Before Abiella came home, I was working and studying from home. During that time, I wrote the following blog post but never published it. I was talking to my sister last week about blog stuff, and said, "I have this post but it doesn't seem relevant anymore since I wrote it so long ago." She encouraged me to publish it anyways, since many of you work from home and it may be relevant for you.
So here goes... (cue the wavy tv screen and 80's music... we're going into the past here.)
The fact that I’m brewing a pot of coffee at 9:30 pm, means my schedule is officially weird. Working from home has its major advantages, and this is one of them. I’ve always been a night owl, even when I was teaching I’d stay up well into the early hours of the am, just to hear my alarm beep madly at 5:30 am. (Thank you Dr. Pepper, for giving me the caffeine needed to sustain such a schedule.) These days though, I’m fully in charge of my schedule. There’s no two ways about it, it. Is. Awesome. To some, working from home may seem like a crazy idea, but for the hundreds of folks I share a coffee shop with each week (while typing madly away at our laptops) working from home is the norm.
However, hours and hours of free time, ready to be molded by you and only you, can in fact, be quite daunting. And it takes a certain level of self-discipline to make the working-from-home thing run efficiently. While I’m certainly still figuring this whole work from home, study from home, thing out… I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I might share:
1) Get dressed. As tempting as it may be to stay in your jammies all day (after all, who will really see you?) It will make you feel like a total loser if you answer the door to the UPS man, or a neighbor needing some assistance in their yard, and you’re still in your pjs at 3 pm. Regardless of how productive you’ve been, you’ll be very aware of how unproductive you look... not that I know anything about this. So… put some pants on, brush your hair, for the love of everything good brush your teeth and act like a normal working citizen. You may not have to wear a jacket and heels, but pants… they’re mandatory.
2) Make your coffee strong.
You’ll need all that caffeine to keep you focused on work, and NOT on youtube, facebook, and all of those other time suckers. When there’s not a corporate ‘screening’ of your internet hits, or a boss to walk by and say, “…and what are you doing??” you’d be surprised how tempting it is to watch that funny video someone sent you, or read the blog you haven’t caught up on…The more adrenaline you have pumping through your system, the more likely you are to stay on task. (Unless caffeine makes you jittery and less likely to focus... If so, disregard this tip.) If you’re opposed to caffeine try tea or water with lemon… something other than plain old H20 can help maintain a ‘work ritual.’ I know when I have coffee by my side, it’s time to work and not play.
3) Go outside. I recently discovered that I can pick up wifi from my backyard. Hello, afternoons spent writing away in the sun; I’ll be seeing a lot of you. (Working from the shade of my screened-in-porch is also a favored option.) Getting outside can boost your focus, and you’ll get things done at lightning speed. Promise.
4) Go into town and be in the presence of other productive people. I am lucky. A mere 5 miles from my house lies two very busy coffee shops, filled to capacity every weekday with fellow “work-from-home” professionals. These people keep their headphones on, look pensively at their computer screens and make important phone calls (I can tell how important they are given the tone of their voice and how many times they say, “Hold on… let me check…” while madly hitting keys on their keyboards.) These people make you feel important. They’re also wearing jeans and hats and carrying cool bags, but guess what? They look like real-life-adults with real-life-jobs making real-life money. I always wonder, “What are all of these people doing?? What are their jobs??” Alas, I may never know, but I trust that it’s something incredibly creative and wildly lucrative. I’m also 100% certain that they’re all geniuses and given enough time their genius will rub off on me. Bottom line: These spaces simulate that of an office environment… just better, because you can have a bagel and mocha delivered to your table, and only converse with the “coworkers” you really enjoy.
5) Make a schedule. If you work well without a schedule, then kudos. But if you’re like me, a schedule is mandatory. I need a list, I need times, I need deadlines, and I need highlighters. Without these 4 things I am nothing. (Sidenote: brewing coffee and working from 10-2am is actually on my schedule. I’ll get to that.)
6) Go on walks, be active. Take 10 minutes and go on a walk. You’ll be surprised how many good ideas you get while you’re out there. I mean, let’s be honest, what one can get done staring at a blank pad of paper on a desk for 30 minutes is probably equivalent to what one can get done walking around outside for 5 minutes. It’s science. Go where the endorphins are people.
7) Meet with friends. I do coffee or lunch with friends about 3 times a week. That may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. How many people do you see at the average work place? Anywhere between 5 and 100? You eat lunch together, you converse, you talk about your personal and professional life… Personal interaction with other humans is simply part of a good work environment. Working from home shouldn’t be any different. Find other people who work from home (or who have a good solid lunch hour away from their workplace) and go out. Put this “meeting” in your calendar. If you’re meeting with a fellow work-from-home-professional, you might consider talking about your goals, things you’ve accomplished that week, things you hope to accomplish, and dreams for the future. This accountability helps a lot. It may not go towards your work hours, but the break is worth it. Trust me.
8) Be flexible and don’t hate yourself. Many “work-from-home-professionals” feel they must put in their hours during the ‘typical’ 9-5, even if this comes at the cost of a really awesome experience. (clearly some w-f-h-p’s HAVE to work these hours b/c that’s when they are hired to be ‘on-the-job’) but if you’re not, be brave, take advantage of your days, and the flexibility you have… who knows how long that flexibility will last?
Tip #8 brings me to the reason I brewed a pot of coffee at 9:30 pm. Today, I had a lot to get done during typical business hours, I had to get materials collected, packaged, and shipped, I had to get items returned to a store. I also chose to enjoy a late lunch with Sean and have an amazing dinner with friends. All along, I knew that my work would be waiting for me when I got home. After all, I’m an official night owl who works best after 11 pm. (Just look at the papers I wrote for my Ed.D. at 3pm versus the ones I wrote at 2 am… I swear an odd stroke of genius hits me after 11…might as well take advantage of that ‘night-owl-phenomenon’ before baby Abi dictates my schedule, eh?) Anyhow, point being, I didn’t feel bad taking an hour to go have a late lunch with Sean, because I knew while the rest of the world was watching prime-time television, I’d be writing grants and taking names.
On that note, it’s 10:00 and I’m off to start the second half of my workday. Toot-a-loo!
So there you go folks. A blast from the past. Also... regarding tip #1. One fellow work-from-home-gal I know, might disagree with me. Which is reason #456,912 why I love her.
Happy Tuesday folks!!
Also- wish me luck. In 30 minutes I leave to take my daughter to get her granulation burned off AGAIN... (no luck with the home remedies- so sad) AND to get her button changed for the first time. They will be simultaneously training us to do it so we can do it from home every 3-4 months from now on. Hmm... changing a mechanism that goes straight into my child's stomach. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....)