Working from Home: Q & A
Inevitably, one of the first questions I get asked when I talk about my work is:
“What’s it like working from home?"
I dread this question.
I dread this question because the transition from a traditional “9 to 5” was not an easy one for me. Now, over a year in, I still sometimes struggle with maintaining a consistent schedule, particularly when work is slow OR super busy. (Because heaven forbid we solopreneurs ever have a consistent, balanced work load!) However, I’ve spent a long time figuring out what works for me and here are my tips based on your most frequently asked questions! (These apply whether you work from home for somebody else or for yourself!)
Q: How do you make a smooth transition?
A: This is where I list all the things I wish I’d done differently! Here are three big ones:
Take a proper vacation between jobs. I thought I could handle a cross country move while also working on existing work projects and trying to build a freelance portfolio. Ha. Ha. Ha. It’s easy in all the early excitement and with the allure of a laptop and the open road to think you can do it all. The life of a digital nomad is a tricky one (and the subject of a very different blog post). If it’s available to you, take 2 weeks in between jobs to reset your mind and focus.
Create a dedicated work space. While we all drool over sparkly, Instagram-worthy home offices, creating the perfect space is probably not possible right away. (In fact, I recommend holding off investing in a home work space until you know what your routine looks like and have stuck to it for several months.) However, find a well-lit space, with plenty of power outlets and a comfy chair, in a room with a door that closes. This is especially important if you have children or a partner, who although well-intentioned, will always want to know what you’re up to. I would have accomplished eleventy billion more things in my first 6 months if I’d done this, instead of working at the dining room table in an open concept house.
Set precedent and firm boundaries (both physical and digital) with loved ones. Our phones (and especially social media) makes us always accessible. Make sure your loved ones know that you are not available, unless it’s an emergency (like a bleeding out of your eyes emergency), during your business hours. Do not make exceptions to this, especially at the beginning. Once you’ve established a routine, it’s great having the luxury to take an hour in the afternoon for personal calls (one of the joys of working for myself is the freedom to call my friends who are moms in the middle of the afternoon when their tiny humans are napping), but make sure everyone knows that you call the shots on when and if this happens.
Q: How do you stay motivated and focused?
A: Here is where I am NOT going to say “If you love your work, you’ll find it easy to stay motivated!” Because that is simply not true. No matter how much you love your work, there will be days when you are tired or when you are distracted. Don’t let this get you down. When I’m feeling super unmotivated, I go with it. I take an afternoon off. I go for a walk. I try my hardest not to feel badly about it and move on the next day. Some concrete tips:
Limit social media/web surfing. It’s so easy to go down this rabbit hole and it’s so hard to avoid it when your job most likely will require checking in and posting on various platforms. Evaluate how much time you spend (there are many apps to help with this) on social media and then set a specific, limited time to use it (both personally and professionally).
Limit your to-do list. It’s super easy to feel overwhelmed. Create a daily to-do list with 3-5 very specific items on it. You’re much more likely to finish and feel accomplished!
If you find it hard to focus when there are dirty dishes in the sink or laundry to be folded, use household chores as breaks from your work, using a version of the Pomodoro method (traditionally 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break). In those break periods, don’t just go on your personal Facebook page! Run and fold as much laundry as you can. You’re getting a good brain and eye break, as well as moving around and finishing household tasks. I call that a quadruple win!
Finally, have a list of “easy” tasks to perform when you’re feeling undermotived. I use this blah time to work on my accounting (love Quickbooks Self-Employed!) or read (or re-read) books on my professional reading list. Best part? I’m usually so inspired that I end up getting more accomplished than I thought I would!
Q: Do you wake up really early and work super late?
A: While, I tend to be more of an early bird, I’m not militant about waking up before the sun rises. An important part of my work-from-home life has been establishing a schedule that works for me and my lifestyle. I tend to do my best work in the morning (think 7:30am-12:00pm) and then take a longish lunch where I do a few house chores and exercise the dogs. This is usually more than enough time to get my “must do’s” finished and then I can spend my afternoon working on admin, longer term goals, or additional client calls. The important thing is finding a schedule that works best for YOU and sticking to it. Additionally, there’s no special prize for waking up early. We like to put moral/value judgements on these types of behaviors and ultimately that is not helpful for your individual productivity.
Q: Do you work from a lot of coffee shops? Where do you take meetings?
A: No. I find these to be distracting and ultimately expensive. If you want to spend money on a workplace outside of the home, look into a local co-working space. These are available at different price points and with different amenities. They are also great (and way more professional) for the occasional in-person client meeting, while also fostering essential networking.
Q: Do you get lonely?
A: Not really! I touch base with my clients on a daily basis and always have plenty of conversation. If I’m feeling really lonely, I’ll take an hour off to play with the dog or call my dad.
Come share best tips and tricks for working from home with me over on Instagram! I’m still perfecting my work from home routine and I would love to hear about yours!