Tips to Make It Work
After moving from Salt Lake to Superior, Wisconsin, I began life as a freelancer who worked at home. A dream for quite a while, working at home wasn't quite the easy transition I expected. It was so different from my "going to a workplace" life.
I mean, at home, I had free access to the fridge, books calling out to be read (of course, I worked in libraries before, and there were tons of books there as well), I had a lovely view of the woods and wild animals who visited. Who wouldn't be distracted?
Over time, I learned how to separate my work life from my personal life. Whether you're starting a freelance career, bring work home with you or engage in a creative hobby, here are a few tips I learned over the years to make getting it done at home work.
Separate Life, Separate Space
I discovered early on that working on the kitchen table wasn't exactly the best way to go about it. I sat in front of a huge window that looked right out into the woods. A bear here, a porcupine there - so much going on. It was also too close to our home's living areas where cooking, eating, watching TV and other activities took place.
Moving my office to one of the upstairs bedrooms changed that. I had a small window where I could look out and see the trees. I found I needed that respite. But that small window wasn't as distracting. This space became my work place.
You might not have an extra bedroom to convert into an office. That's OK. A corner of a room works, too. Move your working tools, desk and whatever else you need to a corner of a larger room. If possible, use a room divider to section the area off. Dedicate a space as a work area separate from the rest of the household.
Set Your Hours
Unless you're a plumber or someone who needs to be available in an emergency situation, designate office hours both for your own benefit and to control contact from clients. I found that clients attempted to contact me at all hours even though my attention was not generally an emergency.
My office hours begin in the early morning because that is when I am at my best. I begin work at a specific time each day and designate a closing hour as well. I often work beyond that, but it gives clients an idea about when I'm available and when I'm not.
During off hours, don't answer the phone, don't answer emails and don't connect any other way. I have made exceptions to this rule with clients I have a close working relationship with, and that is entirely up to you. But, keeping your personal and work life separate means designating specific hours to work with clients.
I really fight the tendency to sit down and get everything done before taking any kind of break. It turns out breaks are an important part of better productivity, though.
A ten-minute break away from intensive work every hour gives your mind and body a chance to recharge. Walk the dog, grab a cup of tea and sit on the deck or do whatever you need to do to get out of work mode for a few minutes.
And, don't forget to eat. Take a lunch break of at least a half-hour and enjoy it.
Of course, breaks are out the window when I'm on a creative roll or on a very tight deadline. That will happen to you, too. But most of the time, taking a quick break every hour makes you more productive, not less.
Home Is Where the Troubles Lie
Kids, partners and pets - home is where the heart is, and home is where all those other living beings are as well. And those living beings can be quite disruptive.
That's one reason designating work hours is a great idea. You have your "work" time the same way you did when you worked an outside job. You just don't have the commute.
Lay down some ground rules about how and when you can be interrupted during the course of your workday. It might take time before everyone complies, but your gentle or not-so-gentle reminders when you're interrupted for no good reason will get them into the habit.
Now about the pets - I love my pets and love having them around while I work. No question, they are distracting. Most of the time they let me work, but once in a while, a rowdy young cat wants to "help" me. So, out he goes as I shut the door after him.
It's Your Life
You'll likely be more productive working from home than you ever were in an office. Working at home gives you tremendous flexibility. And, that's the way you should look at the tips I just outlined. You will break every rule you make for work at home life at some point. Don't sweat it.
Working at home gives you the best of both worlds. You can be there when the kids get home from school. You can easily adjust your schedule for doctor appointments. You can work late to meet your deadlines without missing out on home life.
It's your working life, and it's your personal life. Use what works for you and adjust what doesn't. You'll find your own groove, and once you do, you'll never look back.
How about you? Do you have some tips about staying focused when you work at home? I'd love to hear your suggestions.