How to work together without killing each other
Chad and I work full time together in the office of our small, one bedroom apartment. All day. Most days. And we're still happily married. Ha! We've had plenty of friends tell us they could never successfully accomplish this with their spouse. We agree—it's certainly not for everyone! It hasn't always been easy for us, either, but after a few rough months in the beginning, we collaborated to set safe boundaries and "house rules" that help us thrive in the space we have—without killing each other.
1. Visually divide our space
Don't be fooled by that photo above...that's actually two rooms pictured: the office with the white furniture and part of the living room with the blue couch and spiral rug. And that's how we agree to treat it! Even our physical space has boundaries. When we're "at the office" in our desks, our backs are to the tv and the couch. When we're off hours, we hang out in the living room on the couch/rug and ignore our office. When we are eating, we're at the table in our kitchen—not at the office or in the living room. When it's bedtime, that's what the bedroom is for. It may sound silly, but this physical division of space helps us remain diligent while working and at rest when we're relaxing. Laziness in the way we use our physical space leads to blurred lines and emotional chaos.
2. Agree on our roles together
We quickly learned that understanding our individual roles in our business was super important. This obviously keeps us each on task, but it also prevents us from stepping on each other's toes and "back seat designing" as we call it. When we each have authority on certain areas of our business, we know where the "final say" in each area comes from, so this minimizes disagreements and keeps our communication respectful.
3. Agree on our schedules together
Having clear agreement on when we are "coworkers" and when we are "spouses" is marriage-saving. We know when our "dressed and ready with shoes on" work day begins every day and when it's supposed to end. (One of my favorite moments was when Chad called me from the bedroom one morning to let me know he was running late getting to the office. It was so cute—especially in surround sound since I could also hear him from about eight feet away in the other room, but this serves to show how much we respect each other and our schedules.) Every day we end our work day by leaving the office for fifteen or twenty minutes—we shut things down, go take a walk or a quick drive and then we "come home" to the evening.
4. We posted our sanity guidelines
When we went to the CONNECT Retreat (a marriage retreat for photographers) last year, we learned SO many great tips. (Read all about it on our blog here ») One of our greatest takeaways was Zach & Jody Gray's suggestion to write "Sanity Guidelines". They are sort of like agreed upon "house rules" that keep you from going crazy. We wrote ours out and have them posted in our apartment. Here are ours:
Chad & Amber's SANITY GUIDELINES:
- Every work day begins with a devotional time with God...no matter what.
- No phones, computers, TVs or any handheld devices in the bedroom.
- No checking of social media until we get to the office.
- At the end of the work day, phones get plugged in at the desks and we go on a walk or drive.
- Bed by 11 PM on work nights no matter what!
- Plan out meals on Mondays. If needed, go grocery shopping Monday morning.
- Mondays are a day of wonderment and personal time. No work is allowed on this day unless it’s an emergency.
These four solutions really aren't rocket science, but they sure have transformed the health of our small work space and have re-balanced our lives. Hope they are helpful to you as well.