Is technology ruining personal life?

5 digital habits for a clean separation of work and private life

When you work online as a freelancer, the line between your personal self and your professional self becomes blurred.

The risk of identity mix-ups and misplaced data is a constant, as is the temptation to get chopped off from work. An email sent to the wrong address or a bad post on your Facebook timeline could get you fired.

To reduce the risk of such a disaster, it is a good idea to separate your digital personal life from your digital work life. Let's show you five basic ways to do this.

1. Separate online identities

Start with your email. Get a custom domain name and email address to make this happen. Do not use this address to sign up for services that are not related to your work. Use your personal email address instead.

You can still read e-mail sent to both addresses with a desktop e-mail client or a webmail service that can handle multiple accounts.

Now for the most important part: Set up different profile pictures for your work and your personal email accounts. For best results, use Gravatar to assign an avatar to both email accounts. Once you do so, each time you use one of your email addresses online, it will display the corresponding unique profile picture.

What's the benefit of it?

You always know if you are using the appropriate account for every online activity you are doing. This is useful when sending a highly worded email, commenting on a website, or sharing sensitive files.

You may also want to set up separate social media accounts for work and personal use. After all, professional networking on social media has certain do's and don'ts. The Do's and Don'ts of Professional Networking on Social Media The Do's and Don'ts of Professional Networking on Social Media Professional networking on social media can feel like a lost cause. But stick to these do's and don'ts and you can make the valuable connections you are looking for. Additional information that may not apply to the personal area.

2. Separate devices

By limiting your work-related and personal tasks to specific devices, you don't have to worry about data mix-ups or identities. You can turn one device into a productivity hub and the second into an entertainment and management zone.

You don't have to buy a new gadget to perform this function. Use your desktop or laptop only for work and your phone only for personal tasks and media use. A Chromebook is also the perfect device for personal use.

Switching between the two devices can get boring, but that's the idea. It makes you work when you work and when you play.

If procrastination is your nemesis or workaholism, having a dedicated device for work and a shutdown routine can help you fight.

3. Separate user accounts on the desktop

If you use the same device for business and personal activities, it is ideal to create separate user accounts or profiles for them.

You can use your personal account for day-to-day administration, blogging, watching movies and TV shows, and receiving newsletters. You can also use it for occasional web browsing and as a test bed for apps.

However, when you log into your work account, it's like you've dressed up for work and logged into “the zone”. By the way, getting dressed is a way to be more productive from home.

4. Separate browsers or browser profiles

Don't want to switch back and forth between user accounts? Why not switch between browsers? You can use a combination of, for example, Chrome and Firefox or Safari and Opera to split your digital activities.

This approach can help keep your work browser slim. All resource-intensive activities in your personal browser are restricted to it.

You can play around with all sorts of interesting extensions in personal browser without slowing down your working browser. You also no longer have to worry about shuffling bookmarks or leaving your search history on your work account.

If Chrome or Firefox is one of your primary browsers, you can set up different profiles for work and play. 5 Custom Chrome Profiles You Should Use 5 Custom Chrome Profiles You Should Use One Chrome feature that is often overlooked: the ability to have multiple user profiles. We'll show you how they can make your life easier. And yes, you can use profiles in Firefox and other browsers as well. Read More

While you can have multiple user profiles in Opera too, the method of setting them up is a bit circular. You can find it on this thread on the Opera forums.

It's a shame that Safari doesn't support multiple user profiles. You can't even add them with an extension because the security feature is System Integrity Protection (SIP). But don't worry, you can quickly switch between user accounts in your Mac's menu bar.

5. Separate apps and tools

Didn't you decide to go with a single user account? You can still sort your work and personal activity with different apps, brands, app suites, and ecosystems.

For example, if you use OneNote for work, you can store non-work materials in Evernote. If you use iCloud apps or Microsoft apps for your personal information, you can use Google apps for work.

Setting things up this way may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you've got it all set up, your workflows will be better organized. Thanks to import / export and cloud backup functions in apps, moving your data is no longer as difficult as it used to be.

Splitting activities with digital and analog tools can also work. For example, you can use Trello, Google Calendar, and Evernote for work. For personal use, you can use a real Kanban board, paper planner, and bullet diary. You don't have to go to extremes like exchanging personal email for handwritten letters.

This last approach works pretty well for me. By using my laptop primarily for work, I was able to significantly reduce screen time.

Dress up for work online

In a traditional work environment, your work life is removed from your personal one, both physically and digitally. As a freelancer, you can get the same physical space by setting up a home office. But you also need a digital barrier and you have to take care of it again.

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Image credit: Olivier26 / Depositphotos

Learn more about: Freelance, Habits, Remote Work, Time Management.