5 Ways to Disengage from Work When Your Office is in Your Home

Mike Kelly

Running a business from home may sound like a dream to those stuck in a cubicle or tiptoeing around a moody boss but it has its downsides. When your home is also your office, leaving work and being able to relax is more difficult than you may think.

Here are the five best ways to disengage from work when your office is in your home. Give each of these a try, or better yet, incorporate all of them into your routine. And if the idea of maintaining a “routine” is something you find comical because your business has some schedule-shattering surprise for you every day, be sure to check out #1.

5. Switch gears by working out.

One of the best ways to switch gears at the end of the work day is by shifting into high speeds…By this, we mean getting some moderate exercise. Working out has been shown to increase endorphins (which make you happy) while reducing adrenaline and cortisol (which are released when the body is stressed). Almost any form of exercise will do, but researchers from Harvard Healthy Publications have found that aerobic exercises like biking or jogging yield the most serotonin production – a sort of “muscle meditation” – which can help to lift your mood.


How to do it:

Don’t tell yourself that you’ll jump rope in the basement or hop on the recumbent bike in your bedroom. This routine works best if you get out of the house. Jogging or cycling on the street is great, but going to the gym is even better. The social scene and music of the gym will help you break state from the buzz of your business. Plus, paying for a gym membership can help you stay motivated to go – what good business owner lets money go to waste? To get the psychological benefits of exercise, you only need to work out for 30 minutes.

4. Meditate throughout the day and to end the day.

If you feel that you can’t step away from what you’re working on because you have so much to do, then you definitely need to step away from it. Actively stepping away from your work for a few minutes, twice a day, can make a huge difference not just in your ability to disengage at the end of the day, but in your ability to see problems with a fresh set of eyes and then come up with solutions.

According to LiveScience.com, scientists recently found that study participants who performed “mindfulness” exercises showed a significantly improved ability to switch strategies when trying to solve problems versus participants who did not practice the exercises. Those who practiced meditation also arrived at solutions that were far simpler than those who didn’t practice meditation.


How to do it:

Don’t worry about twisting your legs into a pretzel or finding your chakras. Just get in a comfortable chair that is nowhere near your workstation. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, your spine straight and your head supported by pushing the back of the chair against a wall. Rest your hands in your lap or rest your elbows on the arms of the chair. Close your eyes.

Now, exhale and free your mind of all worries and anxieties.

Just kidding…

Inhale through your nostrils and let your belly expand. Exhale through your nostrils and count the breath. (Hint: That’s 1 so far.) Continue doing this until you get to 10 breaths. Then restart. If you find yourself losing track of what number breath you were on, just restart at one. It’s okay if your mind wanders; there’s no gold medal for meditating. Shoot for two sessions of 5 minutes throughout the day and then one 5-8 minute session at the end of the day. Super long meditations aren’t necessary.

3. Take a stress-drain bath.

Stress drain baths were made famous by former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin in his book Got Fight? Griffin would use the technique when he found it difficult to stop thinking about his upcoming fights after a long day of training.


How to do it:

Draw a warm bath and climb in. Start by going over everything that happened throughout the day that was business-related, good and bad. Next, think about what worries you and what excites you about your business, your goals and your fears. Imagine these thoughts draining out of your body and into the water. If you can, visualize a picture of the thought floating on the surface of the water like a reflective oil spill.

Once you feel that you’ve covered every thought, immediately get up and pull the drain on the bath water. Watch the water go down the drain and try to imagine those oily pictures of your thoughts going down with it. Now run a cool shower and hop back in for several minutes.

2. Cover the bird cage.

This trick is used by obsessive artists to help themselves stop working at the end of the day. It involves simply covering their easel or whatever they’re working on with a blanket or towel. This comes from covering a bird’s cage to get it to fall asleep at night. For business owners, it creates a ceremony for the end and start of the work day and deters them from tinkering around when they should be relaxing.


How to do it:

The first step is to find your easel. If you have a designated work computer, covering it is easy. But if you have an entire room that’s set aside for your business, you may want to ceremoniously seal the door shut with a little painter’s tape at the end of the day. Of course, if you have a computer that gets used for both personal and business purposes, or your office is in your living room, you’ll need to look at tried-and-true secrets for a productive home office.

1. Understand the steps needed for problem solving.

The biggest difficulty with running a business from home is you may not know when to call it a day. There are always ten more tasks to get to and unforeseeable problems constantly pop up.

You may be ready to call it a night at 6 o’clock. But suddenly you realize that the mobile version of your website isn’t working or that the parts you ordered for the job you’re doing on Saturday were lost in shipping.

What do you do?

  • Do you stay up until 2 AM trying to solve the problem? No, you can’t. You’ll be useless the next day.
  • Do you call it a night and decide to deal with it tomorrow? Of course not. What’s the point in taking a break from work if you know you’re going to be thinking about the problem all night long.

This is why it’s important to know the proper steps to solving business problems. That way, you’ll be able to more accurately schedule the solution and know when to disengage. And learning how to schedule a solution is one of the most powerful skills a business owner can have.

Scheduling and the solution to a problem can be broken into six steps.

  1.  Assessing the weight of the problem. Ask yourself: Is addressing this problem more important than doing the tasks I had scheduled for today? If yes, proceed to the next step immediately. If no, put it in your schedule for tomorrow.
  2. Researching the problem. Schedule out the time you can allot to finding the cause of the problem. Hit up resources like Google, potential mentors and any vendors you’re currently paying.  Inform any remote employees who may be able to help identify the problem.
  3. Shopping ideas for the solution. This follows a similar plan as the previous step. Remember that even if your vendors aren’t involved in the problem, they should feel obligated to offer help and guidance.
  4. Getting your feet wet. Start implementing the solution, but don’t strive for completion. You want to see how the solution works and assess how long the entire process will take. Schedule two hours and see how much work you’re able to get done. If the solution looks like it won’t work, go back to step two or three.
  5. Completing the solution. Now that you’ve arrived at a solution that you think will work and have an accurate time assessment you should be able to complete the task. Communicate with other employees and customers what your schedule is for fixing the problem.
  6. Tying up loose ends and further troubleshooting. Because let’s face it, there’s always something that goes wrong.

Running a business from home may never be the fantasy you imagined it to be, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Utilizing these techniques and learning how to disengage is the best way to make sure that you run the business and it doesn’t run you.


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