I love working from home. For most of us, this sentence brings up an image of someone dressed in their pj’s, sitting in front of a computer, and has the time to spend with family. Sounds nice, right?
After working from for home seven years, I’ve come to realize that I’m just as big of a workaholic at home as I ever was at the office. Keeping a clear division between work and home life is tough and not everyone is cut out for it. I’ve made some mistakes, neglected those I’ve loved, worked until I couldn’t stay awake. Why? Because I could.
Working from home has also allowed me great flexibility with my home life as well. I don’t have to schedule time off for every school function and orthodontist appointment. I can also stay home when someone is sick and still get some work done.
Regardless of whether you are a full-time author, an editor, book cover designer, book formatter or PR representative, working from home isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. I’ve come up with a list of mistakes people make working from home and how to avoid them.
Ask yourself what you expect to gain by working from home. Why work from home? The standard answers are not on the table for this one. You can’t say because I will cost me less or I get to stay home with my children or my carbon footprint is smaller. Make it personal.
Why are you working from home?
Do you have that secret wish to become the next E.L. James but with fewer whips and chains? We all want to be the next biggest thing. And sometimes it’s nice to get lost on that fantasy. But if we never come down from Cloud 9 and get realistic about our goals, we’ll be constantly disappointed because we’ve set the bar too high. Are you writing to just to earn a paycheck? Is it less about the money and more about the art? Whatever your dream is, define it.
The set a goal, set ten goals. Whatever you need to do to achieve it. If your goal is to be successful, define what success means to you specifically and then set goals with milestones The best way to do this is simple, really—take baby steps. Set smaller goals and build on those small successes until you get there. Ask anyone who has achieved success and they’ll tell you they didn’t get there with a pie-in-the-sky dream. It happened because they set realistic goals, did honest hard work, and persevered.
Lack of Discipline
If you’re going to work from home you’ll need to be a self-starter. There’s no boss to check your time card, no one to hand you a list of items to get done for the day, and no set time to be at work and then go home. Sure, you can wake up on a beautiful day and say, “Let’s hit the ski slopes.” or “Forget work. Let’s go to the water park.” But you can’t put off work like this on a regular basis or you’ll pay for it in the end. Working from home takes discipline. You still need to get up every workday (you can define your own) and actually work.
The other side of discipline is recognizing when you have too much work. Don’t over work yourself because you bought into the idea that you’d have more time and be more productive because you don’t have the distractions of the office. This is a myth. You’ll have just as many distractions at home as you would in an office. They’re just a different kind of distraction. (Think cat videos and social media.)
Doesn’t Prioritize Time
Speaking of distractions… One of the biggest issues with working from home is the distractions. While it’s nice to be able to say you work in your pj’s, it’s also easy to lie around all day and watch television or surf the Internet looking for picture of Bill Murray from What About Bob for your blog article. Decide what you want to accomplish that day and do it.
Don’t get caught up in busy work—automate as much as you can. Check email and answer only two or three times a day. Limit use of search engines. Set hourly tasks and check them off as you complete them. One of the last things you can do before you finish for the day is make a list of what you want to accomplish tomorrow while things are still fresh in your mind.
Set up Hours of Business
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you work 24/7. I work Monday through Friday, but I rarely work 9-to-5 on those days. I get to choose my hours. It’s a perk and a curse. But I don’t work on the weekends. That time is spent with family and friends and used to recharge.
I don’t even turn on my computer. It helps me avoid the temptation. Is this an unbreakable rule? Of course not. Life happens and like it or not, sometimes I have to work the weekend to meet a deadline, but I make it the exception and not the rule.
Set Up a Designated Workspace
If you have a room you can dedicate as your office, great! If you don’t have an available room, you can still have an office atmosphere. Designate a place, even if it has to be portable. I have an office with a door. My family knows that if that door is closed, I’m at work. They knock to see if I’m available.
Closing the door to the office when you’re not at work is necessary too. If you don’t have an office, put the portable office away, cover it with a sheet, pack the laptop and set it aside. The act of closing up the office is freeing.
It might sound like a simple thing, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is be off the clock when you leave it behind a closed door.
Take a Break / Take a Vacation
Don’t forget to give yourself breaks. Walk around the block for fifteen minutes, take a breather, and resist the urge to graze instead of eating something nutritious to avoid the afternoon doldrums. One of my goals is to leave the house on my lunch break, even if I just run down to the local grocery store for a salad. Why? If I worked outside of the home, I would still go somewhere for a lunch. So set a timer or alarm on your computer to remind you to take your breaks and a lunch.
Time off is necessary. Take vacations, three-day weekends, and leave work behind. Don’t buy into the logic that you can work on your vacation while driving or flying there because you will bring work on your vacation. Don’t waste opportunities to be with your family. What better time to visit with your significant other, friends, or children than when they are strapped into a seat next to you. 🙂
Become a Hermit
Working from home sometimes feels like voluntary isolation. I used to manage a group of freelance editors from around the world, and the number one complaint was how alone they felt. They had no one to turn to for help. So I set up a virtual water cooler on Google Groups and designated it for the purpose of socialization, helping each other out, and sharing ideas. The results were almost immediate. My department went from eighteen isolated editors to a team of co-workers who could go to each other for support day or night.
The point is, connect with people. Do it online and in person. Loving your job goes beyond enjoying what you do. It’s also enjoying the people you work with.
Let me share my latest perk of working from home. Yesterday as I gave my son his first driving lesson, I was grateful I was able to do this during the day when the streets weren’t as busy. If I’d worked outside of the home, I would have had to wait until the weekend or after dinner when the traffic is heavier. Will I ever go back to the 9-to-5 grind? Who knows. The corporate world has some stiff competition with the benefits package that comes from working at home.