This post is something I wrote a while back, but I thought I’d re-post because it had such a huge impact on me and my business. It’s a timeless lesson, really, and something I think we can all pull from and apply to our own lives. I updated a few sections, but other than that it’s as it was back then. I hope you enjoy!
Around 2010, my wife and I had what was probably one of the most conversations ever, and it’s directly related to what I do online. It’s a conversation that I will never forget because it had a lasting impact on my life as an online entrepreneur, but also on my life as a parent and a husband.
This is a conversation I had when our first child was just a baby. Because of this conversation, I’m able to be more focused on my work, and therefore very present and available to my kids, which means the world to me. It just goes to show how business lessons can apply and have such positive affect on our personal lives too!
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 fewer 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.
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.
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.
My wife and I (civilly) came up with a solution for this dilemma. It’s basically a two part solution:
- Create a schedule
- 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.
"I'm more able to enjoy time I spend not working, and life just seems that much better now."
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.
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 SPI 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.
Looking back on this now, I was making the small steps toward a mindful separation of my work life and my personal life. Today, I’ve taken this concept even further with an office dedicated to my work-related stuff only. When I’m in the office, I’m in work mode, and my family knows that. But when I’m not in the office, I can be totally present for my family, which is the best! I also, rather than spending my non-work time on my iMac, I now have my phone for non-work things. Check out my current home office setup in the photo below. For an even closer look, watch my office tour in SPI TV Ep. 2.
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?
Thank you so much for your support, and I hope you found this post valuable as a blogger, entrepreneur, employee, husband, wife, or person.