How many times have you told yourself that you need better separation between your work life and your home life?
We all want balance, but the generic advice you usually find for working from home is either useless or impractical.
Get a separate office?
Give me a break.
That’s great for some, sure. But it’s not realistic for a lot of people, especially in small city apartments where space is scarce.
Creating physical separation is hard, but that doesn’t mean that you’re destined to live in a perpetual state of stress that feels like work follows you everywhere.
Today, I’m going to show you a simple but powerful technique for work/life separation that I’ve been using ever since I worked from my kitchen table years ago.
It’s called Closing The Digital Door, and it only takes five minutes to do. In just a few days of practice, you’ll create a clear line between work and home, and finally be able to get that “done for the day” feeling.
Three Steps To Close The Digital Door
Every day at around 6pm (or whenever I’m ready to finish working that day), I do the following:
1) Close out of every browser tab and desktop app that I use for work. For me, that means Google Docs, Trello, Slack and Office.
2) Close my work email folder. I use Mailplane as my email client to make this easy (I can just “X” out of my work email account), but if you have personal and work email in the same account, here’s an easy workaround that only takes two minutes to set up:
(This example uses Gmail, but many email providers have similar options available)
First, create a label called “Work.”
Next, create a rule that captures all work-related emails. One way to do this would be to populate the “From” field with your work contacts (Tip: use [from:homeofficehero.com] to capture all messages from sent from homeofficehero.com).
Another way, if you get your work emails sent to a different email address that you forward to your personal inbox, would be to set the filter to capture all messages sent to that email.
Set the filter to Skip the Inbox (Archive It) and Apply the label: Work.
You now have a “separate inbox” for your work email. To close the digital door on these emails when you’re done for the day, just Hide the label.
3) Finally, I go into Notification Settings on my iPhone and turn off push notifications for my Gmail app.
When I do this, until the next morning, I’m free from my “office.” If I need to use my computer for something personal in the evening, I can do so without feeling guilty, because I’ve built systems that virtually guarantee that I can’t “accidentally” trip and fall into doing more work.
Then the next day when i’m ready to work, I just reverse the ritual and start up again.
Your ritual might be different based on your own workflow.
For example, if you get evening phone calls that pull you back into work, you may want to adjust your phone settings to send all but certain numbers straight to voicemail (on iPhones, the Do Not Disturb setting does exactly that).
Do this now: take five minutes and write down what it would take for you to “close the digital door” at the end of the day.
Next time you’re ready to clock out, follow those steps.
You now have a virtually bulletproof system for separating your work life from your home life.