This is a video from a Udemy course I created a few years ago to help people maximize their efficiency while working from remotely or from home. Instead of selling it as a paid course, I’m sharing the content here, for free. I hope you find it helpful. -Ron Stauffer
Whether you’re self-employed or you have an employer, don’t do work that you don’t get paid for!
Setting boundaries applies not just for yourself and your family but also for your employer or your clients. It’s easy when you’re working from home, when your office is just a few feet from your bedroom, to work all the time. Unless you’re getting paid for it, don’t work on nights and weekends unless you have some sort of a schedule where you’re required to or you’re on call.
Make sure you hold the line on that boundary. Make sure that if your employment agreement says you only work 40 hours a week, only work 40 hours a week. Make sure that your employer understands when those 40 hours are up, and if you are not required to work on a Saturday or a Sunday, don’t.
Now, if you don’t have an employer and you’re self-employed like me, we kind of joke about this as an aspirational goal: “Someday, ahh, I’d love to not work nights and weekends.” But that’s kind of something that you have to impose upon yourself. It’s not really something that you will arrive at someday. You have to start instilling in yourself a boundary within your own mind of, “You know what? I could work on this client project because I’m bored, and it’s 10:13 PM,” but you want to develop a habit that is sustainable and create a schedule that is repeatable. And part of that is taking your time off when it’s time to take time off.
Anybody who’s an entrepreneur and owns their own business is probably laughing at this and saying, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve been telling that to myself for the past 18 years.” I know, I know I still work seven days a week to some extent, so I’m, I’m pointing the finger, and of course, three of my fingers are pointing right back at me. This is something that we all need to work on. Don’t work nights and weekends unless you get paid for it. And if you’re self-employed, set those boundaries with your employer, which is yourself, that “I don’t work on Saturdays,” if you don’t work on Saturdays.
Or try to minimize it, like “I work for an hour on Saturday,” or “I work for two hours between this time and this time.” Whatever the scenario, whether you’re self-employed or you have an employer, don’t do work that you don’t get paid for.
Take regular breaks. This is an important boundary to keep because if you’re employed, your employer is legally required to allow you to have a couple of breaks per day in addition to your lunch break. For example, in Colorado, where I live, the law states: “Employers shall permit a compensated 10-minute rest period for each four hours of work or major fractions thereof for all employees.” That means you have a legal expectation of being able to put your phone down and walk away from the office for 10 minutes at a time for a coffee break or a walk around the block or whatever it is you want to do.
Take those breaks; make sure that your employer [if you have one] is aware Of their obligation, and make sure that you focus on actually taking them when they come up. Because just like taking a lunch break, it’s important to get out, to close your eyes, to change your perspective, to think of different things, and to remove yourself from that intense brain-heavy work that you’re doing in front of a computer. It’s important to be able to walk away from that for a little while and then come back to it.
But if you don’t know you have it, you might not be able to take it. So find out what your state says, but for me, employers have to give their employees two compensated breaks per day.
As someone who’s self-employed, I don’t really have to compensate myself for breaks, but I should be taking those breaks. And I should remind myself that it’s important for me to do that, and it helps me to be a better worker.
Ron Stauffer is a solopreneur and freelancer with over 14 years of experience running a small company. He’s extremely familiar with the loneliness, frustration, and challenges unique to freelance work and running a business of one. He started Free Soloing to help other people just like him.