When I began working from home about 18 years ago, I hated the feeling that I could never really leave the office. It seemed like one incredibly long work day punctuated by meals and sleep!
Enduring a long commute in rush hour traffic seemed a small price to pay to have that one glorious moment of walking out of the office and away from work! After 8+ hours, haven’t we earned the right to run out of the office shouting, “Freeedooom!” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart? Oh, I missed that.
After learning the disastrous effects of not having any dividing line between home life and work life, I eventually created some routines around the end of my work day.
Here are 4 things I like to do before leaving the office each day:
1. Look at the next day’s schedule. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your desk first thing in the morning and realizing that you’re not prepared for an 8:30 a.m. conference call. Take a peek at your schedule for the following day, and make sure that you have preparations completed for any upcoming meetings. For those of us who are parents, this may include making sure you review family obligations as well. A Google or other online calendar is like gold for working parents! Many times, a school or sports online calendar can be synced with a Google calendar or another calendar app like Cozi.
2. Create tomorrow’s must-do list. Resist the urge to write a to-do list masterpiece. Now is not the time for that! Think about what you accomplished today. Think about what meetings and deadlines are in front of you for tomorrow and the following days. Pick 3 –5 key things that must be accomplished tomorrow to stay on track. Leave yourself that must-do list for the next day. It should fit on a post-it!
3. Take a quick spin through email. Responding promptly and consistently is important for us work-at-home types. Our faces are not visible every day to our clients and employers, so it is even more important to be a good e-citizen. You don’t want anyone wondering if working from home really is code for “binging on Netflix” all afternoon. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do my best to respond within one business day. Could you quickly answer anything left answered? If so, get those out of the way in your last 30 minutes in the office. For those emails requiring a more in-depth response, send a note back saying, “Let me check into this further and I’ll get back to you before Wednesday.”
Don’t forget to add any emails you’re dealing with later to your ongoing to-do list (not to be confused with #2 above).
4. Shut down your computer and close the door. I hope for your sake that you have an office space with a door. I have found that it is necessary for my productivity. Although it still isn’t quite the same as leaving the office, there is some definite satisfaction in closing that door behind me in the evening. I turn off my light, shut down my computer, close the door and begin my short, evening commute down the steps into my kitchen.
This step makes it more difficult to inadvertently slip back into work mode. There are definitely nights when it is necessary to intentionally go back into the office, but there are fewer blurred lines between home and work when I really leavework each day.
How about you? What is your end-of-day routine? What helps you create boundaries around your home life? Do you secretly miss leaving work every day?