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The 24/7 Lifestyle: Time Management in the Home Office

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This chapter is from the book
Between having a home office and the 24/7 nature of life, you need to learn how to manage those 24 hours in a day when your desk is just a 60-second commute away.

If you used to (or still do) work in an office five days a week, you probably worked from nine to five or some variation of that, and perhaps worked overtime as necessary or brought work home to review at night. Alas, for the American worker, we don't do siestas, and we don't stroll into the office at ten o'clock—on a good day—like some of our European counterparts. Even the term "24/7" is uniquely American. Between beepers and cell phones, lap top computers and e-mail, it seems we're often expected to work around the clock, and to be accessible at any hour, day or night.

Enter the home office. Now we have an entirely new concept of "the office." With this home office and the 24/7 nature of life, let's explore how to manage those 24 hours in a day when your desk is just a 60-second commute away.

Time . . . Where Does It Go?

Just as in the corporate office, where a busy morning will make the day fly by, the workday in a home office disappears into a vortex of time. From the moment each of the authors wakes up, to long after everyone else goes to bed, we're on the move.

Mornings, for us, are the off-to-school rush, and our days are filled with high-intensity work plus all the errands and chores of an average family. We can go from the "high" of sealing a big deal to the mind-numbing boredom of folding laundry in 60 seconds flat, because all that housework is just a step away. Because neither of us typically gets eight hours of uninterrupted work time, let alone the 10 or more hours professionals sometimes need when work piles up, we have to go back to "the office" after dinner or after our kids are in bed. We have to find this extra time, and coffee has become a nocturnal mainstay.

The American work week isn't really 40 hours at all. Despite computers and technology, which were supposed to help us cut down on our time in the office, the average work week creeps upward and upward. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, the average U.S. employee works a 46-hour work week. And a whopping 38 percent of U.S. workers clock in at more than 50 hours a week.

Don't get us wrong: We appreciate that the home office allows us a unique advantage to choose hours that work for us, or to sometimes work these late hours when family demands dictate that we do. We're not alone in dividing up our time, either. In interviewing people for this book, we found many compatriots who split their days because of children and spouses, or caretaking elderly parents. We also found a majority who had to work late hours because the "home" in the home office equation pressed in on their work time and they had to make up for that. Many people discover being a home office worker can mean a heavier schedule than they imagined when they set up that office in the spare bedroom. You can guard against this with good time management skills and being organized from the very beginning.

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