Separating (or Not) Your Personal and Professional Productivity: 4 Views

For our last post in October (on the theme of Personal vs Professional Productivity), we wanted to give you a few different perspectives from some of the most awesome, fun, productive and creative people we know.

Gina Trapani, of

Founding editor of Lifehacker and author of four tech books.

I work at home, and the most common advice I hear about managing that is to do everything you can to separate work from your personal life. In one way I absolutely do: my office is a separate room in my home with a door that closes, and in it, all I do is work.

In every other way, I integrate the professional and personal. I have one todo list, one calendar, one email inbox, one phone, one phone number, and one computer where I both work and play. If I were to try to split things up, the lines wouldn’t be clear. Sometimes work is play (I see friends and family when I travel for business), and sometimes play is work (weekend projects often turn into income generators).

I always feel bad for friends who have to carry, charge, update, and check two mobile phones, one for work and one for personal use. For me, that would be way too much overhead.

Michelle Nickolaisen, of Let’s Radiate

Creative organizer, great at making ideas actionable.

I don’t really separate my personal vs. professional productivity. I have one planner, one to-do list, and one set of goals; the only times they’re separated are at the beginning of the year or maybe if I’m doing a deeper quarterly review than I usually do, in which case I’ll ask myself, “What do I want this area of my life to look like in a year?” But after that? It all ends up in the same place.

The way I view it is that I have one life and I’m bad at compartmentalizing, so why would I do it?

Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn

Author of the thriller novel Pentecost and three non-fiction books.

My life changed when I gave up TV and moved to 4 days a week in the day job.

I was trying to write my first book and blog, social network and build a platform online, but it was overwhelming and I never had enough time. The little chunks of time I could carve out weren’t enabling me to achieve my goals fast enough. So I looked at what I need to sacrifice.

First, we got rid of the TV which meant we only watched shows from iTunes/Hulu. That cut out adverts and meant we could schedule downtime for when brain-dead watching was really necessary. But that wasn’t enough. So I asked my boss if I could move to 4 days a week work at 80% of my income. I would put in more hours and do the same amount of work but I needed Fridays off.

The trial period worked out and that day enabled me to make massive progress in my writing, blogging and marketing. It gave me 10 hours of hardcore focus, productive time working on my business and not in someone else’s. Four years later, I have left my day job to work as an author-entrepreneur fulltime. I couldn’t have made the jump without those 2 things that freed me up to work productively.

Rob Lawrence, of Get Noticed 

Musician, creativity coach and co-author of Get Noticed.

One of the biggest threats to our personal and professional productivity is the handling of expectations with people that fall in to either of these categories. For example, our professional colleagues may not fully appreciate our personal commitments whilst our friends and family may not understand our work commitments. So how do we overcome such challenges?

First we need to be clear about our own personal and professional objectives and boundaries. We then need to communicate our objectives to people in terms they can easily understand. We can check that we have been clearly understood by asking questions such as, “Can you tell me, in your own terms, what you understand about my goals and commitments right now?” These questions can prove insightful as they lead to deeper conversations which help us to re-shape our communications with others appropriately.

The process of clarifying ourselves with others can help us to gain support from them as they begin to understand our objectives in terms that make sense to them. This process can also provide us with valuable feedback we often don’t get an opportunity to experience, giving us clues to where our personal and professional boundaries can be improved upon. The result of then acting upon such feedback is greater productivity in both our personal and professional lives through improved boundary function and clear expectations set with others. 

Have you got a great tip to add to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts too: just drop a comment below!

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