Separating Business and Personal To-Do Lists

We’re all living one life, and we only get to live it one day at a time. We strive for work/life balance, so that we can accomplish our goals and pay our bills and still have time for family, recreation, and our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Planning our days is vital, so that we’re giving the proper amount of time and attention to all of the things that matter.

As someone who works from home, the lines often blur for me. I keep office hours and have a schedule that I try desperately to stick to, but I also can’t deny the compelling advantages that having your workspace in your living space offers up. Taking a short break to go change out a load of laundry, for example, is an amazing thing. It means that I don’t have to devote time to doing laundry later. I can take a couple of minutes and go right back to work. If Katie comes home early, I can knock off early to spend time with her, and then put in an extra hour or two of work after she’s gone to bed. That sort of flexibility is a gift, but also a responsibility; it would be easy to blow off work and just spend my days doing everything else.

I used to make integrated task lists for that very reason. Today, I need to do these things. Whether they were business, personal, or household tasks didn’t matter. They needed to get done, and I sorted them by priority. For the most part, work got top priority, but it could be shifted around for important things like family events and mission-critical errands and appointments. The problem was that it blurred the lines to an unacceptable level. What I had to do slowly started to get pushed aside by what I wanted to do, under the guise of what I needed to do.

So I’ve split my lists out into personal and professional tasks. During office hours, I need to focus almost exclusively on professional tasks. I say almost, because I don’t ant to lose the advantages of being at home. If I need to take out the trash, there’s no logical reason to say “no, it’s work time, I can’t do that now”, when I can easily do it on a break from writing, after I’ve just written 2,000 words in a surge, or when I’m trying to think through an idea.

This is where the 1-3-5 system has been handy. I don’t split that list out. The top item, the 1 on the list, is almost always the big project I’m working on. The 5’s are usually small household chores that I can do on a break. It helps me to maintain some sort of balance, but to also rationally and efficiently integrate all of the aspects of my life so that things flow better, and I’m far more productive.

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