I have happily stepped away from full time employment. It was not an entirely welcome event, but as it’s turned out, it’s been a timely event and now, on this sunny summer morning, it is a most pleasant thing.
As a working mother I have had extended periods away from traditional full time work over the last thirty years. I’ve had my babies and done some extra study as well. I like NOT working, it’s fine by me. I don’t miss the nonsense and rubbish that goes with working in a large organisation full of the range of humanity, both good and bad. I like having time to think and breath. I like being in charge of myself, answerable to me. But being an essentially organised person helps a great deal here, as I sit at my desk day in day out.
As I think about this, it is very much like student study times – there’s no point being on swot vac if you haven’t sorted out what you’re going to do with your time. If you have things to achieve then you must plan to ensure things happen on a day to day basis otherwise you’ll fritter away your time and achieve zip. Not a good thing, if you intend to remain self-employed, working from home.
So, here are some hints for successfully working at home.
5 Tips for Success
1.Understand the nature of your work
*What is the nature and scope of your task(s)?
*How much time do you need to complete the whole task, or parts of it?
*What resources do you need – do you have them close by – a library, other people, relevant materials and equipment?
*What is the value of the task or your time to complete it?
2.Allocate time appropriately
This can be a big trap, either pretending to work because you’re at your desk or over allocating time so that you do nothing but work. Are you working by the hour or by the task? What does completion look like for you?
*Look at your day, break it down into chunks, include breaks, exercise, lunch; even an afternoon nap, and do allow for time-wasting, it’s okay too (but see distractions below). Sometimes it may be easier to look at your week overall, instead of day by day. You can have a day out with friends, but choose to work longer hours the day before or after.
*Aim for a weekly total of hours or tasks and try to stick to it. If it’s not working reconsider your targets, your work rate. Are you being too ambitious or too modest?
*Consider your own working style – are you better in the morning or the evening? Plan your day around your times of peak efficiency, your 8 hour (more or less) day is now up to you to organise to suit your personal working style and/or family needs.
*Have your weekend too – it is important to properly rest as well as work – there is no point in being your own boss if you don’t enjoy the freedoms it brings as well. After all, isn’t part of working from home spending more time with your loved ones, doing the other things you enjoy in life?
3.Dealing with Distractions
*Turn off the internet, if you can – especially do not open Twitter or FaceBook – their constant activity will take your full attention from your task.
*Keep others out of your workroom – make it clear that there are times when you are working and must not be disturbed. This takes a while for children and spouses to get hold of, so be firm and clear – but never rude.
*You will need to maintain professional contacts to work effectively in your field – so be in chat groups, professional associations, be on Linkedin, be in touch with people who can help you and support you in working independently – go to lunch, email, message, but keep it limited to certain times of the day
*You will still need your friends so don’t let them go. Some of the people you worked with were mates as well as colleagues, so stay in touch with them. They will know what’s happening in the real world and you can catch up on gossip and other tasty tit-bits that could enhance your work. Remember other people can inspire and help you too just by listening to you or sharing their world too. Don’t shut yourself off when you step away from mainstream work.
5.Make your workplace attractive and work-like
*Most of us need order to work effectively, so set up your work place or room to suit you. Have the things you need close by – texts, notes, equipment. Have a clear space, have a notice board, have a calendar, use sticky notes – electronic or hardcopy – so you know where you’re up to, key dates and things to do.
* You can put some decorative things in there too – pictures, mementos and trinkets add to it being your space. Play music too, it helps many of us concentrate, be it Mozart or Zeppelin.
*A pleasant workspace helps you work better and more effectively. If you enjoy being in your ‘office’ it will be easier to be there every day and get things done.
8 Traps to Avoid
1.Over-committing your time
2.Pretending you’ve done five hours when you’ve done two
3.Not exercising or taking time out from your work/tasks
4.Becoming too isolated in your new life and losing contact with friends or family
5.Under-valuing your skills and time and charging too little for what you do
6.Over-charging for your time and skills such that you price yourself out of the market
7.Working all the time – working from home does not necessarily mean a 7 day week – take at least one full day off from the desk or the workshop!
8.Beating yourself up! Give yourself a break, allow some time to get used to being independent, expect to make mistakes: it’s okay, just don’t make the same mistakes again and again. Remember moving from working for others to working for yourself is a HUGE step.
Finally, you need to know yourself. Some people are not cut out for working for themselves or from home. The nature of the work/task or your personality may mitigate against this work choice. If you need the stimulation of others, if you need someone else to direct and monitor you to keep you on task and to deadline then working for yourself will not work. We need to work, we need money to live. But having worked for others for too many years now, I’d much rather take my chances with me!! (Images courtesy of Private Collection)