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Work From Home Challenge Day 5: Set A Cut Off Time

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Welcome to Day 5 of the 5-day Work From Home Challenge!

Yesterday, it was all about taking breaks and what to do during your breaks. Today’s challenge is about an important boundary to enforce or you risk getting burnt out and driving yourself crazy from working from home.

It’s very easy to work an extra hour or two when you are working from home because we tell ourselves that it’s okay since we’re ‘just’ at home anyway. Personal and work-life start to blend in and everything starts to feel the same. Checking email and instant messages after dinner used to be only reserved for emergencies at work but when you work from home it can feel like the new norm.

You won’t realize it at first but it will eventually take a lot of your time and your coworkers will think it’s okay to message you anytime they want. They will continue to reach out to you even after office hours. As a result, your time with your family is shortened and you won’t notice it because tada! You’re working from home.

So let’s address with today’s challenge.

I’ve been working from home since 2012 and there were days where I worked for 12-14 hours without realizing it. By the end of the week, I was mentally drained and realized that I barely spent time with my daughter (she was 4 years old during that time). I had a boss who got so used to me replying even during the weekends that he would get pissed when I would miss tasks sent to me on a Saturday night.

It. Was. Toxic.

Here’s what I learned: do not let your work bleed to your home time. The opposite is also a good idea which is to not let your personal life bleed into work… It’s easy for this to happen especially if you work in your home’s common area. I used to work in the living room (bad idea!) where we have a TV. It was a constant battle between my daughter’s TV time and my focus (I didn’t have a noise-canceling headset and even if I did, it was difficult to focus when I could see the TV in my peripheral vision).

Working from home becomes even more challenging when you have kids and other people living with you. When they see you at home it’s easy for them to assume that you’re free to do things and not working. My childhood friend started working from home and since she was living with her parents, it started with innocent requests such as “Cecilia, can you fix the printer”, “send this photo to your aunt,”, and “teach me how to send a voice message,”. Eventually, it spiraled out of control where she ended up running errands and doing misc tasks around the home instead of working on the job. So what can you do about this?

It’s (All) About Boundaries

There are two types of boundaries: physical and expectations with people. Having a separate place to work is an example of a physical boundary. I graduated from the living room and now have an office space in our house. I share it with my husband since he works from home too.

Another form of boundary is telling the people you’re living with when you’re working and when you’re not working. My daughter knows that when I am in our home office, I am in work-mode and the only time she can disturb me is when she needs help and it cannot wait. She’s 12 now so she’s well-acquainted with our work from home life. Your kid might not be old enough to comprehend this but it won’t hurt to explain to your kids what it means when you say you are working from home. This is the same for your spouse or your parents (even siblings).

Define Your Working Hours

Flexibility is great especially when we need to make adjustments for unexpected things (emergencies, picking up someone, etc) but we highly encourage you to create a schedule and define what your working hours are.

At Asian Efficiency, we work flexible hours but there are meetings that we have to be present for. We have our Meeting Days every Wednesday (where all meetings happen in one day) and then our Daily Huddle (lasts for about 10 mins or less) at the same time every day. Even though we have flexible hours, we define our own working hours and the entire team knows this because we have it on a Confluence page (think of it as a wiki page for the team) that everyone has access to. So every team member knows when someone is typically working and when they’re unavailable.

Let’s get started with today’s challenge to create a simple boundary and schedule for yourself.

How To Define Your Working Hours

1. Decide when your work time is and when your home time is.

Once you have decided on it, stick to it and make sure you communicate this to the people who will be directly impacted by it. My family (who are not living with me) know that I work at night. They have now made it a habit to always text before they call me. The first text would usually be “Are you awake?” or “Call me when you can.” My mom (she’s in her 70s), bless her, took about 2 years before understanding my situation. I used DND but it would usually upset her and eventually we had it figured out between us on how we can communicate and be there for each other once the boundaries were established. 

At Asian Efficiency, we are a global distributed team with three timezones and they can be tricky. Thus the need for transparency and communication for all team members to know when someone is available and unavailable. Even if you do not belong to a distributed team, it’s still a good practice for your team to know when your working times are. This is to avoid instances where they would assume you can work on stuff when in fact you are already off work.

When you set your working hours, it will also help you STOP working. By defining when your working hours are, you are also defining when you need to stop working and then to shift to your home life.

2. Set your working hours in your calendar.

Whether you use Google or Outlook calendar, this is a nifty way to communicate with your team if you are working or not. Let’s say you work different hours on a Monday and Friday, your team doesn’t need to memorize what these hours are. They just have to look at your schedule on the calendar. This will also remind you that it’s time to log off work.

The Trigger To End Your Work Day

When you set your working hours in your calendar, that’s one way to trigger the end of your workday. One benefit of working at the office is that when you see your coworkers leaving, it’s a cue for you to stop working as well and go home. When you work from home, you don’t have that so you need to create your own triggers to end your workday. Here are a few ideas:

1. Setup an automatic shutdown on your computer.

You can do this in both Windows and macOS. It will give you enough time (and also to override) to save, send, etc and then end your day. Only use this if you have a really hard time shutting down and generally can’t stop working!

2. Setup your robot vacuum to turn on at the end of your workday.

If you have the robot vacuum, like our Dojo member Carli, set it up to turn on at the end of your working day. This is a fun and subtle reminder to stop working.

3. Use a family member to bug you.

I wish I was kidding but hear me out. Whenever I need to wake up earlier than usual, I don’t use my alarm. I ask my daughter to wake me up. She doesn’t have a snooze button and she will not stop bugging you until you do what you asked her to do. The same is true when it’s time to end my work hours.

My husband bugs me to stop working. He hates it when I work long hours. Although our schedule is different, he’s a constant reminder that I need to end my work hours and rest. So if you have a kid that loves interrupting you at scheduled times and/or a partner to remind you, that’s a great free solution too!

Exercise:

1. Define your working hours and when your cutoff time is for work.
2. Set it in your calendar.
3. Try your best to stick to it tonight or if your day is not yet structured for it, start tomorrow.
4. Let us know in the comments when you’ve set your work hours.

And that ends our 5-Day Work From Home Challenge. To recap:

Day 1 – Dress For Work
Day 2 – Your Daily Reset
Day 3 – Create Time And Space To Focus
Day 4 – Reenergize With Breaks
Day 5 – Set A Cut Off Time

But wait, there’s more!

When we announced the challenge we mentioned that we will be giving away some awesome prizes to those who joined and participated. Make sure you check back again tomorrow for a surprise.

Do you want to learn more about working from home? Register here to join our FREE training. The space is limited so make sure you register today before it’s filled.

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110 Comments

Posted by Kristin  | April 26, 2020 at 8:51AM | Reply

Before WFH I worked a lot in the evenings and weekends. Now my work boundaries are largely determined by my family and space. I have to do my shutdown before dinner time because I work at the kitchen table as there is no dedicated office space. This means I am not working at night anymore (which is hard for me as I like my work and am not getting as much done, but I have to be ok with that as there is little alternative). But this time boundary is good, because it allows me to separate work from home more than I have before, and probably will help prevent overwork/exhaustion.

Posted by Kim  | April 26, 2020 at 2:44AM | Reply

This has a been a good challenge. Like others I will use the daily reset task (blocked 15 mins in the calender called: wrap it up (wiu) ) as a close for the day.. Also, Gary, the robot vacum cleaner will now start to match end of day too!!

Posted by Roxana Rodríguez  | April 25, 2020 at 10:07PM | Reply

It is tough for me have an end day time, but I tried to use a range, somedays at 5 pm, others at 6 pm. But my goal is to end by noon.

Posted by Barb  | April 25, 2020 at 7:41PM | Reply

Done! I love the feeling of shutting down my work computer and not turning it on again until the next work day. Having a different computer for work and home makes a big difference because before it would be easy enough just to log back into my work email after I finished work. Now I don’t have that on my home computer so the temptation has gone!

Posted by Liz  | April 25, 2020 at 6:39PM | Reply

I think this is the hardest for me. It’s so hard to know what the end is! It’s a real struggle, even if I put it on a calendar – too easy to override!

Posted by Karthik Vadambacheri Manian  | April 25, 2020 at 1:02PM | Reply

It is very important to set boundaries. I have already set up my work hours and I set my cut off time to be 5:30 pm every day. But many days I was not able to respect the cut off time. Some nice points from the article will help me achieve this.

Posted by Sam  | April 25, 2020 at 11:32AM | Reply

I make my living outside of the home, but I’ve started doing a little bit of working for myself the past few months. Right now I have a Hardline cutoff time ingrained in my routine because I have to stop and get ready for work. When I do finally start working for myself full time, I’ll have to really focus on this.

I’ll probably end up having my daughter bug me.

Posted by William Carey Bayot  | April 25, 2020 at 6:39AM | Reply

Set a timer at my mobile phone to stop working and turn my phone to airplane mode so as not to receive business calls.

Posted by Sander  | April 25, 2020 at 6:09AM | Reply

Done it by setting up some automation using KB maestro for the end of the day

Posted by Toby  | April 25, 2020 at 1:38AM | Reply

This can be a tough one, especially when you have a lot to do. Still, I have set a shut down time. I love the idea of setting our Roomba to clean at that time. Great motivation!

Posted by Kimi  | April 25, 2020 at 1:33AM | Reply

This has plagued me even when I worked at the office! I worked long past the time people went home (I did not even notice it was dark outside) and once I started working from home, it was so much easier to ignore time constraints. I just wanted to get my project done! I have to remind myself that I am much less productive if I dont take breaks, and my life is enhanced when I have a definite separation between work and home. Thank you for the reminder. I will list the 5 Challenges as a reminder!

Posted by Ian  | April 25, 2020 at 12:00AM | Reply

I have definitely struggled with this in the past, and this seems like something that is even more important now that I’m working from home full time. I’m going to plan on a 5 pm stop time, which will be the trigger to perform my daily reset and get things in order for the next day.

Posted by M  | April 24, 2020 at 11:50PM | Reply

I put my end start day at 5:00 pm and my start will have to be flexible at 8:30-9 am. These challenges were really helpful and hopefully I could stick with it. Thanks AE

Posted by Eric Sinclair  | April 24, 2020 at 11:12PM | Reply

As always, good guidance. As I share a home office with my spouse, their quitting time is a good trigger to shut down, as is the complementary cat lobbying for food.

Posted by Bryan Thompson  | April 24, 2020 at 10:55PM | Reply

Have had my work day carved out for a long time in my calendar already, and that work day is from 9 until 6.

My “Daily Reset” reminder kicks in on phone, computer, iPad and watch to remind me I have half an hour left to wind down the day and clear to neutral (Day 2 on this Challenge).

Another thing I did when we had children in the house and my office on our (flat) roof. I would walk around the roof top (outside the office and consciously leave behind my office day and tasks and concerns before opening that roof space door to go downstairs to my squealing children who had not seen me since getting home from school.

I also would pray with my wife before heading up to the office in the mornings, giving over those things that would be home cares and agreeing with my wife what needed to be taken from me/her during the day, or seen to when I came home.

This was a marvellous help with three little girls running round in the home.

Posted by John A. Sepples  | April 24, 2020 at 9:35PM | Reply

My working hours are generally 8:30-5:30. Sometimes I am tempted to take longer breaks when I am at home. Scheduling my work hours will help with this.

I don’t have two of the three options mentioned to remind me to stop. A forced shut down is a bit too extreme of a trigger for me. I will use my reminder to do the daily reset and follow that immediately with shutting down.

Posted by Oren  | April 24, 2020 at 9:05PM | Reply

My work hours are supposed to be from 7:45-4:15 (8 hours+30 minutes lunch break), but with working from they’re more like 9-5+30 minutes for lunch, but because of breaks I take my schedule is usually until 6 or 7. About 15 minutes before that time I try to check my email one last time to be sure that I am ready to close that out night.

My roommate is also working from home so we’re pretty good about respecting each other’s times at work.

Posted by Nick  | April 24, 2020 at 9:05PM | Reply

I set my work hours this morning as 8AM-5PM, put them in my calendar, and sure enough took a late call around 4:45 and ended up staying until 5:15. In hindsight I could have let it go to voicemail, arghh. I’ll work on it!

Posted by Dana Carrier  | April 24, 2020 at 8:42PM | Reply

My hours are set by my telework contract. 0730-1630, with an hour for lunch. I have to clock in and out via our Human Resources Management System. So, for now, this is a no brainer. But, when I retire in December, to work for myself, this will be good knowledge to use. Thank you for this challenge. I’ve learned a bunch.

Posted by Judy  | April 24, 2020 at 8:09PM | Reply

We schedule to walk the dog together at the end of the day. That way all get each other to stop. And the dog is waiting for us.

Posted by Chanel Heermann  | April 24, 2020 at 7:09PM | Reply

The alarm I set earlier this week to clear my desk should serve as a handy reminder to get out of the home office, too! I can’t guarantee I won’t work on my own projects after that, but only if I really want to, and I definitely will not be available for co-workers then.

Posted by Kristie Ondracek  | April 24, 2020 at 7:02PM | Reply

I set the boundaries of loggging off at 4pm and sticking to it. This also means instant messaging. There will be a few exceptions – one being when staff needs to talk and help them through a stressful issue and get them in right mindset.
I’ve also been telling my team when I’m planning on being off and they nag until I log off.
I’m using these exercises for my own team to use and make as a habit.

Posted by Ian  | April 24, 2020 at 6:36PM | Reply

I’ve set a reminder at 4p to start my “resetting to neutral” time so my sole focus for the next hour is clearing out any open loops so I can leave with a clear head. For so long I was working full speed up until 5, and then my evening would be wrecked because I would spend it trying to declutter. Now I can close out with a clear head and a little bit more peace of mind.

Posted by Nancy Carney  | April 24, 2020 at 5:46PM | Reply

This is one exercise I’m happy to do! Closing Rites: set Teams to busy, fill in my timesheet, make my plan for the next day, and pack up my stuff!

Posted by Wilco  | April 24, 2020 at 5:36PM | Reply

This one is easy for me. All team members are in the same time zone and our clients know our office hours as well. Colleagues and clients do not contact each other, except for real emergencies like system failures at our clients location, outside of office hours. My work day is from 8 am to 4:30-5 pm from Monday to Friday.

Posted by Cynthia Czyz  | April 24, 2020 at 5:13PM | Reply

The morning routine is important: AM walk (listening to a Podcast) then shower/dress (“Zoom ready”) and be at the computer by 9. I really need to implement the focus blocks so I can end the day with a sense of accomplishment at 5.

Posted by Katie  | April 24, 2020 at 5:03PM | Reply

Having two “jobs”, one is pretty well structured as I stick to what were my office hours. The other is completely in my control and I struggle to contain it to something reasonable! I prefer to start a little earlier and finish a little earlier in general. I have loosely set a 4.45pm cut off, but I will absolutely try to stick to that better. I’ve set my daily reset now for 4.30pm to remind me to clear to neutral and hopefully that will help serve as a reminder to finish up!

Posted by Lisa Young  | April 24, 2020 at 4:44PM | Reply

I do this already, though I wish all apps had the ability to mark workdays without necessarily marking them as busy. At the end of the day, I put my work phone on a charger in another room.

Posted by Erin Dummer  | April 24, 2020 at 4:31PM | Reply

This one isn’t too hard for me, the issue is not checking by email after my 6PM work cut off time.

Posted by Erin Dummer  | April 24, 2020 at 4:25PM | Reply

Feeling pretty good about blocking out time on my calendar for deep work and now breaks.

Posted by Theresa  | April 24, 2020 at 4:16PM | Reply

I already have my workday startup and shutdown rituals in my calendar…just need to stick to them! Perhaps this reminder on why they’re so important will help.

Posted by Jennifer  | April 24, 2020 at 4:04PM | Reply

My husband and I are both writers who’ve worked from home for ages. We usually leave each other alone in our respective offices until it’s time to break for meals. We try not to go back to work after dinner unless deadlines require it.

Posted by Steve Woodfield  | April 24, 2020 at 3:50PM | Reply

1730 cut off for me, so that I can have dinner with the family during lockdown. We use an office room for work, which is very much our workspace. It is indeed very easy to just do one more thing with no trigger to stop, so I’m glad that the family eats so early!

Posted by Audrey Witko  | April 24, 2020 at 3:47PM | Reply

When I commute, my hours are 7:00-4:00 & when working from home 8:00-5:00. I try to always take lunch to regroup and relax. Too many times I find the need to get back on line after dinner just to keep up with my workload. Have come to realize that I am the only one who can achieve Work-Life Balance in my life. Not easy to do in this day but I continue to persevere!

Posted by Lee Z  | April 24, 2020 at 3:16PM | Reply

I use the start and end of workday settings in the calendar section of Outlook to visually define the workday. Also have a reminder pop up on my Fitbit watch to indicate break periods and end of work day.

Posted by Kathleen Malone-bogusky  | April 24, 2020 at 3:07PM | Reply

I actually have to set my schedule for work and can only vary an hour on each end without getting approval so although I have workaholic tendencies this keeps me focused as I go through the day. My plan is to Start at 8:15 am and end at 5 pm with a shorter day the second Friday. I will however put the end time in my outlook as a reminder for I have gotten absorbed in something and time got a bit away from me but I have not yet strayed beyond the hour flexibility.

Posted by Paul  | April 24, 2020 at 3:05PM | Reply

All set! The workrave app I use to remind me of breaks can also remind me when I’ve worked for a certain amount of time over the day, but along with that I limit meeting requests in Outlook and You Can Book Me to between 10:00 and 4:00, that way I have some time to prepare in the morning and wrap up at the end of the day.

Posted by David Knickmeyer  | April 24, 2020 at 2:37PM | Reply

I’ve programmed Keyboard Maestro to give me a big ol’ message telling me to quit at five pm and programmed a hot-key to close down all of my apps (I can’t automate that, sometimes I’m on a troubleshooting call).

Posted by Clare  | April 24, 2020 at 2:33PM | Reply

I have an alarm set to go off at certain times of the day to remind me to do things: wake up, take a break, go for a walk, etc. My “quittin’ time” alarm goes off at 6 pm!

Posted by Giacomo Pasini  | April 24, 2020 at 2:32PM | Reply

This is the trickiest day challenge for me as knowing the effort needed for the day and knowing when my other family members are supposed to have meetings or live lectures I adapt every day the calendar and when the working day starts and stops. Also in this current situation as I work with hospitals and pharmacies to supply oxygen for the COVID emergency I have some days in which I must guarantee phone or mail availability for the shifts team members to give instruction which and when dispatch orders based on the availability of products and trucks. So this is very messing any real program. I try to rest a bit whenever I can and I have started to notice and track when my son or my wife gets upset for calling me for more than 2 times when they notice I have crossed the line and I am working too much or till late hours. Also another tricky part is that we need to take some vacations days to contribute to lower the fixed costs (and burning our future holidays 😡) and staying closed at home in lockdown you can’t really call it resting days so I noticed that the first weeks I ended up working or responding to mail or phone calls. This week I decided that if I’m not supposed to be “at work” I don’t turn on my work laptop and phone. If something really terrible should happen at work, my boss is allowed to call me on my personal number. I hope I will find much more will to defend the boundaries I am setting between my working time and personal and family time.

Posted by miguel  | April 24, 2020 at 2:14PM | Reply

18:30 cut off and get ready for exercise!

Posted by Mark Barton  | April 24, 2020 at 1:48PM | Reply

I’ve been having difficulty for decades trying to get people to respect your calendar within an enterprise size company. A couple major projects may launch and all of a sudden your calendar has your focus time booked over by the meeting with 20+ participants. It is not uncommon in such environments for people to be scheduled with back to back meetings from morning to afternoon. They don’t even check the free busy time on the calendar and will double or triple book people. I know some try to attend two meetings at once which means they are not engaged in either fully.

I keep an eye on my time tracking and try to stop when I hit my goal for the number of hours.

I also have a sign at my desk to indicate to family members if I’m in a do not disturb focus mode or doing a low energy task where I can take a break or answer a quick question.

Posted by Joost  | April 24, 2020 at 1:48PM | Reply

I already have this in place in my Outlook calendar and iCal calendar.
And on top of that I made a reminder in Omnifocus for CTN at 17:30.
This challenge was a great way to rethink my work patterns. Thanks for this opportunity.

Posted by Beth  | April 24, 2020 at 1:46PM | Reply

I know my husband already mentioned this, but we tried to get our schedules in sync as much as possible. We start our days around 9 am for me, usually earlier for him, and end them no later than 5 pm. He’s setting up light automation to remind us it’s time to shut down for the evening if we haven’t already. Since I’m not in the office seeing people leaving, this has been hard, so I hope by having a trigger it will help even more. We shifted our schedules a bit already after a rough couple of weeks and I think the tips in this week’s challenges have helped to lay the framework for a successful WFH experience, regardless of how long it lasts.

Posted by Markus  | April 24, 2020 at 1:39PM | Reply

Defining working hours is one thing. Finding a trigger to ent the workday is an other story. I have to think about this and to try some things. Thanks for the inspiration. This was a great and helpful challenge.

Posted by Troy Knight  | April 24, 2020 at 1:29PM | Reply

My hours are generally 08:00-17:00 with day-end flexing to a limit of 18:00. Beyond that point, I have been able to maintain a hard stop and not return to working as I have a dedicated office space. This dedicated space also helps me to keep family life from creeping in when I need to be working as my family respects that boundary.

Posted by Jon Nott  | April 24, 2020 at 1:26PM | Reply

I and most of my colleagues work a four day week, so we already have a pretty good system in Outlook calendar for telling each other when we’re at work and not.

In the past few weeks I’ve established at pretty constant 9am start and 6pm finish, with a decent break for lunch.

Posted by Paul  | April 24, 2020 at 1:25PM | Reply

I’m using my “Clear To Neutral” trigger as dual use here… not with any great success so far, I’ll admit. I think it all needs to work together as a package.

If my focus blocks and break blocks are working, I have time and energy to do the work created in the meetings, which if I get through in time means I can finish guilt-free when the notification sounds.

Consistency is the key, as well as being fair to myself with the aforementioned boundaries. (I learned a new trick this week with the extended Out of Office functionality of Office 365 online. I’m going to give that a go next week.)

That said: weekend! 😎

Have a great one, folks, and Ramadan Kareem to any of you who celebrate it!

Posted by Virginie  | April 24, 2020 at 1:08PM | Reply

After I filled my working hours in my calendar, I comitted to an online ballet class tonight to make sure I wouldn’t work overtime.

Posted by Elisa  | April 24, 2020 at 1:02PM | Reply

Start: 7:15
End: 4:15

I’ve always had a reminder in my calendar to start my wrap up activities because scrambling from the office doesn’t work for me–when I am actually allowed to work in the office. And I have a strict no-work-email-after-hours rule unless I am waiting for something exceptionally important.

That said, I struggle with setting boundaries. Because I’m working from home everyone thinks I am able to stop and help them with whatever they need and want whenever they need and want it. There were a few weeks of friction but I think all of my family members who do and do not live with me are starting to get it.

As am I! I was far too lenient letting home projects distract me when I first started working from home but after many weeks the novelty has worn off and work time has become much more focused.

Thanks for all the tips this week, many are really going to help me in the long run!

Posted by Donald McMichael  | April 24, 2020 at 1:02PM | Reply

For the last 6 years I’ve been in an office environment (before that 10 years working from home) and ported my habit that at 5pm I start my workday shutdown ritual for this ’stay at home’ period. The ritually typically last for 20 minutes then I’m done for the day. Like everyone else, I do have times when deadlines require work during off hours but I try my best to execute whats needed with no to minimal communication. Ordinary emails can wait until the next workday.

Posted by Jason  | April 24, 2020 at 12:50PM | Reply

Even though I have a little bit more flexibility now that I am temporarily working from home, I have stuck to my 8 to 5 schedule like I had when I was in the office. The daily reset I scheduled in my calendar is a good reminder that it’s almost time to quit, and I have my working hours set up in my Google calendar.

Posted by Noah  | April 24, 2020 at 12:40PM | Reply

I’ve mentioned before I’m a student and I’m done with classes around 12 pm daily. However, I still have plenty of homework to keep me busy. I’ll set my shutdown for 3 pm daily, and if I finish sooner it will be a bonus. I usually do some work on the weekend as well, but that is a bit sporadic and not structured at all. I’ll set a reminder for noon on the weekend if I need it, otherwise, I’ll just dismiss it.

Posted by Jane G  | April 24, 2020 at 12:33PM | Reply

I am not working full-time, so my cut-off is 1:00 pm.

Posted by Harriett  | April 24, 2020 at 12:30PM | Reply

My cut off time is 4:30. Start mid is 10:30

Posted by Bill  | April 24, 2020 at 12:25PM | Reply

I’ve worked for large companies for years, so setting work hours in the Outlook calendar is an old habit. Working from home full-time is new for me. I’ve jumbled working hours some to better align with my energy. I am pretty good about making sure I’m done by 6 o’clock.

As an aside, one of the best things I ever did to create discipline about leaving the office was the short period of time that I rode the bus to work. The last express bus out of downtown was leaving at 5:57 PM from in front of my office with or without me. It made me Very disciplined about wrapping up work and getting out the door.

Posted by Rachel  | April 24, 2020 at 12:21PM | Reply

Four out of five days my cut-off-time is 5pm as that is when my other half arrives home, wants to share news about our respective days, and we start preparing dinner. It is also the time that the cat is programmed to start yelling for his evening meal, so even if my partner is delayed at work, or runs errands on the way home I have an alarm with no snooze function that prevents me from forgetting that it is 5pm.

However, on Fridays my other half arrives home around 3pm before I am finished with my work day. I am lucky in that we have a separate study so I am able to fairly easily shut myself off physically. The first challenge up until now has been to re-program the cat. It seems that he still knows when it’s 5pm when the cue of my partner arriving is delayed, but doesn’t (want to) acknowledge that it is not “that” time when my partner arrives early. Beyond allowing the cat to train us to feed him earlier, the only solution to this seems to be to ignore the yowling or put him outside and shut the door.

The second challenge is re-training my other half to postpone the discussion of our respective days until 5pm to avoid getting me out of my flow. That is a conversation that still needs to happen, so the implementation test will be next week…

Posted by Stephanie  | April 24, 2020 at 12:12PM | Reply

This is one thing that is working better for me than pre-quarantine. I have always worked at home, and would grind away for up to 11 hours. But now that my spouse is also home we go for a walk every evening. He texts me a reminder, we pick a time, and it happens. Now I need to make a plan to stick with this one after he goes back to his workplace!

Thank you all for a powerful week–I loved all the challenges, and reading everyone else’s great ideas, as well as recognizing myself in their struggles.

Posted by Sydney A  | April 24, 2020 at 12:09PM | Reply

This is the hardest thing for me, because I have colleagues asking me for advice or assistance constantly, and it’s difficult to refuse/put them off for a while so that I can get my own work done! However, I’ve set my work hours and I intend to stick to them. :) Thanks so much for hosting this challenge!!

Posted by Dan  | April 24, 2020 at 12:08PM | Reply

Oh man, I am so guilty of the 12-14 hour work shift on occasion. I’ve been working from home for a few years and it’s easy to do a “just check” and get caught up in something else until late in the evening. Having the family at home though has brought a bit more awareness to that and after a rough couple of weeks, my wife and I have altered our schedules a bit. We have a drop-dead time of getting started with work by 9 am at the latest and shutdown time of 5 pm. Usually, we are in earlier and can often shut things down a bit earlier, but this is the schedule as of last week. I’m currently creating an automation schedule on my light switch to change the bulb colors to two contrasting colors as a signal to shut down. Maybe I’ll invest in a robotic vacuum as another trigger haha.

Posted by Gloria-Jean Brown  | April 24, 2020 at 12:06PM | Reply

My shut down time is 4pm. I leave weekend for definite creative pursuits and home maintenance(cleaning/groceries)/finance (bank reconcile; budget check)tasks.

Posted by Sathia  | April 24, 2020 at 11:55AM | Reply

Working from home with little humans running around is definitely a change and so sometimes work bleeds into family time. But because of the stay-at-home order, the kids need to get the wiggles out so 4:30pm is quitting time so we can have dinner and go for our evening walk. Since there’s no room to budge on that, it’s been easy to shut down and walk away. So unless we have some after-hours deployment, 8:30am-4:30pm was my work schedule in the office and it’s my work schedule at home. It’s on both my work and home calendars!

Posted by William Moon  | April 24, 2020 at 11:54AM | Reply

Hmmm this was one is much tougher. I feel like during the day, I let personal stuff bleed into the work day and feel obligated to “work a little longer” to justify the intrusion. May be better to revisit all boundaries but for today, I will definitely put up an end time and be explicit about them for next week.

Posted by Pamela Cummings Fitch  | April 24, 2020 at 11:40AM | Reply

Wow. Thank You. Today was the best day of all.

I have struggled with boundaries. My kids are almost gone and I don’t want to miss the last bit of it but I have been because I can work 12-14 hours a day. I have set my boundaries, set my calendar, and instead of having my daughter BUG me, I have asked her to come and HUG me (it’s her SuperPower), so I will stop working and come spend time with her. I think this is going to be sooooo good …. and cuddly!

Posted by Deanne  | April 24, 2020 at 11:15AM | Reply

I have had to work on boundaries for the beginning of the day, too. This morning I got an email asking for a call at 7:00, and I responded with what other times in the day I was available.

Posted by Warren  | April 24, 2020 at 11:15AM | Reply

This is such a challenge. I don’t see an easy option for those in understaffed or high responsibility situations.

The easy answer is your told “The world will keep on moving regardless.”

I think the approach I will take is speaking with my manager/leadership to set the expectation/boundaries. Then place them on my calendar. Communication is key.

Posted by Kat  | April 24, 2020 at 11:13AM | Reply

I actually have the opposite problem. My “home” life leaks into my work hours. I oversleep and start work late, and then I get up to get more water and realize the kitchen counter needs cleaning, so I get distracted doing that, or I get a call from friends or my parents (live in a different timezone, so I can’t call them after work)… the list of distractions goes on. So I end the day feeling like I didn’t get as much work done as I was supposed to.
Scheduling my “work” time blocks still might work though. Hopefully it’ll help me define when I’m supposed to be working and can’t be doing other things like chores, unless they take less than ten minutes and I can use them to take a short break during work every now and then and get out of my chair for a few minutes. I still have to fix that oversleeping problem though…
In any case, work hours scheduled: 9am to 5pm, lunch break at 1pm.

Posted by Steve Wood  | April 24, 2020 at 11:01AM | Reply

6pm :)

Posted by Lisa Dunahoo  | April 24, 2020 at 10:54AM | Reply

I do have trouble stopping my workday. My goal is to complete my work and log off by 5:00, however sometimes I’m look up and it’s past 6:00. We don’t have kids at home, so I don’t have anyone forcing me to stop working and my husband will keep working at his job for as long as I’m working. So… for this challenge, I created an actual reminder at 4:30 pm on each workday as a trigger for me to start my end of day shut down process. And I’ve scheduled exercise in my calendar for 5:00 (with a reminder).

Posted by JL  | April 24, 2020 at 10:54AM | Reply

I already set up an alarm in my calendar to shut down and clear to neutral at the end of the working hours.

Posted by Anna Staevska  | April 24, 2020 at 10:52AM | Reply

My wotking day is like a Dolly Parton song 🎵 Working 9 to 5… I find it easier when I wrap up my day around clear boundaries. It is a good message yo my kids, who know that I sm busy until 5 but after that time we can play, sing songs and generally make noise. Working from home has enabled me to spent more quality time with my family (no commute time) and at the same time being as productive at work as before :)

Posted by patricia millán  | April 24, 2020 at 10:50AM | Reply

This is quite simple for me. The problem is that I have it hard to start focusing in my work so the first hours are not productive at all and I have to stay more time to finish my daily objectives.

Posted by Misti  | April 24, 2020 at 10:50AM | Reply

I set a reminder at the end of the day to “clear to neutral” so that is my trigger to stop, clear my desk and be done. Thank you for all of the great tips!

Posted by Nuntiya  | April 24, 2020 at 10:41AM | Reply

Since working from home, I start my day earlier since I don’t have the 30 minute commute. However, I tend to still work till my regular quitting time instead of getting off earlier. :/ I will write in my planner when it is time to shut down for the day. Thank you!

And yes, my dog also tells me when it’s time for a break. When she wants to go outside, it’s my cue to go outside too. :)

Posted by Eric B  | April 24, 2020 at 10:35AM | Reply

This one was easier for me. I start work as soon as I’m done getting dressed/ready, which is usually around 6:30am (or 8am when I exercise). I end work when it’s time for dinner with the kids around 5:30pm. Having dinner with the family is a hard-stop for me, which is great.

I’m also better at not-working on the weekends, since I’m travelling less (or not at all). That’s a nice break to have, that I didn’t always have before.

Posted by Beth K  | April 24, 2020 at 10:30AM | Reply

You nailed it. Each day has had such important focus points for working from home, I’m not sure which is most important. This may be it. I too, have been working for home since 2012 and it was tough in the beginning. Still it’s not easy but setting boundaries is super important. Thanks a million!! I’ve set up workday start up and shut down rituals and start at 8am (ish) and shut down around 4:30pm.

Posted by Jason  | April 24, 2020 at 10:27AM | Reply

Yes, this is one of the main things that I’ve really struggled with for many years. I rarely end up having enough time to do the things that I should be doing around the house, because I’m always in work mode. I have now changed my Work Hours in Microsoft Outlook from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and I’ve made a commitment to stick to my new work schedule so that I will have the time to take better care of myself and my home. Thank you for reminding me that I really need to do this and for inspiring me to actually do somethings about it and make the change.

Posted by Daniel  | April 24, 2020 at 10:20AM | Reply

Just put an alarm at 5pm.

Posted by Abran Gonzalez  | April 24, 2020 at 10:13AM | Reply

I use one of our bedrooms as an office. Input work hours into a calendar.

Posted by Shaun Barlow  | April 24, 2020 at 10:09AM | Reply

I have a pretty hard stop just after 17:00 when the young kids start getting REALY hungry. I typically then can end the day, unless there were major interuptions. In that case I’ll add an hour or two after they are in bed.

Tha currently keeps me stopping work ften enough. I have a bigger struggle keeping personal time out of my work hours.

Posted by Diana  | April 24, 2020 at 10:07AM | Reply

This challenge has been less of a issue for me in the past couple of years, but prior to that my work life balance was way out of control with 12 hour days, 6 day weeks, no breaks… it actually took a coworker dying shortly before she retired for me to realize that I needed to change. So I reviewed my workload, made a plan outlining what it made sense for me to keep and what could move to other areas of our team that had capacity. I reviewed this with my boss, he agreed and I began the process of moving to 8 – 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was hard at first, to just walk away from my desk knowing how would be waiting for me the next day. I also didn’t know what to do with all my time. Setting the boundaries has totally changed my outlook, I am more efficient, and it has helped our team dynamics as well. Other members of our team have also reduced their hours, which has improved our team culture.
While it took awhile to adjust, I now find it to much easier to keep my boundaries when taking on new work and when things get crazy. There is still the occasional deviation (1 or 2 times per month) when there is a big issue with tight timelines when I will put in the extra time. I then take that time back as soon as I can to do something I enjoy.

on a side note, I am really enjoying everyone’s stories and ideas during this challenge
thanks for sharing

Posted by Jim Smith  | April 24, 2020 at 10:06AM | Reply

My spouse reminds me it’s time for our bike ride. Shut down for the day and exercise and fresh air!

Posted by Bill Johnson  | April 24, 2020 at 10:02AM | Reply

I am setting an appointment twice a week at 6:00 p.m. for family time which shows me as out of office. The other 3 days I set this for 5:30 p.m. This reminds both me and my team that my work day is over. I love the automatic shutdown option and had not even thought of that so I will give that a try!

Posted by Sharon R  | April 24, 2020 at 9:55AM | Reply

I started a new job about a month ago. Before, I was given too much work to complete in 40 hours per week and actually averaged 10 hours per day and a 10 hour day on at least one day per week. Sometimes more. This job is much more reasonable. My team has core hours of 9-5 with an hour lunch expected. I generally work 8:30 to 5 with half hour. When I have extra work I tend to do it in the morning or until 5:30. Hubs cooks me dinner to be ready about 5 or 5:30 so he triggers my days end.

Posted by Bob Schuetz  | April 24, 2020 at 9:51AM | Reply

This one is easy- we have a standard start the day meeting (I work at a power plant, so this and all meetings are Zoom now) that defines start time, and an expectation of 10 hours of work (we work 4×10). So it falls naturally.

Posted by Alice  | April 24, 2020 at 9:46AM | Reply

Hard one for me, but the shelter in place time has helped because I’m now home all the time and am expected to make dinner! I have “make dinner” on my calendar at 6 pm everyday to signal stopping work.

Posted by Monika  | April 24, 2020 at 9:43AM | Reply

Since my workspace is our dining room table, I have a good process to stop. Over the last month only once did I leave my things up and we ate somewhere else’s

Posted by Zaf  | April 24, 2020 at 9:28AM | Reply

Shutdown computer done

Posted by Joan Maze  | April 24, 2020 at 9:28AM | Reply

I end my day at 4:30 pm everyday because me and my friend usually go for a walk or run at 5 pm. It makes it easier for me to stop because I know she is waiting for me.

Posted by Tor  | April 24, 2020 at 9:27AM | Reply

I keep my “9–5” schedule just shifted it to clock off early as he commute is gone.
Loving it; be free earlier l. Hope we are allowed to work from home forever!

Posted by Jennifer Willis-Rivera  | April 24, 2020 at 9:23AM | Reply

This one is SO hard. But I’m really going to try to stick to it. We are in a very small house, and my husband and I are currently sharing a set of good headphones. But there are things we can do fríe both of us. He is going to the free seminar for AE as well. Excited…hopeful… setting up a brand new week next week!!

Posted by Annette Loftus  | April 24, 2020 at 9:09AM | Reply

This one is actual simpler now that I am working from home vs working in the office and travelling a lot for work. The natural boundaries are in the morning when the kids start online school and the end of the day when it is time to cook dinner. Best thing about “shelter at home” is having everyone together at dinner. In my “normal” work life I am always changing time zones so boundaries always shifting.

Posted by Cassandra  | April 24, 2020 at 9:05AM | Reply

I will definitely set up an automatic shut down time on my computer. My team’s defined working hours are 830am-5pm – though during normal working conditions my team can work evenings and weekends for events (which haven’t happened in over a month). I don’t normally work much past 5pm, but it does sometimes bleed over to 515 or 530. I think this will make a huge difference in defining work and home times for me. I already have my calendar hours set from 830-5.

Posted by David  | April 24, 2020 at 9:00AM | Reply

My workday day ends at 6 but I set a clean off my desk reminder for 5:30 so I can make sure my desk is reset to neutral

Posted by Duane  | April 24, 2020 at 8:58AM | Reply

I’ve always had a stop time at the office and I’ve been able to maintain the same schedule at home. It’s a habit for me, not easily broken.

Posted by Michael Peterson  | April 24, 2020 at 8:55AM | Reply

I actually have this on my calendar already, but I have trouble following it.

And I think it’s just off slightly. I have 12-8 (midnight to 8) blocked as OoO on my calendar. And then 5pm to midnight also blocked as OoO.

The issues I have? Actually one pointed out in this session. If part of my routine is clear to neutral, if I’ve been bombarded throughout the day, it takes a while to drain the brain and get things cleared.

The other problem is the expectation that I’m available to a point 24/7 and to do off hours work (I’m in IT).

So defined but really hard to enforce.

Posted by Shay  | April 24, 2020 at 8:51AM | Reply

3 out of 5 days I do well at ending work between 4 and 5 (my target end of day). 1-2 days of the week I tend to work longer. I have considered scheduling one long day a week so that I can end my other days earlier and still have both daylight and energy to work on other personal projects. I do currently have my days and tasks blocked in my Google calendar. Things have gotten out of whack and this challenge has been a reminder/reset to get back to following my schedule. Thank you

Posted by Aneesh  | April 24, 2020 at 8:48AM | Reply

My work hours are set at 8:30 to 5:30 with a one hour lunch break. Although few instances where my toddler son pays me a visit :)

Posted by Lynda  | April 24, 2020 at 8:26AM | Reply

My pets micromanage my schedule, they are very reliable and hard-working members of my ‘team’!

Posted by Jé  | April 24, 2020 at 8:22AM | Reply

I tend to start early and finish at 3 PM!

Posted by Samuel  | April 24, 2020 at 8:20AM | Reply

Setting boundaries is important. I’m finding it’s easy to be on my phone when I should be interacting my my kids. Setting my schedule from 8-5.

Posted by Christine  | April 24, 2020 at 8:08AM | Reply

The department I work for has defined “open” to the public hours of 8-5. I haven’t always been good over the last few weeks of ending my workday around 5. I like the idea of a cue-perhaps as simple as setting a reminder on my watch- to get me moving to wind down status.

Posted by Peter  | April 24, 2020 at 8:05AM | Reply

It is rather simple to set the boundaries for your work. My way of doing it primary is to define time blocks.
On the other hand I use my technology to help me. Being an Apple devices user it is rather simple to let your devices help you. The time blocks are defined and in the past I created with Siri Shortcuts al the help I need.
It was an investment of time to learn Siri Shortcuts and to program the automation (trial and error) but now the are solid and I have all the help I need. And the Return On Investment is BIG!
And because I wasn’t able so far to learn AppleScript in macOS, I simplified my life and silenced ALL notifications. So my iPhone and/or iPad are the ones that (can) notify me.

Posted by Dave  | April 24, 2020 at 8:02AM | Reply

I have been following a solid 8-noon and 1-5 work-hours plan since work-from-home started. I find I am able to stick to this schedule even better at home than at the office because I don’t have to deal with the commute.

Posted by Lori  | April 24, 2020 at 7:57AM | Reply

I’m at the tail end of a project where I must work until I finish the task. So yesterday’s challenge to take breaks will be most helpful for me right now. However, when this project is done, setting boundaries to end the work day will come back into play. Thanks for these challenges. They have been very helpful.

Posted by Dean Johnson  | April 24, 2020 at 7:56AM | Reply

I’ve never really set a stop time for work, and my start time is usually defined by a slide scale of snooze alarms. I’d set my apple watch for some theoretically reasonable wake and when it went off, i’d reassess if that was the right time. Rarely was it the right time, so i’ll set a timer for some amount of time and repeat until I felt “right” waking up. Not a good plan.

Posted by Harold Benkoski  | April 24, 2020 at 7:49AM | Reply

my dog tells me when it’s quitting time, time to go play. We take play breaks during the day, she feels if it’s good for her it’s good for me, and it is indeed.

Posted by Seth  | April 24, 2020 at 7:46AM | Reply

My productivity has certainly decreased working at home with young kids that seem to always need assistance in the morning with school assignments. Since I’m getting less done during the day, I work early in the morning and after dinner too! There is no work boundary. Everything blends together. Resulting in an energy level drop (Day 4 challenge). Today, I’m setting work cut-off at 4pm to spend quality time with wife and kids. I’ll let my kids know, so they will be my accountability partner, forcing me to stop even if a task is not done or a request comes in. Thanks for the challenge. It’s been valuable, informative, and fun!

Posted by Fernando  | April 24, 2020 at 7:45AM | Reply

The biggest challenge in this 5 day excercise, shutting down. I didn’t know about the auto computer shutting down, will try that.

Posted by Al  | April 24, 2020 at 7:31AM | Reply

As usual, you’re so right! Setting boundaries is so important. I’ve set my working hours and will be taking with my family to find a way they they can help me stick to them. I’ll see if they’d be my accountabil-a-buddy. Seems I need that in a couple areas of my life. For this challenge, what comes to mind is NCIS Gibbs’ Rule 11… “When the job is done, walk away.”

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