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…
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…
- Those who find it difficult to get motivated and stick to a schedule (there are lots of distractions at home)... the under productive.
- 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.
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!
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…
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.
- 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.
- 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.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU…
To wrap things up, I’d love your feedback or suggestions on the following, if you also work from home!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.