It’s a jungle out there, and it’s a madhouse in here. Why? I work from home.
Yes, I said the magic phrase, “work from home.” It gave you the tingles, didn’t it? 80-90% of the U.S. would like to telecommute at least part-time, and that’s because it sounds amazing.
Are you picturing waking up, grabbing your laptop, and working from bed? Sure you are! You’re also probably imagining weeks in nothing but pajamas, working whatever hours you want, and freedom to do whatever you want.
I hate to burst your bubble. That’s not how it works.
Okay, that’s not entirely accurate either. I might not work in my pajamas, but I do wear my street clothes day-in-and-day-out. I’ve also worked from bed before, but that’s when I was sick. In reality, my work day is pretty similar to when I went into the office. In truth, sometimes it’s harder.
Working from home is not the easy, coast-your-way-to-success job that people think. It’s demanding, frustrating, but also highly rewarding. So what’s the key to making it successful?
Whether you’re getting ready to start a “work from home” job, or you’re just considering your options, it’s all about your mindset. To make sure you’re prepared, follow my five tips.
Set a Schedule
I hate to break it to you, but your dreams of working around your schedule are unrealistic. You can’t just work whenever you want to. That doesn’t work out well for anyone. When you leave work up in the air, balls end up getting dropped. It’s just a fact of life.
Instead, make a schedule and stick to it. (Check out this sample schedule from In Honor of Design) You can still work around your life, after all, that’s why you’ve chosen to work from home, but you need to set aside the same hours every day to focus on your job. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to be successful if you’re actually getting work done.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work around appointments or even change up your schedule to better suit your needs. In fact, I recommend it. Just try to be consistent. There’s no boss harping you, and there are no coworkers to make sure you’re doing what needs to be done. It’s all on you. Take the responsibility seriously.
Plan Your Week
Soon after I started working from home, I came to the blunt realization that I needed to plan my days and weeks much more diligently. When I worked in the office at a company, I’d plan my days, but not in much detail. I’d just come into the office, look at what I needed to do, and then get started. That’s not the case now.
When you work for yourself at home, keeping on task and staying on target to meet your goals is essential. That’s why I take 30 minutes every Monday morning to plan out my week. Depending on how busy I am, I might even plan it out starting on Friday. And let me tell you, it’s been a life saver.
I keep a notepad by my desk, and I write out all my projects for the week, their due dates, and their difficulty. Then, I start splitting up my days based on what I can handle and when it needs to get done.
Hold Off on Chores
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed it happen to one of my friends who also works from home. They have a big project or heavy workload, but then they get distracted running errands, doing laundry, or prepping dinner. Then, at the end of the week, they’re beyond stressed and trying to make up for lost time. Just stop!
While it’s tempting to work from home and be a stay-at-home house person, they don’t work well together. Whenever I tell someone I work from home, they give me a look that says, “Oh, you’re one of ‘those’ people who sits around and does nothing all day.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m up every day at 6:00. I work out. Get ready. Eat breakfast. Then, I’m at my computer by 8:00 am and I’m there until 5:00 pm, at least. Most days, I eat lunch while I’m working and rarely do I get chores done. Typically, it’s just as I walk to the restroom. I work full-time. It just happens to be at home. If you need help finding balance, Online Careerist offers some good advice.
Working from home is lonely. You don’t have co-workers to chat with or a boss to annoy. It’s just you, your computer, your house, and hopefully a pet or two. If you don’t have a pet, get one, immediately! As I said, working from home is lonely, and at least a pet can keep you company. But you need more.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to join a community of similar workers or to at least find one friend who also works from home (check out this forum). It can make a big difference. One of my best friends also works at home, although she works for a company while I work for myself. Still, we’re in similar positions so we can connect.
It also means that we can talk on a regular basis. We both use Skype to chat, and throughout the day we check in with each other. It’s nice to have a pseudo co-worker who I can talk to about my job frustrations. When websites break, clients turn nasty, or my writing goes stilted, I can speak to my friend and keep pushing through.
Explain to Your Friends and Family
Finally, and maybe most importantly, you need to carefully explain to your friends and family what it means to work from home. I’m going to warn you right now. They won’t get it. You just have to understand that and be prepared to deal with it.
I’ll be blunt. I’ve had my parents call me in the middle of the day because “I work from home and have time.” And while that’s true to some extent, it’s also not. I have my schedule and my plan. Getting interrupted in the middle of the day sets everything back. Be prepared for those situations and have a plan to deal with them.
The key is to make sure your friends and family know that you are working even if you’re doing it from home. It doesn’t mean you can meet up for coffee whenever you want or hit the gym in the middle of the day. It means you’re getting shit done while sitting in your pajamas and downing coffee like it’s air when you’re drowning.
Here are a few bonus tips:
- Find time to start working out if you don’t already. When you work from home, you lose all movement. Sometimes I only move the small amount it takes to get from my bed, down the stairs, and in front of my computer. That’s why I bought a treadmill desk and signed up for an Ironman.
- Keep fun and work separate. This is going to be a difficult balancing act, but do whatever you can to keep work away from home. I have a computer and an office that I only use when I’m working. If I’m doing anything for me, I do it elsewhere. That way home is still sacred.
- Hide the snacks. Pantries are EVIL when you work from home. Stop buying chips, cookies, and treats. You’ll eat them all when you don’t have to pay for the vending machine.
- Every once in a while, get out of the house. Work in a coffee shop. Take your laptop and work at the library. Going stir-crazy is easy. Get out when you need to.