My top 5 tips for working at home
Working from home – more and more people are doing it and while it can be amazing there are also lots of downsides. As well as writing, I also run a small PR business from home. Sometimes I’m really busy and sometimes I’m not but I always have writing goals, blogging commitments and deadlines for work and my writing. Over the years I’ve had to learn to make the most of the slow times (which can sometimes be harder for a host of reasons) and be ready for the busy times.
I’ve worked from home pretty much consistently for over ten years and so I’ve learned a thing or two along the way about time management and maintaining sanity so here are five random tips, not in any particular order.
1. Work out which times of the day you are most creative/productive
I’ve always known I’m not a morning person. I’m just not. In a perfect world I wouldn’t even get out of bed until nine in the morning. I’ve tried getting out of bed at six in the morning to write and I get nothing achieved. In fact by my most productive time of the day 10am-1pm I’m a zombie. I actually get less done.
So monitor your own rhythms and see what you notice. I now spend from about 8-10am doing admin. That might be for my business or for my writing career. I reply to emails, send out prizes, load up blog posts for visiting authors, set up social media…you get the idea. It’s not stuff that I need to be my most creative for. It’s good use of my time and it gets those things out of the way.
My most creative times are 10-1pm and from about 3-6. That’s still six hours. I don’t work all those hours every day but because I’m doing the #1000wordsaday challenge I try and get my words done in that first block. I might do more then or more later or if I have a load of client work I might do it first. My point is the admin is done so I’m not worrying about it and my brain is awake and engaged. Perfect. And if I use the first three hour block wisely I still have another three hour block (although it will likely be interrupted).
Now that’s my rhythm but everyone is different. If you are a morning person or a night owl you can work that to your advantage in the same way. Just knowing means you can structure your day for maximum productivity.
(I know I said there was no particular order but I honestly think do think this one is key).
2. Block time out to get out of the house/office
Do you think the guy who works in an office sits bum on seat for let’s say eight hours? And does that make you think you need to do the same? I’ve worked in an office and there’s usually morning chat, at least one useless meeting (ie an hour where nothing is achieved), a lunch hour and a coffee break. Even by a conservative measure that’s at least an hour and a half not at the desk (and that’s super conservative because it might be closer to three hours).
People often comment that I spend a lot of time at the beach or having coffee. I happen to live five minutes from the beach. If I schedule a meeting with a local client, I’ll schedule it there. But I also try and organise one or two social catch-ups a week. Sometimes these are business associates or just friends. If the office worker gets time by the water cooler or a lunch hour shouldn’t I? It always regenerates me. I don’t feel guilty. I plan these outings to break things up and keep me connected to the world and real people not just via the internet.
3. Ignore the domestic chores
Ignore the domestic chores is probably the hard one. I’m not always great at this. I do tend to throw on a load of laundry while I make my coffee for example but if the kitchen looks like a bomb went off then I just try not to look.
If I was working outside the office this stuff would have to wait wouldn’t it?
Sometimes I’m sick of sitting on my butt so hanging a load of laundry or loading the dishwasher is good. I can think and do these things but the point I’m making is DO NOT FEEL OBLIGATED to do them. (For some people this is just too hard…in which case set a timer for 15 minutes and do your best in the time-frame. It’s amazing what can be picked up/hidden or cleaned in that time).
4. Be realistic and be prepared to change things up
I started with these as two separate headings but honestly they’re so interlinked I think they have to go together
When you are working at home you are almost always the go-to person for the domestic stuff. The broken washing machine, the sick kid and the run to the post office usually fall under your care so if you know that be realistic about what can be achieved. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you’re making your own deadlines then extend them by a day or an hour.
Having said that you do need to learn to say no to things that people approach you about “because you’re at home”. If you’re not interested and it’s a time such then say no. The people in the offices, the stores, the schools and hospitals all say no if they’re at work. You can too.
No one will value your time if you don’t.
Which leads to the idea that you need to be prepared to change things up because life isn’t neat and sometimes you need to go with the flow or change the flow rather than letting the river drown you. Maybe you do need to get up early and do your admin at 5am so you can hang with your pre-schooler from 7-9 before they go off and finger-paint. Or maybe just knowing you have a sullen teen locked in their room playing Mindcraft distracts you? Sometimes life changes and you need to change your patterns for a day, a week or indefinitely. If what you’re doing isn’t working look at it again.
5. Lists are your friends
Working alone can be isolating. Horribly isolating. No one leans over your desk and says “Are you coming to the meeting?” You have to remember yourself. And you need to remember to have the report ready for the meeting, and to drive there…so use lists. There are so many wonderful apps to help with organisation that mean your list is always there with you. I like a sparkly notebook as well. There’s something immensely gratifying about crossing things off the list for me. It’s like I’m patting myself on the back.
I have a really good memory and I still need lists and sub-lists. Lists for each project, lists for each book, lists for my home life. Some people have a PA for this stuff but I just have lists. They don’t make me coffee but they work.
Those are my top tips for working at home. Do you have any that you would add or change?
Don’t forget to schedule time away from your desk.
5/25/2016 05:47:45 pm
I learn so much from your lists and tips. Thank you.
As for me, I think I’m good at knowing when I’m productive – I just wish I could have access to those moments of productivity more often. With four kids, two dogs, and a husband – there’s so many interruptions, distractions, and things I need to do for them – I sometimes reach the end of the day feeling I’ve gotten nothing done – but also feeling so exhausted because I was too busy to sit down. Sheesh. Where’s that deserted island when you need one!
5/25/2016 06:21:53 pm
Julie, I know the feeling. I don’t always get to work my own system but I do know what works for me if I can make it happen. I still feel like I need to book myself into a hotel for 3 or 4 days just to work through the list of things I know I should be doing as an author but never get the time for.
5/26/2016 05:28:59 am
I do love tip number 3!!!
I don’t think I’ve cracked the working from home thing to be able to add anything. And I’m really, really bad at the saying no because I’m “at work” thing. I need to get much better at that.
5/26/2016 03:39:20 pm
Sandie, I used to be terrible at not saying no. I was on every committee and over-ciommitted and then I pulled back and felt so much better. It wasn’t just the physical time I got back but so much brain space and energy for creativity.
5/26/2016 05:39:01 am
My kitchen floor has needed mopping for a month. I still haven’t done it. Because I’m editing! (Fortunately it’s not crawling with filth or anything, and I do spot-clean.) I’ve worked from home for years, and it’s such a challenge to not get distracted by all the things that need doing. We feel so guilty when we’re sitting…but it’s not like we’ve got our feet up and are eating chocolates! (Okay, we might be, once in a while, but we’re typing at the same time!) We have to become adept at cracking our own whip, I guess. 🙂
5/26/2016 03:40:47 pm
That’s so funny. I’m having some girlfriends for dinner tonight so guess who’ll be scrubbing the kitchen floor like Cinderella about 5pm tonight.
5/27/2016 09:00:46 am
Working on my manuscripts is a challenge next to none for me because it’s not a priority for anyone but me! My writing comes last because it’s not something that brings money into the household. It’s a hobby as my husband calls it (!!!!!). So it can be really frustrating at times because there are just so many things I need to do and am expected to do before writing – when all I want to do is write!! Thanks for the greats tips, will try to put them into practise and see how I go 🙂