Why I Don’t Separate My Business and Personal Lives

posted by Andrea | 01/26/2016
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business and personal lives

I get lots and lots of questions about what it’s like to work from home — what the best and worst parts are about it, what I do with my kids when I’m working, and (the most common) how I manage to separate my personal and business lives. 

I always respond to these emails, comments, and questions, and my short answer to the question about separating my personal and business lives is simply…

I don’t!

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When I first started working from home, about 8 years ago, everyone told me that one of the worst things I could do would be to mix my home and personal life with my work life.

They said I should create a separate office in my home that was just dedicated to work. They said I should set “office hours” and not let people interrupt me during those hours so I could get as much done as possible. They said I would have to hire child care if I ever wanted to work from home with small children.

It all sounded good in theory — but after 8 years of working either part-time or full-time from home (4+ years with babies and young children), I have yet to take any of their advice.

As many of you know, our home office is wide open to the main living area of our home (we specifically designed it to be this way). I have never set office hours. I don’t have child care.

Even still, I have been successfully working from home for many years.

Honestly, I think one of the main reasons (potentially the only reason) I’ve been able to make it work, even after adding 3 children and many house projects into the equation, is because I have completely mixed my business and personal life.

I realize this wouldn’t necessarily work for every type of at-home business, but considering what I do, it only seems to make sense to let these two areas of my life mix.

Let me explain…

How I come up with blog post ideas:

I am CONSTANTLY asked how I can possibly come up with so many blog post ideas (I’ve published over 1700 on my blog alone). And thanks to the nature of my blog, my home and personal life lends itself perfectly to helping me come up with various blog post topics and ideas…

Whenever I make a recipe that I want to share on the blog, I give myself a few extra minutes of time to take some photos of the process, and I quickly snap a few pictures before we sit down to eat.

When I’m doing an organizing or cleaning project, I simply need to remember to take a few before, during, and after pictures and mentally remember the steps I followed so I can share it later on my blog.

When we’re gearing up for various house and yard renovation projects, I take a bit more time to document what we purchased, where we purchased it from, what steps we took, etc. And of course, I need to remember to take a bunch of pictures along the way.

When I’m canning, or meal planning, or freezer cooking, I’m constantly thinking about different tips or new ideas I have and use that might be helpful to my readers.

When I’m looking for cute, fun, and creative ways to entertain my kids, I’ve often been able to simplify various activities and turn them into some of my most popular blog posts.

When I’m doing more research-related posts (how to make various natural cleaners, how to save money in certain areas, the best storage containers, etc.) I get to learn about it for my blog post… and then can also apply it to my own home and life as well!

And I’ve already told you that I come up with my best blog post ideas in the shower — I don’t know too many people who regularly shower at the office 🙂

How I fit work hours into my day:

Of course, even after I come up with blog post ideas, I still need to find the time to edit pictures, write the posts, do a small amount of social media, write sponsored posts and guest posts for other blogs, and do my Virtual Assistant work.

This has not always been easy. I’ve tried various systems and methods, I’ve worked to increase my productivity, I’ve tried hard to eliminate anything “extra”… and even with a non-napping Nora, I have always been able to find pockets of time to finish everything on my to-do list (read more about how I work from home with kids in this post).

Often, I’ll wait until Dave is home from school, work on the weekends, at night when they are sleeping, when a grandparents comes over to play, or wake up extra early one day a week.

I also do a pretty good job of knowing how long various tasks will take me, and then squeezing those into pockets of free time throughout the day. For example, there are a bunch of different business-related tasks I can do in 20 minutes or less, so I’ll let Nora watch 1 show on Netflix (usually 25 minutes) while the boys are napping, and I can get one of my tasks completed.

Working with a laptop also allows me a bit more “work time” as I can work from the table while helping the kids with a craft or coloring project (or even while watching them play outside).

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Aside from filing my business and personal taxes separately, and maybe an occasional work-related meeting or skype conversation, I honestly don’t ever feel the need to separate my personal and business life.

I know so many people who are starting to work from home (either part time or full time) and wondering if they can do it without putting their kids in daycare or without retrofitting their home to accommodate a fancy office… and I recently heard a statistic that by the year 2020, 50% of the workforce will have the opportunity to work remotely for part of their work week! That’s crazy!

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Like I said earlier, I realize that every at-home business is not as convenient as writing a blog about home and family… but I do think that there is often too much pressure for at-home workers to separate home and work, to set office hours, to hire child care, etc. etc.

However, if you really think about it, some of the major benefits of working from home (at least in my opinion) are that you aren’t confined to a cubical, you don’t have to work specific hours, and you don’t have to send your children away to daycare.

The point of this post is not to say that everyone should work from home, or that everyone who does work from home should mix business and personal endeavors. It’s simply to say that IT CAN BE DONE! 

If you are one of those people who works from home some or all the time, I’d encourage you to let your business and personal lives mix a bit… you might just find that you’re less stressed and more productive! Or maybe not 🙂

Do you work from home? If so, do you mix business and personal?

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29 comments

  1. Sarah Mueller

    01/30/2016

    I have worked from home since my kids were born, initially with daycare, and then later without. More recently, I ran my blog for 18 months while homeschooling 3 kids plus a baby. It was doable but very stressful! The kids all go to school now and I can honestly say it’s amazing to have 4-5 uninterrupted hours during the day.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I could not imagine trying to (or wanting to) homeschool kids while I worked from home — but I know MANY people who do it! Glad you are enjoying your break!

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  2. Jen T

    01/27/2016

    I am a top level leader for a direct sales company with a team of over 2000 women and I have had to set office hours for a couple of reasons…I would find myself checking email “quickly” and end up responding to customers, hostesses, and team members and losing track of time…after one too many burned dinners (ahem), I actually took my business email AND Facebook off my phone, which has helped a lot. Now I have to physically go into my office, which is away from the main living area of our house, to get on the computer.

    The other reason is that people were texting/calling me at all hours. It was a huge wake up call when I was at my daughter’s basketball game one day a few years ago and totally missed an amazing shot she made 🙁 (Ironically, I went to almost every single one of her games the entire 7 years she played and that was the one basket she asked if I had seen). So now I have business hours and while I may respond to a quick text, people know that most likely they will not hear from me until the next day.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    WOW! That’s amazing Jen! Also, good job realizing this and taking action to fix it — especially taking the facebook and email off your phone (that’s a biggie for sure!)

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  3. Daniele

    01/26/2016

    This post is SO liberating, thank you for sharing! I very much agree and can relate somewhat. I blog a bit, do some freelance writing, podcasts, etc from home. While my children are no longer very young, we’re a homeschooling family and so the “mix” of personal and work is a real thing.

    Your post is an encouragement as I’ve been reevaluating how to ‘make it all work’, and feeling the need to establish more specific work hours, homeschool hours, home hours…yikes! Though I’m really organized, it was feeling stressful….I’m realizing it’s because everyone keeps telling me that is what I should do. 🙂 Thanks again for the encouragement!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Daniele, I’d definitely say that if you are feeling overwhelmed by thinking you need to set strict hours, then maybe you actually DON’T need to set hours at all. If you’re fairly organized and on-top of things, I’m sure you’ll manage everything just fine!

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  4. Heather

    01/26/2016

    I am a CPA and work from home a couple days a week in my own practice. Honestly, I can only do it when my kids are both at school because I really have to concentrate on what I’m doing and think things through. That said, I’m not sure I’d ever want to work in a company doing this again. I am an introvert and really enjoy the alone time, thinking things through. I do, however, answer emails when I’m not “in the office”, just to keep up.

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  5. Kelly

    01/26/2016

    Your strategy works great for maintaining your blog without getting daycare.
    Maybe what everyone was trying to tell you was – seeing your life through the lens of your blog clouds your ability to live it clearly. You describe thinking about blog posts throughout every activity of your life. You are constantly thinking about how your home, activities with your children, vacations and meals will look like to a bunch of strangers through pictures and text. That has to change how you approach each of those activities. I think you have created a life where you will never know your true motivations for doing something – are you doing it for your blog? Or are you doing it because its best for your life and your family?

    [Reply]

    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    I’d have to say that after several years of reading her blog that my take is that Andrea absolutely does what is best for her life and her family. She documents it as she goes along, and shares it with the rest of us. There are MANY times that she says the equivalent of “your mileage may vary”. She openly acknowledges that not everything will work for everyone.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lee! For your many years of reading and commenting!

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    Jennifer Reply:

    I am not a friend, just a long time follower, and one thing I admire about Andrea is that she seems to always do exactly what she wants to do. I would bet she rarely does anything just for the sake of a blog post. I think, like Lea wrote, Andrea does what she wants, or what’s best for her family and herself, and then shares it with us! Lucky us!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Jennifer! And yes, I would say that if you knew me in “real life” you would still say that “she does exactly what she wants to do” (I think both Dave and my mom would vouch for that statement too!)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Kelly, Thanks for your comment.
    I guess I wasn’t planning to respond because I didn’t think I could without sounding like I was trying to “stick up for myself” or “defend myself” — which I honestly don’t feel the need to do as I was NOT upset or offended by your comment, and I just didn’t want to spark a debate. However, since others are starting to respond, I feel like I should at least acknowledge a couple things.

    First of all, I can see where you are coming from; however, I can assure you that I most definitely do not “constantly think about how my home, activities, vacations, and meals will look like to a bunch of strangers.” I make 20-30 meals for every ONE recipe I post on my blog. We play hundreds of games and do boatloads of crafts for every ONE project I share on my blog. I do countless organizing projects for every ONE post I end up sharing on my blog. And I doubt anyone would think we’re renovating our farmhouse for the blog — heck no, that’s all for us! 🙂

    Also, I certainly do not “think about blog posts throughout EVERY activity of my life”… that would be SO exhausting! There are days when I don’t touch my blog until after the kids are in bed, and many days, I don’t even turn my computer on until the boys are napping in the afternoon. I also don’t do any blogging or social media on the weekends.

    And finally, while most of the decisions I make are simply because they are what Dave and I want to do and what we feel is best for our life, our home, and our family, there are ALSO many other decisions I make specifically because of my blog, and I don’t think that’s bad. My blog has been a huge part of my life for the past 8 years (and a large part of our income for the past 6 years) so it would be ridiculous if I didn’t consider my blog in at least some our decision-making processes. That would be like Dave not considering his teaching in any of our family decisions.

    So like I said earlier, I was not offended by your comment, but I did just want to clarify and share my thoughts for anyone else reading the comments and feeling the need to stick up for me 🙂

    [Reply]

  6. Lynn

    01/26/2016

    I was fortunate enough to get on at the company I had always wanted to after a long career in a different software field. Even better, after a year I was able to work from home two days a week and I love it! I don’t have children at home, but I can walk my furry kids at lunch or do laundry, clean house, etc. on break. It really helps a lot. My husband converted one of our extra bedrooms into my office/laundry/exercise room and it is my favorite room in the house – well organized and calming to look at. This has been a dream come true and love every minute of it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that sounds like the PERFECT setup for you! glad you found something you love doing (and are obviously really good at doing!)

    [Reply]

  7. Sam

    01/26/2016

    Hi Andrea,

    I was wondering what the minimum is that you’d accept for a sponsored post – in terms of pay. Or are your sponsored posts related to receiving in exchange a service or item?

    Also, do you do the guest posts for free, or not? Is this something bloggers exchange with one another?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sam, it would totally depend on what was required of me for the sponsored post. It’s usually several hundred dollars though — and I almost always get products on top of that.

    I really never write any guest posts, but if I did, I wouldn’t do it unless I was paid — just because I don’t have the time or desire to write for other blogs unless it fairly lucrative for me. I know there are MANY bloggers who exchange blog posts or write guest posts for free to get more exposure (I don’t think that’s bad, just not something I want to do).

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  8. Bev @ TheMakeYourOwnZone

    01/26/2016

    Another good post Andrea! Just recently I’ve decided to get better at understanding how long certain blog tasks take me to do. Just this morning I updated an old blog post with new pictures and thought it would take me about 20 minutes. It took me 50 minutes! So I thought it was good advice that you said you know how long certain tasks take which helps you fit them into your schedule. My hope is I’ll get better at knowing where my time goes which in turn will help me set my important priorities. And I too find I do my best blogging when it reflects the life I’m actually living. Integrating work life and home life very much helps the creative process for bloggers.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Bev — knowing how much time certain tasks take is a big help for me (both in my business and personal lives). It’s amazing, after I started paying attention, how many tasks went much faster than I thought!

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  9. Jessica

    01/26/2016

    I love seeing what other work-from-home moms do! I work two jobs from home and the one has flexible deadlines and I fit it in throughout the day, much as you do. My other job requires a lot of scheduled phone calls, and I have found that childcare is a must because I can’t predict what mood my daughter will be in at 2:30 on Friday and whether she would play while I have the call or run around screaming. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yup, I know that feeling! I actually had to call our insurance company today (less than 10 minutes on the phone). I waited until James was sleeping… but even still, within 2 minutes of being on the phone, Nora and Simon we both crying. Sigh…

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  10. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    01/26/2016

    I’d love to be able to work from home because of the flexibility. I’m sure if you have the kind of home business that requires clients to come to your house or for you to take phone calls in a quiet area, then office hours and child care might be necessary. It’s awesome that you have worked out ways to spend quality time with your kids and make money from home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, definitely! If you had clients coming to your house, you most likely wouldn’t be able to have many young children around 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Chris

    01/26/2016

    I used to work from home, but I was a medical transcriptionist, so not only does it have to be quiet (I did listen to music in the background) but your work has to be impeccable since it is medical records. My son was old enough to take care of himself, so it worked out good. I couldn’t have done it with a younger child, toddler, or baby, unless they were sleeping.

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    …cont.., so in other words, you really have to concentrate on the dictation.

    [Reply]

  12. Jen

    01/26/2016

    I, too, work from home (not blogging but as a VA), and I think the OPPORTUNITY to mix my work and personal lives is one of the best parts! I love being able to get dinner going between phone calls or throw a load of laundry in between emails. While I do have a dedicated office, my kids (teenagers) know that I am always available and can generally be interrupted without incident. I love my flexible hours and my “work wardrobe”, which is often flannel pajamas on the snowy east coast these days!

    I have MANY people ask me how I ever get anything done working from home, and my answer is similar to yours: I get MORE done because I have the privilege to be home and be able to mix up my work and personal tasks. But I also think some people have personalities that lend themselves to it. Our daughter, who is an extreme extrovert and thrives on being around people, would be miserable if she was alone in the house all day by herself. I, on the other hand, LOVE every minute of it and get lots accomplished, both professionally and personally!

    You’ve figured out what works for YOU and you’ve obviously done a good job at it! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I’m sure there are many extreme extroverts who would go crazy if their days were set up like mine (my sister is one of them!) but so far, it’s working well for us! I always tell Dave, “just think how much free time I’ll have when all the kids are in school all day”. And even though I know my time will be filled up with other things, it’s still fun to think about having the house to myself all day!

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  13. Kaitlin @ The Mom on Purpose

    01/26/2016

    Thanks for sharing! I needed to hear this! After blogging for almost 3 months, I’ve been thinking I needed to set some definitive “blog hours.” However, seeing you do it so gracefully using your small pockets of time makes me have hope. Plus, as moms, don’t we all survive by using those small pockets of time!? 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Glad to help 🙂
    Of course, as I mentioned in the post, every at-home job is different, so you might find that you DO need to set some hours — but it was liberating for me when I realized that even though I didn’t have a strict “schedule” or structure to my day, it was still working well.

    [Reply]