personal

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com This is still something I’m perfecting, but I’ve had lots of requests to post about this particular topic. Working from home certainly has many benefits, but along with the perks come a lot of obstacles and challenges. I wanted to share what works for me, and get your feedback in solving some of the hurdles I have yet to concur. Click through to read about my personal experience in regards to working from home, along with challenges, and the solutions I’ve found that work well to remedy them. 

Before we begin, the images throughout this post are from our previous home. My office was gorgeous, super organized, and I’m already counting down the days until we’re able to renovate my workspace in our current home. It’s on deck, so hopefully that will happen this spring! Alright- here we go…

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com I started working from home in 2014, after leaving my full-time 8-5 design job, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve come to find there are two personality types that work from their home office…

  1. Those who find it difficult to get motivated and stick to a schedule (there are lots of distractions at home)... the under productive.
  2. Those who have trouble signing out and shutting off “work mode”… the over productive.

I happen to fall into the #2 category. It’s honestly not something I’m proud of. During high school, I watched my mom start a business and work demanding hours from our living room at home. She set up an office in the corner and I was constantly pestering her to STOP WORKING. Here I am, over a decade later, doing the exact same thing. Hindsight must be 20/20 because these days, my mom ends our phone calls by saying, “Take time for yourself and stop working so much!” Ha. Easier said than done. It’s a funny dance we home office dwellers do.

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com My goal this year is to get better at juggling and balancing work with my personal life. I failed miserably at this in 2018 and it sounds like many of you are in the same boat. I thought this post was fitting for January since this is the best time of year to make a change and start with a clean slate. There’s a very blurry line when work and home life take place in the same space. I will do my best to share what has and hasn’t worked well for me when working from home. There are also suggestions I’m borrowing from friends that I plan to implement this year. So, here comes the knowledge!

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com I’m definitely a workaholic (a trait passed to me by my mother). I used to thinking “being busy” was a positive, go-getter type of work ethic I should be proud of. I know running your own business is different than working for someone else- even when doing that from home. Professors and business coaches will tell you to “put in the hours” to be successful, and while I wholeheartedly believe that to be true- I have also learned that you have to allow yourself time to rest and recharge…. you know- the whole work / life balance thing we all try to achieve.

I’m certainly guilty of working 12-14 hour days in my yoga pants, only to realize I forgot to eat during the day. However, despite the dark times of working crazy hours, I’ve learned a lot about myself and have plenty of tips to pass along that I’ve refined over the years. Hopefully I’ll continue to perfect my home work flow and you can avoid the mistakes I’ve made in the past…

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com

TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
  • Create a designated workspace // Having a home office or designated work space makes it easier to keep work and home life separate. For example, Emmett knows when I’m in my office, I’m getting work done and don’t like to be bothered…. I haven’t “clocked out” for the day. On the contrary, if I’m outside of my office, that means I shouldn’t be working… or Emmett will call me out (because I asked him to help me in this way). That means I’ve essentially “left my place of work” for the day. Those who work from home don’t get the luxury of leaving their work at the office, and I think keeping it confined to an area you can walk into and leave is essential!

 

  • Plan your week in advance // Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday evening), I like to get organized and plan my entire week. Knowing the tasks I need to accomplish and recording them in my calendar help me set intentions for the week ahead and begin tackling my to-do list. I break it down by each day and prioritize! I know what is coming and the amount of work and time I need to put in to achieve my goal.

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com

  • Use tools to stay organized and on track // I write everything down in my planner (yes, I’m old school like that). I also add events and tasks to my Google calendar. I love setting reminders so time doesn’t slip away from me. Another program I use for to-do lists, ideas, and task management is Trello. I also like to keep a clean and tidy workspace. The less chaotic things are in my office, the happier and more productive I am.

 

  • Avoid distractions // It’s SO easy to attempt multi-tasking when working from home because there are multiple distractions. For me, the main distraction is house chores. I think of the laundry or cleaning I could be doing. To avoid this, I set a 20-minute timer once a day. It’s my mid-morning break and I allow myself to do as much housework as I’m able during that 20-minute window. Once the timer goes off, I’m not allowed to do anymore the remainder of the day, until I’m finished with work. It’s also easy to spend the workday as you would live in your home on a normal day… for example, if it’s second nature to turn on the TV or radio as soon as you waltz down the stairs each morning, it’s likely you’ll do that on a workday too. It’s just second nature. I live differently in my home during business hours than I do after I “clock out”. During the day, I don’t play music or turn on the TV because I’m easily distracted.

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com

  • Focus on one task at a time // I’ve found I’m less distracted or less likely to procrastinate if I focus on one task at a time. I won’t open my email, social media, let the dogs out to play, or anything else until a task has been completed. I’ll check email or do whatever I need to do before beginning another task. I’ve learned I need to be fully immersed with zero distractions that will deter me from the task at hand. I’ll finish one item, cross it off the list, then move onto another. Multi-tasking and working from home typically don’t mix very well.

 

  • Break for lunch // I’m still not great at this, but I think it’s important to take a regular lunch every single day. At noon, I try to make myself find a stopping point, eat lunch, walk away from my computer screen, take a timeout from social media, take the dogs for a walk, or simply leave my designated workspace for at least 30 minutes to an hour. It gives me an opportunity to reset and recharge before being super productive again in the afternoon. Emmett sets a timer for his lunch break at the office every day, and I followed along and decided to do the same at home.

 

  • Set boundaries // This is another area where I could use improvement, but setting boundaries is definitely a good idea! I try to begin my workday by 8am every day and I try to wrap things up my 8pm- I know that’s kind of late for most, but the idea is to get into the routine of “clocking” in and out at the same time each day. Repetition and routine can really help when working from home! I also don’t do personal things during work hours if I can help it. I save my personal phone calls, pinning sessions, exercise, etc for after business hours. Just because I’m at home during the day, doesn’t mean I’m available to do whatever I want. I try to be pretty strict when it comes to boundaries.

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com

QUESTIONS FOR YOU…

To wrap things up, I’d love your feedback or suggestions on the following, if you also work from home!

  1. I find that I never have enough hours in the day to complete every task I set out to achieve. How do you guys mitigate that? Do you create a shorter to-do list that is achievable, so you feel accomplished at the end of the day? Do you roll items over to the next day because they still need to be done? I feel guilty and want to work late if everything on my to-do list isn’t finished. Maybe I’m terrible at guesstimating how much time each task will take? Maybe I’m overly ambitious? I’d love to hear how you create an accurate to-do list or daily schedule.
  2. Do you “get ready” every single day? Sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t. It’s obvious if you watch my Insta stories. I feel best working in comfortable clothes (aka, living that yoga pant uniform life), but I’ll get ready and put on nice clothing, style my hair, and put on a little makeup if I have meetings, conference calls, or interactions with humans planned for the day. I’m just curious! I would rather spend that 45 minutes working, as opposed to putting on makeup and making myself presentable, BUT I know lots of people say it improves their productivity throughout the day. Definitely weigh in! I want to know.
  3. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about working from home? For me, it’s the privacy and flexibility, but on the flip side… I can never seem to stop thinking of work and I feel guilty if I’m not working- even at 10pm at night. My computer, office, and phone is always SO close I can never truly escape it. I also don’t know if I ever really want to escape, because I absolutely love what I do.

Working from Home : Challenges & Solutions - roomfortuesday.com Feel free to leave any helpful comments below! Hopefully this offered some valuable insight and helpful ideas if you’re just beginning your own working from home routine. It’s kind of a double edged sword… amazing and not-so-amazing, all at the same time.

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  • Reply
    Peggi
    January 7, 2019 at 4:50 am

    As a teacher, my day is very scheduled. #bells All of your tips seem really sound and smart, but I imagine some are very personal…like getting “ready” for the day. I am far more productive when I’ve got on real clothes. Sounds like the to-do list fix could be a game changer for you. Have you tried experimenting to discover the issue? When you make your list, do you include a written time estimate beside each task? Seeing it in black & white could help you realize if it’s unrealistic. It will also help you see if your list actually equals more hours than are in a day! 😀 If you’re mid-task and realize you underestimated the time something will take (guilty!), try eliminating something from the list as soon as you realize it. Moving it to tomorrow’s list will hopefully prevent you from feeling unfinished at the end of the day. I’m sure you already prioritize your tasks, mix preferred & less preferred, and assign certain tasks to your best brain time. Maybe include a short morning and afternoon break? Even 10 minutes of fetch or use of a meditation app could make a big difference! You clearly love your career; staying healthy and fresh will only enhance it. (Eek. Too much teacher talk?) You are amazing.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 7, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      Maybe I need a bell? Ha! I should definitely experiment to discover the issue. I never write the time beside each task, so maybe I’m guesstimating something takes far less time than it actually does. Great idea! The dogs thank you for suggesting an afternoon break. I think that’s probably a good idea too. Thanks Peggi! You can talk teacher suggestions to me anytime- I’m all ears for improvement :) xo

  • Reply
    Jasmine
    January 7, 2019 at 6:19 am

    For your first question, do you log how much time you spend per task? This can help you plan out how long similar tasks will take in the future! My current job has us do that (for pay reasons mainly) but it also helps me realistically plan out my week, so that I don’t feel overwhelmed!

    Great tips by the way. When I do work from home, I definitely get distracted with house chores too! It’s funny how appealing chores can be during the day vs at night/on the weekends lol

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 7, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      I think it’s difficult for me to determine the amount of time per task because every project is so different. There is nothing too repetitive in my day-to-day work. Maybe recording time logs could be a good way to figure that out? Thanks for the suggestion Jasmine! And yes- you hit the nail on the head… why are house chores the best way to procrastinate and justify being “productive” throughout the week?! Haha!

      • Reply
        Jasmine
        January 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm

        My day-to-day work is the same way! I have a “catch-all” position at my job, so I’m constantly doing different tasks on different projects. Time-logging is a great way to start because you’ll start to see patterns. Even if it’s not the same exact task, you’ll have a better guesstimate as to how long it takes you to work on a project. It can also be a wake-up call if you’re spending way too much time on something!

        I’ve found that it also helps from too much stuff piling up on the backburner, because I’ve learned to be more honest with myself about what I can truly complete in one week. If it can’t get done that week, I try to set a more realistic time the next week to do it! Knowing that I don’t have that task looming over my shoulder relieves so much stress. It’s definitely taught me not to bite off more than I can chew!

        • Reply
          Sarah
          January 8, 2019 at 8:24 am

          Yes!! I’m definitely going to start doing that. Thanks so much Jasmine! I’m pretty sure I always bite off more than I can chew and this evaluation would help me assess what is actually feasible. xoxo

  • Reply
    Sarah
    January 7, 2019 at 6:51 am

    I don’t work from home, but I’d say your first problem is pretty universal. It’s a really hard mindset shift, but not getting everything done on your list in a day doesn’t mean that you didn’t work hard. I went from a job where I could routinely check off my to do list most days to a management role where that’s definitely not the case. It really required me to reframe how I think of success and set expectations for myself. Delegating helps a lot if there’s any tasks you can externalize. I know a few other home blogs have experimented with an intern, maybe that’s something you can look into? It also helps to be honest with yourself- sure working until 8 makes sure the task gets done, but I am a firm believer in rest and time away from work. I am so much more productive the next morning than when I’m feeling drained after an already 8+ hour day. Since you work from home you have the luxury of focusing your time when you’re most productive. Rest and relaxation make sure sure you’re at your best when you work. More hours doesn’t necessarily mean that more work gets done.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 7, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Yes!! My thoughts exactly, Sarah. Maybe I need to change what qualifies as a “successful / productive day”. Rest and relaxation, AKA time off, is definitely a big priority for me this year. Just finding a balance so I can be fully immersed, productive, and creative when I am working. Thanks for the tip and for putting things into perspective! :) xox

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 7, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I love to read a “day in the life” in addition to this to see what your day looks like. It is a pretty unconventional job, so hearing what a typical day stacks up to be would be helpful as well. I’ve been in a career transitions for about 5 months and it probably took 3 for me to find a more disciplined work from home routine and schedule. I definitely found that getting ready for my day made an impact even it it was intentionally choosing a yoga pant outfit. I’m off for the next two weeks on both jobs I’m was doing while I sort of access where to go from here and boy am I struggling with where to start on that!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      January 7, 2019 at 10:20 am

      I second this! Day in the life posts are so interesting to me. When do you complete home projects – during the workday or at night?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 7, 2019 at 2:32 pm

      Ooh that could be fun! Although no 2 days are ever the same over here, haha! Maybe a week in the life would offer better insight? Maybe I need to start “getting ready” or being more intentional about what I put on or how I begin each day. Wishing you the best of luck figuring out where to start and what happens next. Thanks Michelle! xox

  • Reply
    Anne
    January 7, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Hi Sarah! Thanks for sharing such helpful tips for working from home. While I don’t currently work from home I am studying interior design full time (and also living in Utah!). Anyway I was wondering if you could share some of the more technical aspects of working from home as an interior designer. I would be interested to know what type of computer, printer, and other technologies you would recommend . I know that to run design software such as AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, etc. you would need a computer that is powerful enough to run all of those programs and I was wondering if you could provide some insight into what you have found to works best. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 7, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Anne! Maybe I can work on a post that shares the knitty gritty about my tech / work flow, if enough people are interested? I use a large desktop iMac, although I do have a MacBook air that I rarely use, a Wacom tablet, Adobe Creative Suite (photoshop, etc), Sketch Up, etc. My printer is a Canon (pictured above), and I’ve already posted about the camera equipment I use. Find that one here: http://roomfortuesday.com/a-peek-into-my-camera-bag/ I actually have a degree in graphic design, so I learned most of the software and technology studying those types of things in college & art school :) Hope this helps! xox

  • Reply
    Carrie
    January 7, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Sarah. I have worked from home for the last 3 years, and think your tips are great. I follow most of them. I have found that giving myself “office hours” really helps me stop working at a reasonable time every day. I also often plan something that I really enjoy for the hour after I stop working – wine and a book on the back porch, walking my dog, a pedicure, gardening – that way I know I am doing something that is important to me and my happiness. Also, regarding whether or not you get dressed everyday – um, no. I do not. I DO try to get dressed enough. I wash my face and do skincare. I put on a bra. I change out of pj’s, and into at least lounge wear. The detail I find strangely most important – I put on shoes. For some reason having shoes on gets me out of hanging out mode and into work mode. I often take my shoes off at lunch, or after work, but almost always have them on when working. Love your blog, and your IG posts!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 8, 2019 at 8:24 am

      I LOVE your idea of planning something at the end of the workday, Carrie! That is so smart and would force me to “clock out”. Interesting idea about putting on shoes each day- maybe I need to try that too. I typically slide on my house slippers and they feel like pajamas. Maybe I need to invest in tennis shoes or something I only wear inside during work hours. Thanks for the tips! xox

  • Reply
    Samantha
    January 7, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    As a type A person, working from home can be more stressful than an office. I like the 20 min timer idea. I “pack a bag” for the morning to go into my office which is upstairs. Snacks, water bottle my Jade roller. I know, weird. I always take a shower and put some make it on for civility sake. But I don’t keep going down to the kitchen which causes many distractions. I also put a productivity app on my phone. The Forest app so you are growing trees while staying off of social media. I love trees so it helps. My break is spent walking the dog then back to work. The only downside that I experience working from home is loneliness. But then I’m more encouraged to go to the gym for interaction after work😉 Oh I almost forget- I do roll tasks from one list to the next. However I’m a little quicker than my co-workers (shh) and I exceed my goals so I feel less pressure than you might.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 8, 2019 at 8:28 am

      I love your idea of packing a bag Samantha! I’m also going to download the productivity app- I think that’s a big part of my problem because social media is a large part of my job (whether I like that or not)…. and in trying to respond to everyone, I can certainly justify “responding to a quick message or comment” in the middle of a task. It’s pretty distracting. I agree- it is pretty lonely working from home. I try to schedule at least 2 meetings per week outside of the office for human interaction. I’ve tried working from coffee shops, but I’m easily distracted and work best on my big desktop computer as opposed to the laptop. Thanks for your help! xox

  • Reply
    Colleen
    January 7, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    1) As a ‘Type A’ corporate financial analyst has worked from home since early 2015– I heavily depend on my planner, iPhone alarms, and email calendar for work tasks. If I’m unable to complete my designated tasks for the day, they roll over to the next day as most my tasks/reports are necessary. I intentionally over-estimate how long a task will take so that I have that time blocked off on my calendar to complete it. If I complete it shorter than the allotted time, I simply move forward onto the next task. Every day I have a couple of tasks that are variable in size/amount so this allows flexibility there as well. Also – I prefer to open my blinds while I’m working so the outside light helps keep me mindful of time passing. Because I don’t work for myself and my main office is back in the CST, I have a set schedule and any overtime I do is then in the evening before my husband gets home. Because of my job type though, my day is more likely more recurring/regularly scheduled than most who would work from home. Also the separate home office is a huge help – the different space allows me to mentally shut off when I “leave the office” as I’m only in here when I’m working.

    2) Most days for working from home my “get ready” means – get out of PJs, into workout gear (black leggings, v neck T and either a sweater fleece or track jacket), wash and moisturize my face, perfume, makeup, hair. My makeup will depend on the day, however at most is eye shadow (mac paint pot), eyeliner, mascara, and concealer. I’m not a heavy makeup wearer, and tend to let my hair be as is (brush and a smoother shine spray). This is the same makeup and hair I wear when I’m in the office, so nothing different there. :) I find it helps, but it’s more about feeling overwhelmed or not for me rather than being more or less productive.

    3) I love the privacy, flexibility, and ability to travel when needed. Also as someone who works better with some sort of background noise working from home allows me to do this and control the noise as needed. Also – nothing beats having your own kitchen/food and no commute (the physical office isn’t close to many food options, and my prior commute was anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on traffic). The least favorite thing I would have to say is lack of in person interaction. However, as a rather independent person, I find the trade off beneficial to my productivity – when I was in the office, I’d often have to shut my door or wear headphones during tasks just so I could focus as people constantly wanted to socialize. I find I’m more productive now than I ever was able to be in the office because of this. However, when I do travel back to the corporate office, I have no problem slipping back into my old routine – with the caveat that I know the day(s) spent there won’t be as productive as my days at home. :)

    Looking forward to see how others respond to this post as well!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 8, 2019 at 8:33 am

      That is so helpful, Colleen! Thank you! I love the idea of your “getting ready”… a v-neck and black leggings is basically my ideal uniform. I’d rather be comfortable and do minimal makeup or sunscreen as well. I feel like if I’m not interacting with people or leaving the house, I’d rather not waste a bunch of makeup and let my skin breathe and be comfortable. Ha! I also really enjoy the privacy, flexibility, and ability to set my own schedule. I used to commute 3 hours each day and I do not miss those days! That’s nice that you can to travel back to the corporate office from time-to-time… the best of both worlds. Thanks again for sharing your valuable insight- appreciate it :) xo

  • Reply
    Sam
    January 8, 2019 at 8:28 am

    I love this post! I’m actually a dietitian and I work from home unless I’m doing 1-1 client sessions in person (so like 25% in my office and 75% from home). I fall into the first category though – I get easily distracted! But anyway. I did the Todd Herman program and it was really eye opening to me that you don’t have to spend 12 hours working each day to be productive. Something he recommends is separating your tasks into things that are productive vs. things that may seem important but aren’t really moving your business forward. So for example, replying to an email about a business partnership should be flagged as important whereas replying to an email from an intern asking for career advice should be put on the back burner. To be completely honest, over time I have stopped putting non-important tasks on my to-do list. I just get to them when I get to them.

    Each day, I look at my important tasks and pick the top 3 things I need to get done. As long as I do those things, my work day has been fulfilled. If I’m working on a huge project that sucks up my energy then sometimes I will only put that thing on my to-do list. Once I finish my top 3, I then chip away at other tasks on my to-do list until the end of the work day. The difference is once I’ve marked off the top 3, I don’t feel like I need to spend the entire night working to cross everything off since I know I’ve been productive for the day. Hope that makes sense!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 8, 2019 at 8:52 am

      I absolutely love that idea Sam! You sound like my husband echoing in my ear… haha! He always says, “you only have so much time in a day- don’t worry about the emails or mundane tasks… focus on the important issues and if you get to the others, fine- but if not, stop worrying!”. I used to believe that every single email or message had to be responded to within 24 hours, and now I’ve realized it’s just not possible. I think I’m going to implement the “top 3” idea. Thanks for your great advice :) xo

  • Reply
    Joellyn
    January 8, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Really great post, thank you. Lots of food for thought here. Me challenges are different. With 3 kids in sports and a half-hour commute to town at least once a day (I live in the country), it’s my work that usually takes a back seat. I have a hard time keeping work time and house work separate as well. I love the idea of keeping these separate with a timer.

    I often feel overwhelmed by my to-list also, and one tip that helped me is to “pick 3.” Just 3 priorities for each day. I can do more, but often I find it’s easy to overestimate what I can accomplish and then feel guilty.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      January 8, 2019 at 8:48 am

      I’m positive having kids and working from home is a totally different ballgame! Kudos to you for pulling it off Joellyn! I love your tip for picking 3 priorities each day- I might have to implement that one :) xox

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