When I was employed full time, in my pre-baby days, I dreamt of working from home. I imagined sitting in my stylish, tidy home office area, sipping a soy flat white out of a lovely mug, or maybe a trendy cafe, feeling pretty darned smug with how cushty and “relaxed” my employment status was.
In reality, working from home was a little less like this, and a little more like scrabbling to get work done at a messy kitchen table in the hour and a half I had to do it before I went to pickup my toddler/do the shopping/make the tea. (Though I did do ok in the coffee department.) It also means things like having to complete a tax return, and being incredibly self motivated and disciplined with your time. While I’m massively grateful for the opportunities I had to work flexibly while my son was small, I am quite happy to be physically separating home and work again.
The timing of this post is slightly ironic, given that I’ve recently become an employee and will be doing the majority of my work at an office, but here are some things that I found helped while I did work from home.
Create a work space
I’m lucky that we have the room to have an office set up in our spare room, and I realise not everyone will, but I found it really important for my productivity to have a set place to work*.
If you have a place you can fit a desk or even a shelf that can serve as a desk, make it your your own. Clear away all the crap – all of it – and make it look nice. Maybe stick up a motivational postcard or two, or a picture that helps you to focus: it could be a favourite family photo or a print by your favourite artist, whatever works to help the space feel like somewhere you’d want to sit and work. Add a plant – plants are great for reducing stress – and maybe use a really nice pen, or a gorgeous notebook. (Stationery addiction? What stationery addition?)
It might seem quite superficial, but having a space you enjoy working in and things you love using will make you more likely to sit down and actually do. The. Work.
I also found that scent really helped: light a scented candle, or use a diffuser with some essential oils. I love peppermint for helping me focus and feel a little calmer, plus I don’t have to worry about
setting the place on fire Soren getting to it.
*the irony being that often, it was so full of my husband’s guitars, amps and other random crap I have yet to find a place for, that I’d end up working at the kitchen table. Like a silly billy.
I found trying to focus one of the biggest challenges of working for home. Deadline or not, distractions would creep in – especially housework or, *cough*Instagram*cough*.
Finding the time keeping app Pomodoro massively changed my productivity levels. It’s essentially a timer which sets blocks of 25 minute intervals, and 4 minute breaks. When I really had to crack on I would set it, work away and know I’d have a break coming up soon. Weirdly, most of the time I’d not want to stop when the 25 minutes were up, so there must be something to it. There are probably loads of other apps that work in the same way, which brings me to…
Work the free stuff
I’m continually amazed at how many brilliant and free resources are out there on’t t’internet. From planning and productivity tools, graphic design tools, office suites, invoicing tools… there are so many products available, often for free, that make life a lot easier. I’ve linked to some that I’ve found helpful but this isn’t an ad (obis), I just really like them!
Another challenge of working from home is the obvious lack of other people. It can be pretty lonely, perhaps even more so in a rural location where you can’t easily nip out for a coffee and at least have spoken to the person serving you. And no, the postie doesn’t count.
Which is why I love the internet. I’ve found pals and had some great advice and meaningful support for people on Instagram and in Facebook groups. I can’t shout enough about Doing It For the Kids, for example; finding a community of people in a similar situation was just so good.
So don’t be lonely – there are some good working spaces for freelancers dotted about the place, so it’s worth checking to see if there are any groups around about where you are to meet up with (but if not, head over to DIFTK. They’re on Facebook too.)
Don’t get bogged down
If you feel stuck, just do something completely different. If possible, something physical. I know this sounds like procrastination, but if sometimes a change is as good as a break. I would sometimes stick my timer on and do some hoovering, or the dishes, or go for a walk, and find that when I sat back down I felt more ready to power through some work.
Ok, so it might sound wishy washy, but visualisation can really help with achieving goals. It works for athletes, so why not for a busy freelancer?!
I sometimes get myself out of a funk or bogged down feeling by picturing myself *after* I’ve completed whatever it is I want to do. Like, ideally by 3pm I’ll be sitting having a cup of tea having done X,Y,Z. It sounds silly but it can alter your mindset enough to make you crack on.
And lastly, while there are probably countless books on tips for productivity, go and buy Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba. As well as being the cutest, most Instagram-able book possibly ever, it’s a powerhouse of really useful advice on how to organise yourself for work, with tips on everything from maximising productivity to handing your money, and whether you’re working from home or self employed.