I’ve been treading the ‘working from home’ boards for the past 18 months now. As a mother, writer and blogger, working from home is pretty much the ideal set up for where I’m currently at in my life. It allows me the flexibility to do what I do, while still being around for toddler wrangling duties.
That being said, it can be a tough gig at times. Sure, you’re not zealously guarding your personal mug against stealth attacks from someone from another department or navigating the sometimes atrocious condition of the communal kitchen but you are solely responsible for both motivating and staying on track. A shared office environment allows you to feed off the energy and focus of a whole group of (hopefully) committed colleagues. There’s structure and boundaries aplenty. Expectations. Rigid timeframes. All mechanisms designed to help keep you on target and moving forward.
When you suddenly find that your ‘office’ is the dining table and your ‘manager’, the small child you spend your days with, who dictates when and how you can work, it can be easy to lose focus, with motivation and purpose following soon after. This slip from dedicated keen bean to slightly bewildered and lethargic not only impacts your productivity and potentially your income stream, it can also be extremely mentally disheartening. If you’re someone who places great value on the work you do and its role in shaping you as an individual, suddenly finding yourself off track and uninspired is hard to handle.
I’ve been there and managed to trudge through and climb out the other side. While it’s not always a field full of highly productive flowers, for the most part, by sticking to a few key strategies, I’m able to maintain my ‘work from home’ mojo.
The Golden Rules
1. Allocate a time for ‘work’ – I find that if I have the whole day to achieve whatever it is I need to, I’ll inevitably go off track. By allocating specific times to work, I’m able to approach the tasks at hand in an organized and efficient way. Due to having a small child, my allocated work times are dictated by the days he is at kindy and when he has a sleep. While I’d prefer to be able to choose when I feel most creative, I make do with the time slots I have and make sure that I’m ready and rearing to go when the clock ticks over and I replace my ‘mummy’ hat with my ‘writing and blogging’ one.
2. Set yourself up for success – While creating a spac’ solely designated for ‘work’ is great, it’s not always possible. I’m lucky enough to have a spare bedroom where my desk/folders/printer etc sits but, to be honest, I don’t always feel like working in there. I usually choose the dining room as it has a beautiful outlook and a bunch of my favourite things sitting on it (fresh flowers, candles, and a couple of succulents at the moment). By choosing a space that sets the mood you want to feel and where you’re most comfortable being creative, you set yourself up for a flowing, productive experience.
3. List it, baby – While it may sound obvious, making a list, at the very beginning of your work day/work period is something I struggle to stick to. I know however that not listing out what needs to be done inevitably leads to increased stress levels down the track. I find that a list serves a dual purpose. Not only does it itemize whatever tasks I have floating around in my head, it also serves as a visual reminder of what I have achieved that day and what still needs to be done. I’ve also found that by observing how I end up working through my lists, I can see which activities I find easy, and which ones I procrastinate over. This allows me to better structure my days and tasks.
4. Take regular breaks– Working from home means that you really can take a coffee break whenever you like. Strangely enough however, I find I take less breaks than I ever did when I worked in an office. I usually get distracted by the task at hand or completely absorbed in something and realize that I haven’t actually drunk that cup of tea or glass of water that’s been sitting there for the past 45 minutes. Staying well fed and hydrated may sound inconsequential but can have a huge impact on how well you work as the day progresses. A drop in blood sugar and energy levels will not leave you feeling creatively gifted and dehydration often leads to headaches and lethargy
5. Take yourself out – While working lunches may be a thing of the past when you work for yourself, I try and ‘take myself out’ for lunch once a week. It’s a 45 minute period where I can enjoy a salad and coffee (made by someone else!) and completely switch off from work mode. I purposely stash my phone in my bag so that I can’t be tempted by email and either read the paper or a magazine. By the time I head back, I’m usually itching to dive back in with the renewed mindset that can only come from fresh air and good food.