Set office hours—even if you don’t have to

Congrats. You’re free-as-a-bird. You’ve defeated the 40-hour grind and can now work anytime, anywhere, and anyway you want. In a café, on a park bench, or in your bed. In sweatpants, wearing just underwear, or even buck naked. Sensing a catch or two? Yep. Here are two big ones:

1. You procrastinate more

Without a set schedule, putting off work is way too easy. You can always say, “I’ll do it later. I can just sleep in all day and stay up till 3am to finish it up. Take that, you 9 to 5 drones!”

2. You’re on call 24/7

It’s also too convenient for others to contact you. If they already have your email, IM, and mobile number, doesn’t it mean you’re on call all the time? How about a note like this from a client: “Hey Bob, since you’ll already up at 3am, can you finish up those warp drive plans by dawn? Thanks a bunch!”

So what do you do? How do you avoid the trappings of your newfound nomadic “freedom”? There’s a hint in the title of this post:

Set office hours–even if you don’t have to.

Okay, so that was more than a hint. The basic idea is to separate work from the rest of your life. Your office hours don’t have to be 9 to 5. They could be 10 to 6. Or 12-5. Just make it consistent. The goal is to create chunks of time exclusively for work so you can enjoy guilt-free play later.

Next, train your bosses, employees, and clients to contact you only during office hours. The simplest way is to not check emails, send IMs, or answer phone calls when you’re off duty. Over time, they’ll get the hint. Also, make your office hours explicit by stating them in your email signature and voicemail message.