The great thing about working from home is that you can work flexible hours. The down side to this is that it’s even harder to clock out when your office space is part of your home. Of course, smart phones and the internet have made it easier for many of us to take work home with us even when we leave the office behind at the end of the day. Setting work boundaries is important for everyone, but when you work from home, it can be a little more challenging to establish them. Today I’m sharing three tips that have helped me to set office hours.

Set work hours.

I don’t mean this in a very strict sense. In a home where both parents are self-employed and the kids are homeschooled, I definitely need some flexibility! That being said, I aim to be done with work by 6PM on weeknights. After that, I walk away from the computer for the rest of the evening. Weekends are for working on my writing projects, house projects, school planning, or getting together with friends and family. Of course there are times when I have to work late, or do some work on weekends because it’s the busy season or there’s a particular project that needs more time put into it. The key is to make those the exceptions and not the rule.

Turn off notifications.

This may mean all notifications, or only some notifications. I discovered that when I had my e-mail notifications set to pop up every time a work e-mail came in, I would pick up my phone every time a new one came in. Even if it was midnight and I was getting ready to go to bed, I’d stop to answer e-mails that honestly could have waited until morning. Turning off these notifications was the only way I could give my brain a break from being in “work mode”. Take advantage of settings that allow you to customize which people and apps you receive notifications from and set hours when notifications are muted. If you’re worried about missing something truly important, then let certain co-workers or clients know how to contact you via text or phone if they have something that just can’t wait until the next business day.

Use a planner.

This may seem like an odd addition, but it really does work! Using a planner to keep track of my work-related to-do list and upcoming due dates helps me to make sure that I’ve gotten all of the must-do tasks done for the day or week. That in turn allows me to take a step back in the evenings or on weekends because I know that I haven’t missed anything that’s due. If your to-do list doesn’t fit in your planner, then try using a legal pad or bullet journal to keep your running to-do list written down. Date or prioritize each item on your list so that you can see at a glance what needs to be done when. Knowing that you’ve checked off the most important tasks lets your brain and body rest when you’ve clocked out.

We all know that it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between work and our personal life. Setting boundaries when it comes to work is a key part of maintaining this balance. Stepping away from work gives us time to devote to personal relationships, and taking care of our own health. When our personal life and our health are in good shape, we’re in a better position to do our best work during office hours.