Most people think working from home is a breeze. No schedule, no rules, no boss to check in on you and no annoying coworkers… But the truth is, as great as it can be to set your own schedule and get your creative juices flowing, working from home can be hard. It requires a ton of self motivation, organization and planning! I’ve been working from home running my freelance marketing business for nearly two years now and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me so I thought I’d pass along some tips this week.
- Plan Plan Plan.
When you’re managing numerous projects and accounts, planning is essential. Whether you use a detailed spreadsheet or a good old fashioned to-do list, make sure you have a plan for the week. Set realistic expectations of what you can complete each day and plan for unexpected things to pop up. Don’t fill your schedule to the brim so that an impromptu phone call throws you for a loop – give yourself some wiggle room. If you know it’s going to be really nice out one day, plan to finish early so you can enjoy the park!
I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage all of my tasks and keep track of deadlines. A color system lets me know if things are HOT, WARM or COLD, and I work from red to blue. The goal is to keep all of my tasks in the blue – meaning I have plenty of time to finish them. Occasionally I’ll have a day full of red tasks that need to be done asap, but if I manage my time effectively, that’s not often, saving me time and stress.
- Develop a Routine.
As nice as it is to “wing it” sometimes, working from home is a commitment that requires routine. If you’re not a morning person, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you enjoy your sleep. Maybe you do your best work from 4pm-11pm, find what works for you and stick to it! If you work from home so that you can take care of your kids, you’ll probably need to work around nap time or school pick-up etc. When you find what works for you, make it a habit!
My daughter is 9 months old and requires a lot of attention, so my mornings are typically dedicated to her and keeping our home in one piece. I can count on getting back to emails and responding to any “red hot” tasks when she takes her morning nap. In the afternoon, I do the rest of my work. Not only does a routine help keep me organized, it helps me set boundaries so I can decide what I can commit to or decide if I’m too busy. As a freelancer it’s easy to take on a ton of projects so it’s always important to think ahead so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Take Time for YOU.
It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re working from home. I know I’ve had those sweatpants and crusty t-shirt kind of days when I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer until I finish ONE more thing! But the truth is, nothing good comes from overworking yourself (or wearing sweatpants all day.) If this sounds like you, put the laptop down, take a shower and eat a good meal! You can’t produce your best work if you’re not feeling good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable while you work from home, but I find getting myself together in the morning, eating breakfast and just taking time to be human is a huge benefit to my work life.