries is definitely key.

  • http://www.bestmusicever.net Justin King

    I hit this exact same issue as well. With me it actually left me with severely strained eyes (like, taking a week off would not unstrain them) and complimentary pain. Why? I’d just keep working, and working, and working.

    I’ve since learned :) Scheduling!

  • http://www.nomorecompromise.com Richard @ No More Compromise

    This is an awesome post and one that really hits the nail on the head. While I have been running online businesses for almost a decade, I too really struggle with the work/play balance. If I am working on something I am really excited about (which is most of the time!) I can really struggle to switch off. I shall be re-reading your article again and hoping to pick up more tips here :-)

  • http://wearemicro.com Stella Stopfer

    I had the same problem, separating time for business from any other activity, for a long time. It seems like we never stop thinking about our blogs, businesses or unanswered posts on social networks. When you have a business, it’s not as easy to just switch off and don’t think about it.

    I tried to solve the problem by making a schedule, but it didn’t help much. Sometimes, I would do more planning then actually doing the stuff I needed to do. The real killer was that I usually never finished the work I planned for that day. Until I figured out a way to stay focused and do everything I had to do that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about my blogs and business when I was with my friends, running errands, etc.

    I think the most important thing to do is to decide what needs to be done each day (every day can be something different), and then be able to do focused work in chunks of time, not jump from one thing to the next all day long. But, if you can do that by scheduling, that is really great.

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  • http://www.funstuffdaily.com John

    It’s interesting, and in basics simple post, but yet effective. Creating daily schedule is really helpful.

  • http://www.cpamarketingcenter.com David Rachford

    Just found your blog via Glen over at Viperchill.com . Fantastic job, and I’ll be checking in regularly from now on. Continued success to you! You share fantastic content, and are an inspiration.

  • http://www.campusbyte.com Jay Willingham – CampusByte

    Pat,
    This is some great stuff. Many of my business decisions come out of discussion with my girlfriend or father-son talks. I like your system and plan to purchase a “personal” computer soon. Just need to graduate first ;)

    I would also like to find a place with an actual office. I’ll be moving in august and plan to find that if I can.

  • Eddie

    This is good advice. I came across your blog from Google…

    You might be interested to know that Paul Graham, a fairly well known programmer with a PhD in computer science, agrees with having a separate work and play computer.

    http://www.paulgraham.com/distraction.html

  • http://www.computerwerkswebsolutions.com San Diego SEO Company

    I agree that it is good to seperate your business from your personal life. That is if you are a small/large business owner. Having multiple account is fine but do remember how fast socail networking gets indexed. Use caution with what you are saying or doing on socail networks. If you think it is not worth it to say something then you should not do it.

  • http://www.crunchbase.com/person/tej-kohli Tej Kohli

    Great post Pat! A happy life is all about striking a balance between your personal and professional life. But, like everyone else, I’m myself struggling to find some ‘me’ time alone. However, your tips are quite useful, i should probably start working on it!

  • Jason

    Pat, you’re bang-on as usual.

    Separation of personal and work time/tasks is *critical* to long term success for work at home folks. A space with a door is a must have for working at home over a period of time. Besides separation of schedule and space, another important thing to do is to increase your exercise habits. You’ve touched on this in some previous posts, but I think it’s worth calling out. Specifically, the thing I find helpful is to do small shots of exercise and stretching periodically through the day. I started doing a couple minutes of stairs, then got a treadmill and now enjoy a short 2-5 minute jog every hour. Back in my office days I’d walk up the stairs to work, walk to meetings, walk to lunch, but when working at home all those small bits of exercise disappear. Since large tracts of time fly by while I’m working on something I enjoy, a tool I’ve found to help with this is the freeware “Kana Reminder” (I’m not in any way affiliated with the product), it’s convenient as you can schedule it to pop up, and auto pop-down after X minutes so you resist the temptation to resume work until the reminder closes itself.

    On a related note, if you can’t afford a separate computer you can still get some degree of separation by using separate work/personal web browser and email client, or by purchasing a second monitor if your system supports it and keeping work/personal divided across the monitors – turning off the one you’re not actively using.

    One last tip from a long time home office person: don’t slack on your personal hygiene… my running joke at first was “I’ve saved a ton of money on deodorant since working at home!”… it’s a small thing but I find it helps to put me in the work mindset in the morning to still go through the routine of shave/shower/fresh clothes.

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  • Samael

    The best one I’ve had was about a biometric time clock. The team was really excited about that.