Working from home sounds so romantic when you’re stuck at a day job you hate (or even in a job you love!) and yes, at times this is true. A world where you set your own hours, working the way you want, with a milli second commute which is simply reaching for your phone? Most folk would sign up there and then. Realistically though, working from home on your own can be pretty lonely. You are pretty much commiting to feeling like a shut in, and at times see no other human apart from your other half, which you live with btw. I’m not gonna lie to you, at times it can lead to what I can only call temporary freelance-insanity, which my friends, is never a good thing! So now armed with my full year in service badge, I have came up with a few house rules which I have learned – the hard way – since I started working from home.
Rule #1: Get out of Bed
Yes you left your desk super organised from the night before, but once more you stayed up too late watching one too many episodes of BLAH off Netflix and the need to just reach for your laptop is real. Just to add to the prediciment, your bed has never felt so good. So warm, so cosy, and your laptop is right there. STOP! Don’t let your bed become your second office. I am not a morning person – never have been – so rather than make myself feel guilty (I mean, I am working after all) I set my alarm for 9am and give myself 10.30am deadline to get into my office across the hall. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I am there before that, and at times (mostly the hungover times) the deadline slides back or even gets scrapped. But those days are the excpetions, not the rule. For morning people, this may be super easy but if you are like me, set yourself a working from bed boundry and stick to it.
Rule #2: Find what makes you calm
Whether it’s half an hour of daytime TV or a spout of yoga, find something that makes you feel calm during the stressful times. For me, it’s either taking my little pup Olive out for a walk (or even just a quick pet on the couch) or a quick call with my BFF or fellow freelancer. Giving yourself ‘reward’ breaks during the day will make a HUGE impact in your day to day work life.
Rule #3: Leave the damn house
Most things tend to be optional when you work from home. All the rules that you learned so far from your days in a “normal” job can be hrown out the window, why? Cos you’re the boss. To be honest, this fact can be as liberating as it is frustrating. If I don’t plan to leave somewhere and have it in the diary, I almost never leave the house (sans dog walking). When I first started working from home, this wasn’t really a problem. I lived in the West End of Glasgow with pretty much everything at my fingertips. Coffee shops, parks, pretty much freelancer distraction heaven. But then I moved to a bigger flat, where I have an actual office space but not much around. I don’t know how to drive (YET MUM, YET!) but basically, sometimes I can’t help but feel a bit trapped. In the West End there was no need to walk aimlessly, and where I am now, it’s basically park, or well, park. So to get around it, I find other ways to get outside. I seperate my meetings and break them up during the week. I get a 20 min game of football in with Olive. I schedule in a FaceTime date with a girlfriend, or even, make the perfect sandwich and eat it outside. Just bloody get some fresh air in your lugs, ok?
Rule #4 Make an Effort
Even if you like yourself some alone time, working from home ALL the time can drive you a liiiiitle cray cray. The main person I talk to all day is Olive (yes I said my dog was a person) but slowly that will also turn into your TV, YouTube and Spotify ads then, yup, yourself. Take time to reach out to those you love whether it’s for a quick blether over WhatApp or scheduling in a glass of wine or a FaceTime. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have some kick ass babes on the other end of the phone for an understanding ear when I need it. I also finding a local Facebook Group to share experiences with. Hearing other peoeples stories and business experiences throughout the day can really give you the oomph you need to get through the day. Just make sure you are making more conversations than the ones with yourself.
Rule #5: Step away from the dishes
I am a person who cannot work in a messy environment. The guilt and the general feeling of bleh is just too intense for me, so one of the first things I did when I moved into the new flat was create a clean, productive, positive space to work in. It’s still not finished, but at least here I can shut the door over and leave the dishes in the sink and the washing in the machine. Of course, if you find yourself some freetime, feel free to give the place a quick spruce, but really, most chores can still be completed at night or at the weekend. After a while, it began to get ontop of me and stress me out, so in the end I had a chat with my fella and we decided to get a cleaner to come in and help once a fortnight. Let me tell you, this was one of the most productive decisions I have made. Once Trish comes in and does her magic, it’s super easy to keep on top of. Just think about where your time is best spent and the ways you can make life easier for yourself.
Rule #6: Get organised
For this one there’s different strokes for different folks. I’ve seen so many different kinds of day planners that shopping for one almost gives the same anxiety I get for shopping for jeans. There’s just so damn many now! Personally, I like two different kinds of lists; one on my computer which has the overall general tasks for the week, and another plain pad which I have the tasks I would like to achieve for the day, which I add to whenever I complete a task. On my weekly ‘minutes’ I call them, I write notes for feedback so I can keep track of my time and see at a glance what client needs more love. I developed most of this structure while running another business but need to force myself to mix things up and give things ago. I’ve always struggled with balance and general anxiety guilt that it’s important to physically see all the work you have achieved in that day or month. Organisation is really like your own gift to yourself (and sanity!)
Rule #7: DEADLINES
Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines. External deadlines are your new guardian angel. Even if your project doesn’t have a deadline, set it. Write it down in your dirary and plan everything to that date. Set yourself reminders and make yourself accountable for the workload you have on. I have a terrible memory, so writing reminders for reminders and a hell of a lot of lists is the way I work best. And honestly? I don’t know anyone that this doesn’t work for. There’s no point in stressing yourself out and working balls to the wall just cos you didn’t write something down or set yourself a target. There’s no big boss who will chase you, just clients that you will dissapoint, so step it up and be responsible for you. But as soon as you ace that deadline (or even beat it) be sure that you go ahead you treat yo self. This could be a lunch treat, a little online shopping or an early finish to go enjoy the sunshine! Just remember, deadlines are everything. Deadlines will save you. Deadlines are the reason. Deadlines.
Rule #8: Be open to change
If you have tried all the tips I have suggested and still don’t have half your shit done, then believe me, that’s ok. Working from home is hard work. You are constantly putting yourself in check and it requires a strange blurring and remaking of boundaries. The whole process of making and unmaking structure can be exhausting but also exhilarating when you find something that works or you ace the day. If you just can’t seem to focus at home there are still options for you before throwing in the freelance towel! There are loads of office share spaces available for rent everywhere. Or you can talk to a small business about a hot desk to get that “regular work” feeling, but with the flexability of freelance. Or you can just go outside and try again tomorrow. Sometimes you know in your heart of hearts when you are burnt out, so when you have a bad few days (and they will happen) don’t write the whole thing off. Granted it’s not for everyone, but if you find a job you truely love and can do it all just for you? Well, it’s one of the best damn feelings in the world. How do you stay sane while working for yourself? I’d love to hear how you all cope! Let me know over on instagram @foreveryoursbetty or twitter @foreverursbetty.