With communication technologies constantly at your fingertips, it’s not always easy to keep your professional and private lives separate. This is especially true when you factor in social media and the many different ways you communicate with co-workers, clients, friends, and family members.
Still, it’s important to draw some distinctions between your personal and your professional lives. “Leaving your work at the office” may no longer mean that your work belongs in one tangible place and your personal life belongs in another, but boundaries between your work and your personal life will mean a reduction in stress, fatigue, loss of sleep, and even strained relationships.
What can you do to walk this line? Here are five tips to help you.
Use Your Calendar
Even if you work from home, you can draw distinctions between your personal and professional lives by scheduling time for all of your activities in your calendar. People run into trouble when they’re trying to juggle personal and professional tasks at the same time. Avoid this problem by blocking out specific chunks of time for specific activities. Your two lives will both thrive when you allocate quality time for each. You’ll have to hold those times sacred – it’s easy to let other “necessities” creep into your calendar.
Separate Your Social Media
Managing all of your personal and business contacts on one social media account can lead to sticky situations. Your friends and neighbors may not be interested in the research study you just read, and your professional colleagues may feel that you’re wasting their time with the video of your nephew’s Little League game.
A simple way to handle this problem is to create different social media accounts for different purposes. Facebook is usually good for casual, personal communication, and LinkedIn and Twitter cater more to professional crowds. Set up your accounts with a specific audience in mind, and be consistent with the way you use them.
In spite of what most of us think, it’s not really possible for your brain to handle more than one task at a time. In other words, if you’re chatting with someone online while you’re supposed to be participating in a meeting, or if you’re checking your work emails on your phone while you’re supposed to be eating dinner with you’re family, you’re not really “tasking” at all.
Focusing on one task or activity at a time is a great way to mentally separate your personal and professional lives. Give each task the courtesy of your full attention, and you’ll find that your output becomes better quality in every aspect of your life.
Consider Making Changes to Your Email
Email can drop bombs on both your personal and professional time if you don’t take control of it. It’s all too easy to get distracted from your professional or personal time by an email or even just an email notification that comes in when you’re “off duty.”
There are several ways to handle this blurring of lines. Some people create entirely separate email accounts for their professional and personal lives. Other people create folders within their email accounts so that their professional and personal emails can be automatically sorted.
Another way to tame the email beast is to use team-based project management systems like Basecamp to manage many of the professional emails you are daily bombarded with. With a project management system, you can keep much of your professional life squared away in one place. Also, how many of us use productivity apps to help us organize our time better? Have you ever considered creating your own app? This post by Cloudwards provides some excellent information on do-it-yourself app-making software, and who knows, you just might find a whole new career opportunity!
Any time you try to change or create habits, it’s important to set aside time to review your progress and make adjustments. In your quest to create some separation between your professional and personal lives, set aside some time once a week to review what’s working well and what needs changing.
Even taking one of these five steps can help you to draw a small dividing line between the different facets of your life, and in drawing that line, you’ll find some freedom.
Paul Terry is principal at Paul Terry Consulting Group, a firm that specializes helping people navigate their careers by increasing their capacity to align their skills and interests with the business needs. Visit www.paulterryconsultnggroup.com for more information.