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WORK AT HOME? STRESSED OUT?

So you work at home - and you find yourself irritable, crying, easily upset, picked on by the husband, abused by your kids...or just plain exhausted all the time.

We had quite a discussion on the topic of those "blue days" on the WomenBiz list a few years back, and I thought it might be worth bringing up again, especially since being an entrepreneur is harder than any job you will ever work for someone else - and no one but other entrepreneurs really get that fact.

One thing we all came to realize, was that because we worked at home, we seemed to think it was acceptable to work 24/7 - while our 9 to 5 counterparts (friends, family and spouses) worked just that - 9 to 5! After a while, we were all in peril of becoming drones - working, taking care of our families needs, and then back to working before bed, and then slugging back to the computer first thing in the morning after the family was taken care of to do it all again.

A LOT of women said they were not getting much support from their spouses and kids - that because they worked at home, their spouses imagined it was a piece of cake - like we were all chit chatting on the comptuer all day and eating bon bons and having fun they did the REAL work. Their kids were interrupting them all day so they never got anything done. The stress of that alone is enough to make you crazy.

I am convinced that the amount of stress I withstood for many years working for myself as an Independant Contractor is the reason I came down with Fibromyalsia (an incapacitating condition which is made worse by stress) and I'd hate to see anyone else follow me down that path.

So ask yourself - when DO you put time aside for yourself? When was the last time you watched tv or just snuggled up with a good book - WITHOUT one eye on the computer or a stack of work papers?

What ARE your Work at Home Rules? Are they posted near your workspace so you can reinforce them in your mind daily?

I had to learn them the hard way (am still learning them, actually). I see a therapist because as a Type "A" personality, dealing with a condition that makes me a "Type F," LOL, is taking a LOT of getting used to. And I am my own worst enemy - I expect WAY too much of myself and have a hard time dealing with my limitations. So I have rules I look at to help me along. Here are some of my rules you might relate to - I'd love to hear yours.

MY ELEVEN WORK AT HOME RULES

  1. SET A WORKSPACE. Work in a single space that is THE Work Place. Working all over the house makes it too easy to work ALL the time, even when you are trying to relax (like when you are spending time with the family in front of the tv, for instance...)

  2. KEEP FAMILY INFORMED. Keep a "To Do" list, and as you think of things write them down - but more importantly, as you DO things write them down. You'd be surprised how much work you do that you aren't even aware of. And at the end of your work day - REVEIW it, and after you've asked the hubby "How was your day dear...", tell him briefly about YOUR day. He can't understand what he doesn't KNOW. Don't assume your family understands how hard you work, especially if you are the type who is quiet about how stressed you are. Children and husbands are pretty much "what you see is what you get" kind of entities - so if they don't hear from you how YOUR job is going, they won't understand!

  3. YOU NEED DOWNTIME. You MUST build some down time into your life, or you will actually begin to be less productive as time goes by. NEVER work while you eat. Read a book while you have lunch, and take a set number of minutes to have your lunch "hour". Plan a movie night once a week and go with ANYONE - just GO. Have a board game night with your kids once a week, and a romance night with your husband when you two go off and be by yourselves, take one evening a week and make it your "snuggle up with a good book" night - whatever, MAKE yourself have fun. The #1 question my therapist asks me is "What have you done for yourself this week?"

  4. HAVE SET BUSINESS DAYS AND HOURS. Now everyone works overtime once in a while for a special project, sometimes you just have to. But just because you sell over the web does not mean you have to be available 24/7. You don't expect your dry cleaner to answer his email on Sunday afternoon, so why should you feel you have to? Or if you find you get more work done on the weekends, then make sure you take another day or two in the week off.

  5. CUT EMAIL TIME TO A MINIMUM. I choose the "Digest" version of every list I am on, so all of that day's emails come in ONE email. It cuts down on your time that is wasted by all the "little" emails you have to open, glance and discard - and your email list doesn't seem so overwhelming.

  6. CHALLENGE THOSE PEOPLE WHO DON'T THINK YOU "REAlLY" WORK. Don't let them get away with dismissing your home business as easy or non-work. And don't take their abuse on yourself by trying to justify yourself all the time - if your husband is being a butthead, approach it from that viewpoint - he's being a butthead - NOT from the viewpoint that YOU have to defend yourself or your endeavors. Saying, "I'm sorry you're having a tough day, honey - I've had days like that myself" or "Gee, you're right honey, the house does need cleaning, how about we both tackle it tonight" is FAR more helpful for YOU AND HIM, than trying to figure out how to load YOUR plate even fuller to make his day easier or justify to him that you "really work."

  7. ACT LIKE YOU HAVE A JOB. When people ask you what you do, tell them your busines and don't mention you work at home - or if it comes up, say, "My office is located in my home - I'm open 10 to 6." If you don't convince YOURSELF that you are working, you'll never convince anyone else.

  8. GET A SECOND PHONE LINE. It can be expensive, but you have got to be able to work on the computer AND talk to customers, and more importantly, you HAVE to be able to ignore the business phone after your working hours. Sometimes you can just add another line right to the one you have, and the second line just rings differently so you know its the business number.

  9. SET BOUNDRIES. There are 4 aspects to your daily life (excluding the religious aspects for the moment). YOU, Your Mate, Your Family and/or Children, and Your Business. I rank them in that order - but I don't have kids. You may rank them differenly. However you rank them, divy up your week accordingly. Children and husbands have to know when Mom is working she is NOT available to make popcorn, fix a bike or get him a beer. In return, they need to know that when it is THEIR time, your attention is on THEM.

  10. SUPERWOMAN IS A CARTOON CHARACTER. And if you try to be her, that's just what you'll end up being. You simply cannot do EVERYTHING. You have to give yourself permission to let things YOU expect slide. That is the key - giving yourself permission to be human, and not TEACHING your family and mate to expect SUPERHUMAN efforts from you. Your husband and kids didn't enter into their relationship with you expecting superwoman, and if they expect it NOW most likely its because YOU gave them those expectations!!! But you'll find that you can slowly, quietly, start to change those expectations and while it will be hard for the family to get used to, as long as you are becoming a happier, more healthy person for the effort, they will eventually adapt. It is worth the challenge!

  11. SHARE THE LOAD. Just because you work at home, doesn't mean that you are everyone's "tote and fetch" or that you are responsible for making all the arrangements for everything. You are at work same as everyone, and everyone is going to have to share responsibilities and the load. Just because I am home doesn't make it ok for me to always have to arrange for the plummer, or run by the store to get little Johnny's Halloween costume, or make sure the groceries are bought for the cookout HE wants to have, or run little Sarah to the Doctor. When you arrange these things, make sure your mate/family understand that YOU are taking off from work to do them. RESPECT your job time the same way your mate respects HIS, and while it may be more practical for you to do these things, make sure your mate KNOWS that they impinge on your work time. Make deals - "Tell you what, I'll take Sara to the Doctor, but how about you take the kids for their Halloween costumes while I make up the work I'm missing?"

Well, those are my 11...I'd love to hear yours. I love my "online life" - I am surrounded by women entrepreneurs who are caring, giving and thoughtful. Sometimes I just have to remember to be that caring and giving and thoughtful to myself.

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