If you work from home, you get the whole concept of trying to set boundaries and time management. It seems to be a constant battle, not just within your own household, but within your extended family and friend groups as well.
The biggest lie we get from others on the outside is that “we have all the time in the world” because we work from home. The biggest lie we believe ourselves is that since we do work from home, we should do “home things” in between our working hours. Oh yes, I’ll just empty the dishwasher. Then I’ll do a load of laundry, oh let me answer some emails…shoot, let me prep dinner. Oh great, now I can write! Just kidding, I have to pick the kids up from school.
Now, all of the things listed above are good things. They are things that totally need to get done (at my house, anyway), and a lot of times, if you don’t do them, someone else has to. It’s so easy to fall into the home trap, where you treat your house like a “house” and not like an “office”.
The following seven tips can help you create a boundary between “home” and “office” work, as well as help with your time management. Also, know this comes from someone who’s been working at home for a decade. It never gets easier, and you do often times need to reset as situations and things change in your life. When I had a baby I suddenly wasn’t just working in my office. I moved my office to the living room because I had no choice. So remember, these are guidelines. Use them according to the season of life you are currently in. Ready? Lets go!
This is one of the hardest ones, because if you don’t have a home office, where are you going to spread your workspace? The biggest thing I’ve learned and have also been told by medical professionals when discussing stress, is to make sure you do work outside of your bedroom. This means that if you like to write in bed, it may be time for you to move that laptop into the kitchen or living room. According to medical professionals, when you work in the place where you are supposed to be sleeping and relaxing, it does something to your brain, making it continue to “work” while you should be sleeping.
Let your bed be where you detox and rest, not where you pound out a few more hours. If you love working in that sort of comfort, grab yourself some pillows and a blanket and sit on the floor against the couch or near the fireplace. Create a comfy space that mimics your bed so that you’re brain is free when you (finally!) lay your head on that pillow.
You’re happier when you’re happier.
Now let me explain. If you went to work every day and the desk you sat at wasn’t quite tall enough so that you hunched over, and you hated the weird green paint in front of you and you keep hiding from that one spider that always attaches itself to the corner–are you really going to get a lot of work done? Probably not.
I’m not saying spend a ton of money to give yourself a killer office, but I am saying you need to make sure that you have created an environment you can live in. This could mean that you go to Goodwill and find a really cool vintage lamp or an old-school typewriter. Or maybe you re-paint the walls in a color that’s refreshing. You are going to be spending 90% of your day in this place and when you’re a writer you need to be creative, so make sure that you are creating that sort of environment for success! Not only will you get more done, but you’ll be happier during that work time. You don’t want to be counting down the hours until you can leave your cave. You want to look at the clock and go, “WOW it’s quitting time already?”
This point probably seems stupid when it comes to time management, but I have a point, an important one. I’m easily distracted, so if I go to the kitchen to make my lunch or anything else, I suddenly look at the dishes or the dirty clothes and go, “wow I should get on that. I can sort of, you know, eat and clean up and then I’ll do this.” One thing leads to another and suddenly it’s been two hours and you still aren’t back at your desk. Grabbing snacks is my downfall during the day, because it exposes me to all the other things that I feel like I should also be doing.
I know a lot of authors who work from home who keep snacks at their desk or may even have a cheap little fridge with bottled water and other things (WINE anyone?) next to their desk so that they can have uninterrupted working time. This is pivotal when you are on a deadline and need zero distractions.
It’s a real job.
I know you know this, but a lot of times family and friends don’t. It’s too easy for others to ask you to do favors because, hey you make your own hours. You cannot treat your job from home this way. You will only end up stressing yourself out when you don’t get everything done that you need to get done. Yes, you can plan accordingly, where you take an afternoon off to go to your kids baseball game. Yes you can bring in muffins to the first grade class when you drop little guy off. But if someone calls you in the middle of your work day and asks you to go to lunch or do them a favor, you can say no. In fact, I suggest that you tell them that you need a bit of heads up next time. If you give in once, you will always be the person people go to.
Try to learn the power of no, so that you can be successful. Imagine if you were working for someone in an office and all of a sudden a family member was like, “oh can you go pick up so and so from music lessons, then grab dinner?” Meanwhile it’s three in the afternoon and you go, “sure thing!” Get up and leave? You’d get fired, or at the very least, get a warning. Treat this job as any other job.
Make hours and stick to them.
Take a look at your week and decide how many hours a day you are going to work to meet a deadline and then meet those hours every day. When you are done (this is the important part) leave the office or your workspace. Don’t keep coming back to it until midnight, because then you miss the time you can spend on yourself and your family. Again, you must treat it like a job. Would you stay until midnight at a job every day of the week? If your answer is, “well I don’t know how else to be successful with social media”, then make sure you use Hootsuite or another program where you can schedule your posts for the evening. Or find an intern who wants work experience and can assist you in exchange for mentor hours.
The power of no.
As discussed earlier, you will face burnout very early on when you work from home if you say yes to everything. Make sure that you ask yourself the question: is this going to help my business or harm it? Is this going to take from my plate or add to it? Once you go through that, then you can decide: do I have the time to sacrifice to this certain thing? That’s how you find out if you should say yes or no and make sure you stick to your guns.
Last but not least, make sure that your friends and family are aware of your office hours.
Consider setting an auto text or auto reply on your email for when you are in the office. My family knows that if I’m working I won’t answer texts, but they also know texts pop up on my screen so that I can see if it’s an emergency. If my mom actually calls me, it’s serious and she needs me to call her back right away. As long as others know your boundaries and you stick to the ones you’ve made, you will find huge success in working from home.
Working from home has so many advantages but you must set boundaries in order to be able to take those advantages and allow them to free up your life more. I’ve worked one job where I had a nine to five schedule, and I’ve worked from home. I encourage you to try to take your past experience and apply it to your current experience and make sure you are treating it the same way. If anything, you might discover you are working more hours from your home office than you ever have, and if that’s the case, it’s another reason to re-evaluate and make sure that you aren’t burning yourself out or mis-using the time you have during the day.
Until next time!