6th November 2013 | IN DESIGN ADVICE | BY SBID

For many interior designers, life at home and life at work are one and the same. Some spend long hours at an office, while others blur the lines between their job and life by working from home. Dedication as an entrepreneur is essential, but at a certain point, everyone needs to find a way to feel like more than just his or her professional title. Here are five tips to help you develop a balance between work and life in the realm of interior design.

1. Understand Your Limits. From designing to client relationship management and keeping up with small-business trends, interior designers may easily find themselves working long hours each day and into the night. Small-business owners and freelancers often throw themselves into their work, thinking that the success of an enterprise depends entirely upon them.

Working long hours when a deadline is approaching is logical, but consistently pulling 12-hour shifts for months on end will likely result in burnout. As any interior designer knows, it’s difficult to be creative and produce high-quality work when feeling like you’re at the end of your rope. Rather than overdoing it, Forbes recommends protecting your private time, such as when taking walks, driving to meet clients, or even grabbing a quick bite to eat in between searching for design materials.

Even with designated time to take a mental break, long days can still be exhausting. If you find yourself getting toward your maximum work abilities, remember that it’s okay to say no. There’s no rule that says you need to take on every design opportunity that comes your way, at least not right away. Tell a client you’d be happy to take on a project—starting next week.

2. Create a Schedule. Many people envy interior designers who work from home; they can set their own hours, dress how they please, and are free of the burden of a morning commute. However, there are some downfalls to operating from home. As opposed to onsite staffers, who leave an office and can immediately mentally detach themselves from work, self-employed or home-based interior designers live where they work.

That’s why it’s particularly important to set a work schedule while at home. Whether a designer prefers to wake up early and begin working or meeting clients at their homes for consultations by 8 a.m. or would prefer to sleep in later and take more evening appointments, the important thing is to establish a steady schedule, and adhere to it.

Use time-management techniques and schedule time specifically for searching for fabrics and other materials, schedule another allotment for returning client emails, and set an end time to your workday. Then stick to it. That might mean calling it quits while in the middle of a search for the perfect light fixture for a home, or emailing a client that you’ll get back to them with a full update the next morning.

It may be difficult to step away at the end of the day, but soon this will become a habit that will keep you healthier, happier, and more balanced.

3. Designate Space. Creating a home office that is conducive to productivity can make a huge difference in attempting to strike a home and life balance. A small spare room is perfect for an office where an interior designer can spend their time and even meet with clients; then once they’ve completed their work, they can shut the door to their office, marking the end of a workday. A home office is another great place to show off your eye for style, and clients who meet you at your office will be able to see how effective design can be when you’re in charge. Check out Janelle McCulloch’s Library of Design blog for design insights and home-office tips.

Some find it too difficult to fully separate home and work life when designing in their living room or even a spare office. For those designers, shared workspaces are a great option. Shared workspaces are designed for freelance and independent workers; interior designers can rent out a desk in a communal space where others will also be working. You can reserve a desk for a day, week, or even months, and you will be able to keep your physical home separate from work.

4. Get Organized. You’re a creative, dynamic interior designer managing a small business, and… your workspace is a mess. You have fabric samples in stacks on your desk, binders full of design ideas on top of a spare chair, and notes stuck to your computer monitor reminding yourself to call to vendors. One of the easiest ways to free up time for a healthy home life is to keep work documents, files, and contacts neat and orderly. Use binders to store contracts, keep the surface of your desk tidy, and clean up your hard drive.

Take an afternoon to look through your desktop and sort everything out. Designate folders for projects by client name, and label important emails so you never have to spend precious time searching through disorganized files again. If you don’t use this method already, try setting reminders for yourself using an online calendar that you can access from your office or on your phone. It’s amazing how many hours a bit of organization will free up, leaving time for family and friends.

5. Develop New Passions. Working as a freelance interior designer or running a small firm requires passion and dedication, which is why it’s no surprise that it’s hard for many designers to think of anything else. However, to find a balance between life and work, it’s important to consider life outside the world of design.

Think about something you’ve always wanted to try, or a hobby you used to have when you were a kid. Now get out of the house and do it. Take a painting class, go for a run, or become a member at a museum and keep up with new exhibits. Not only will these activities help you feel balanced and relaxed, they’ll also clear your head. When you return to your desk the next day, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on a new day of design.

How do you balance work and home life? What do you do to make sure you step away from your desk at the end of the day? Let us know in the comments below.

Author Anne Bouleanu, Line//Shape//Space