— August 23, 2017
One of the reasons I decided that having a “real job” just wasn’t for me was my hatred of going to, and sitting in an office all day. I also just didn’t like the whole office politics and having to be there at a certain time. Wear certain clothes and just pretend you like being there. Pretending to like someone that under normal circumstances you’d rather stick pins in your eyes than sit next to for 8 hours a day. And don’t get me started on having to eat your lunch with these people too! Obviously, that was all back in the days of the “real job” and working for someone else. Not anymore! Now I get to work from home!
Did you notice my “real job” remarks there? Funnily enough, I’ve had a few conversations in the past week about “real jobs” and how those of us that work for ourselves and even worse, work from home, somehow are perceived as not working! There seems to be some great mystery to the outside world as to how freelancers, the self-employed and small business owners manage to survive since we do no work! We don’t have “real jobs” and lounge around in our pyjamas all day watching daytime tv.
Let me just set the record straight. I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched daytime tv. I don’t wear my pyjamas all day. But, I will admit though to wearing them now. But it is 1am and I’ve already missed my self-imposed deadline this week for posting this blog. I missed it because I was working! For myself! All day! And not in my pyjamas!
Now don’t get me wrong, it is tempting some days to just not get dressed and stay in my pyjamas. Or loungewear as some folks call it now. Loungewear! Yes, that was me rolling my eyes. I saw a girl’s profile on Instagram the other day calling herself a loungewear influencer. Ummmmmmm, so you’re just a pyjama lounger then really love. I said that in my best Sarah Millican impression because I think she’d say it like that. Anyway, I digress…….
8 TIPS FOR HOW TO WORK FROM HOME
So now my greatest joy of not being in someone else’s employment is that I get to work from home. I do have an office if I want to go to it. It’s actually a very nice office and Socially Famous PR recently moved to it. But I like to spend time working on my own stuff (like my blogs and my other writing and stuff) at home. I like the freedom of working from home. To not have to deal with traffic and other people. If I’m feeling uninspired I can go for a walk or go and do my shopping and resume working later. I like that if I’m busy I don’t have to stop because the office is closing, I can just crack on. Or stop for an hour or two and then carry on.
However, working from home also has its draw backs. Like the urge to do the hoovering mid-day. Or just load the washer. Or unannounced visitors that know you’re home doing nothing because you don’t have a “real job”. That’s why it’s important to lay some ground rules and try to stick to them.
1. CREATE A SCHEDULE
I know one of the great things about working for yourself and working from home is the ability to not work to a set schedule. In the long run not having a schedule probably isn’t going to work out for you. It’s very easy to slip into bad habits when you work from home. Working late nights, not taking enough breaks and time outs. Sitting at your desk all day every day. It’s not good for you and it’s not productive. Try to schedule out your days so that everything you need to do is allotted a time slot and you stick to it. Even schedule in breaks and days off.
You can even go a step further and lock down your schedule to the extent that every minute of your day is accounted for. For example; 9am, 30 minutes of emails and checking social media accounts. 9.30am, blog writing for 1 hour etc etc. You get the picture. In most ‘real jobs’ each employee’s tasks and the time taken are quite defined so an employee would know each day what they need to do and how long it will take to that it. As a self-employed person, we often lose that sense of structure. Don’t be afraid to set yourself some timescale deadlines and stick to them.
At the same time, I often shuffle my day around depending on how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling unmotivated or uninspired then sitting down at my desk isn’t going to change that. It just means I’ll procrastinate more and probably get click happy on Amazon instead of working. Be flexible with your day but try to keep some structure there.
2. DEFINE YOUR WORKSPACE
I know there’s a trend or it seems to cool to have a laptop lifestyle or humble brag about creating your empire from your kitchen table, but again, this isn’t overly productive. Your dining table is for eating your dinner off. And your sofa is for relaxing on. Just like your bedroom is for sleeping in. When we mix up our spaces we lose the association our minds naturally have to those places. It’s a bit like how you wouldn’t eat your dinner in the downstairs toilet.
Having a clearly defined workspace in your home will help you to actually get work done. If you have a spare room then even better. In the past, I’ve made do with having a desk in a corner of a bedroom or dining room and once the sitting room. I didn’t like it but it was all I could do with the space I had at the time. Now I have a whole room to use as an office I find it’s much better and work can be contained to that one room. Leaving me to use the rest of my house for living in. Not working in.
The other upside of having a clearly defined workspace is telling the other household members to stay out of your space. There are enough distractions as it is when you work at home without having others encroach into your space. At the end of your work day (that you’ve created a schedule for as in point 1), shut the door and leave work in that space. Don’t let it move with you to your sofa or bedroom!
3. GET YOUR TOOLS IN ORDER
You know that saying about a bad workman blaming his tools? Have you got the right tools? This also touches on what I said about having a clearly defined workspace. Are you using the kitchen table instead of having a proper desk? What are you sitting on? Is your computer fit for purpose? I know it sounds cool to say you can run your business from your phone, but can you really?
I used a laptop for ages but about 18 months ago I invested in a big iMac to sit on my desk. It’s great for doing website and design work on but it also means that it sits on my desk. Which means I have to sit at my desk to use it. I still use a laptop as well but since I prefer the iMac it stops me taking the laptop off into other rooms to work there.
Similarly, is your broadband fit for purpose? Is it fast enough and reliable enough to deal with the extra load working from home will put on it? Are other members of the household sucking up all the bandwidth on Netflix whilst you’re trying to upload to YouTube? Take a look at your package and what your current provider offers and make sure you’re on an unlimited package. You’ll hit your limits in no time at all if you’re on a smaller package. Check the small print!
4. SET BOUNDARIES AND RULES
Remember how I said about the unannounced visitors that randomly turn up because they know you’re at home? Tell them firmly that you’re working. Make it clear to everyone you know who may possibly ever think it’s a good idea to turn up, that you have a work schedule. You are working! Just as you need to set rules for other members of your household to get them to stay out of your workspace, you also need to set them for potential visitors.
It can be really difficult to stay focused at home. Interruptions don’t help with this either. Someone may just pop round for a quick brew but chances are that it will be at least an hour. You then have to be able to refocus really quickly or you risk losing your entire afternoon. And if you really must have visitors during the day, then reshuffle the schedule. Don’t let it be an excuse for not getting stuff done. An hour in the afternoon will need to be made up later in the day. Be strict with yourself.
5. TAKE BREAKS
I will openly admit that I don’t take enough breaks. A number of times I’ve sat down to quickly do something and then realised it’s 4 hours later. This isn’t good when it happens at midnight and you were just on your way to bed.
As tempting as it is to work all hours when you work from home, especially when you’re building your business. Don’t do it. I don’t care that Gary Vee says you’ve to hustle for 32 hours a day. You can’t. It’s mentally and physically impossible. You’ll get burn out and make mistakes. Take this blog post for example. It’s late and I want to get it finished. But I won’t publish it now as I know it will be littered with mistakes. I’ll correct those tomorrow during the day when I’m more awake. I’ll roll my eyes at the stupid mistakes I’ve made in it. This is because I’m tired and I shouldn’t be doing it now. Really, I should be in bed.
Over the past few days I haven’t scheduled my days very well, due to being busy, so time has run away from me. I didn’t take my own advice and now I’m the one suffering for it. Tomorrow I’ll sort the schedule first and then edit. I use an app to plan out my day and set in breaks. The human brain only has a limited concentration span. To work productively we need to work in shorter bursts and then have small breaks. Get up from your desk, go and get a drink. Take a little walk around the house. Stick your head outside to get some air. But don’t do the housework! You’re at work remember!
6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE BUSY
This sounds a bit daft, but along with the unannounced visitors, there can also be those that expect us to always be free to do whatever. Go for coffee, kids days out, just nip and pick something up, let’s do lunch. It’s never ending. And hard to say no to. But you are busy building an empire, you don’t have time for this stuff. Say no. Tell people you are busy. And don’t be embarrassed by it. They should be embarrassed for asking in the first place! Would they take an afternoon off work to just go for lunch with you? No, they wouldn’t so neither should you.
7. GET DRESSED
I know pyjamas are comfy. I know it’s easy to just slide out of bed and slide behind your desk. It’s wrong. Would you do that if you worked for someone else? No, you wouldn’t. So, don’t do it now you work for yourself. Get up, get showered, do your hair, put your makeup on if you’d normally do that and get dressed. Go to work! Ok, so you might just throw on your yoga pants and t-shirt. That’s fine. But try and keep some form of going to work type routine to your day. It helps. Trust me.
8. GET SUPPORT
By this, I don’t mean hire help or get a PA. Working from home or for yourself can get lonely. And if we’re to turn away the unannounced visitors and stop the lunch dates then we can easily stop communicating with the outside world if it’s not work related. But at the same time, we can still have work frustrations that we want to talk to others about.
I’ve found there are some great online groups with others who are just like you. They get what it’s like. They probably have the same issues. The same difficulties. The same annoying type of friend that randomly shows up unannounced and stays for far too long. They have clients that annoy them too. After I wrote a certain very popular blog post about football a few months ago I also attracted a few troll type haters. There’s only like 4 of them and I know who they are, but they do like to say some below the belt stuff about me every now and then. But sharing this with the freelancer’s group I’m in helps me to not take these negative comments on board and reminds me they are just ill-informed trolls.
It’s also good to do other things away from work that gets you out of the house and mixing with real world people. Whether that’s networking events or going to the gym. It can become very easy to never leave the house when you work from home, so be careful you don’t become a hermit! Starting a business is like a really big emotional roller coaster (as I’ve written about before), so talk to others that know what it’s like.
HOW DO YOU WORK FROM HOME?
What’s your top tip for working from home? How do you stay focused when the lure of the laundry basket becomes too much? What do you say to your Mum that keeps on randomly turning up at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon? Or that friend that always dumps her kid at your house because you’re at home with nothing better to do than mind their kid while they go shopping!
Share your tips in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!