I am hoping there are folks in the MyBallard community who can give me some good ideas for how to organize and motivate myself working from home. I have always been an employee at heart - tell me what to do and I will do it - I've always preferred following an external structure. But - nobody is hiring for what I do and I just found a way to work hourly as a consultant. So - now I have to create my own structure. I know I should view this as a fabulous opportunity, but right now it's just scary. Any suggestions for the best way to approach this??
suggestions for working from home effectively?(31 posts)
I know someone who showered, packed a lunch, got in the car, drove around the block and came back home as in she had just arrived at work. It worked for her as she was getting stuck in her pj's and not being as productive as she wanted to be.
Not sure if thats what you were looking for.
Working from home takes a lot of disipline.
I couldn't do it. Hope you find a way to make it work : )
Yeah, I'm strictly an employee type too. Follow orders without question, but can't schedule my own work day to save my life.
The Outlook calendar, if you have one, is great for the little self scheduling I've had to do.
Or any electronic hour by hour calendar would work.
I've been working at home for a couple of years now. I have the benefit of one of these 3-story townhouses with the little room on the ground floor. We didn't utilize that room much, despite the fact that we made a cute tiki-bar out of it before I was working from home, since we spend most of the time on the second floor. Now the tiki-bar is my office (yeah, I kept all the bamboo & deco and I work from the bar instead of a desk, just no booze anymore). This provides for a nice separation between home & work. Also it provides an honest, easily assessable tax deduction since I use the room exclusively for work. So, that's my first piece of advice -- dedicate a spot in your house just to work & make sure that you recognize that mentally so you're in the "right place" when you show up for work.
I never work in my pajamas. I always shower & shave. I wear clothes that I would have worn to a formal office (although since our office was just 4-guys, things started out pretty casual). Again, I think that helps get your head in the right place for work.
My wife is home during the day, so we have rules. I get a refill on my coffee at 10, noonish & again around 3. These are my breaks & that's when we chat, smoke cigarettes & munch on something. She only interupts me if I am not watching the time or an issue pops-up that she would have called me about when I worked at a regular office.
This one would be controversial, but it seems to help me... we put a little TV in the bar & I left it when converting to an office. I leave History Channel on a lot because they tend to rerun the same documentaries over & over. I don't pay much attention and don't have to worry about missing something interesting because it will be on again soon enough. But, before I turn on the History Channel, I turn on Bravo for the 8 & 9 AM reruns of The West Wing. They've played the whole series several times, so again I don't have to pay attention. It's more like seeing your old friends, or more accurately for me, having co-workers. Having TWW on in the morning is kind of like having a regular office; the characters show up on time, making me want to show up on time, it's an office atmosphere, they say the the same old crap you knew they were going to say just like co-workers & it helps me mark time just like I would back at an office. For me CNN, ESPN and stuff like that just don't work, because it's live, current-affair kind of stuff, that I probably don't care about, and is repeated ad nausem. I'm trying to set more of a boring routine, than take advantage of my ability to stay up-to-date on all breaking news -- as an example, the one day I broke my rule (something really intolerable must have been on History that day) & tuned in to CNN was the balloon-boy hoax; I wasted all afternoon staying current since it was so compelling.
Ok, I've droned on again too long & for now cut off with this: To be successful in this some proper divisions and routines are helpful.
I work from home quite a bit and really love it! You'll have to strengthen your time management skills, for sure! Things like making a list (or adding to your Outlook calendar) specific tasks to accomplish for the day and the week are important. Don't forget planning and organizing time (file bills, for example).
Also, having a routine is useful. If you're a regular excerciser, you can probably apply some of the same useful tips and strategies. Start work at the same time every day, take your breaks at roughly the same times, plan on ending at around the same time. This last tip can be challenging as I tend to just keep working until I'm forced to stop in the evenings and then I feel like I'm chained to my work.
I also find it useful to minimize distractions. I have my own very small office space, so I can shut the door and keep the heelers at bay. My husband understands that the only thing I use that room for is work, so he doesn't bother me if I'm in there. I also generally avoid surfing the internet (FB, MyBallard, etc.) during work hours - although you can see how well that's working for me today! :)
Finally, with all that emphasis on routine and discipline, sometimes I throw that to the wind and take advantage of beautiful days like this to walk the dogs at weird hours. Or I'll decide I want a change of venue and end up working from a Starbucks for the afternoon, which for me is just not as efficient. That's Ok, I think it's part of the beauty of working from home, but you've got to know that you still have your 'To Do' list waiting for you and be able to renegotiate with yourself when you'll have those items done.
You can do it and you may even end up prefering it! Let us know how it goes.
You need to do whatever you can to make this work for yourself. Find out what parts of the office you are used to working at worked, and try to replicate those as much as possible.
Have a separate room (or area if one isn't available) that's pretty much dedicated for work. A proper desk, swivel chair, lamp, computer, etc. It gives me the ability to close my door and avoid the distractions of the rest of my place. The slightest thing distracts me, even if I hear a tv in the background while I'm playing music at my desk. So I've found that a dedicated spot works very well.
I'm not sure of your resources, but I can say that you can get a desk and swivel chair at goodwill for VERY cheap. The desk and chair I use are both from there, and I paid around $3-5 for each for them.
Other than that, it's up to you to determine what works and does not work for you. I love listening to background music while I work, but I can't listen to talk radio while I work (even though I love it). I also will use caffeine as a motivator - if I don't feel like doing work, I drink some tea/coffee and get back to it.
One last thing that's helped me is to focus on the positives of what you are doing. You can meet someone for lunch, start work early and/or end work early, go to the gym, etc. I often will start my day around 6-7AM and I'm pretty much finished by 3pm. I love being able to be able to get out of the house and the sun is still shining!
Hope this helps, Good luck!
I worked at home for 3 years. Tip: always get UP at the same time, ready to work, and TAKE A SHOWER AND GET DRESSED. Put on shoes. Put on makeup, if you wear makeup. Every day, have SOME place to go at lunch for an hour- go get some coffee, do a little window shopping, go to lunch, take a walk, go to the gym. Structure is key. It iw also important to see PEOPLE...not just talk on the phone or email. Get out of the house for an hour....and make sure it doesn't turn into 3 hours at the mall.
The second time the UPS guy caught me in my pj's at noon, I knew it was time to change.
I NEVER turned on the TV, not once. I did have the stereo going, though.
Jubbjubb - sorry to repeat some of what you said. For some reason I didn't see your post before I posted.
Kind of interesting that you and I mentioned the same things, isn't it?
Interesting tip on the TV. I get sucked in too easily, but I do keep a radio handy at all times. I appreciate having the background noise.
Glad to know I'm not the only one who uses The West Wing as background noise while I'm working. Though I did find myself looking at the TV more than the computer this morning, as they were playing 'The Stackhouse Filibuster' episode.
Jules, I agree that contact with humanity is key for me too! I don't need to get out every day, but after a couple of days of seeing no one but my husband, I start having weird conversations with the heelers.
Not pretty. Even they seem to think it's odd.
Bikerchick - I love this post! Looks like there are a bunch of us out there - maybe we can learn something from each other.
I watched West Wing this morning while working from home. this could be some sort of universal truth?
Stay off the MyBallard forum. That should help a lot!
Check lists. Have a friend who works from home that can be your mentor of sorts for awhile, check in with them to see how effecting you're being with your work day. Being accountable to someone, even a friend, can help a lot.
LOL - what does it say that those of us working at home all hit West Wing in the mornings?!
I agree with the main theme - structure & routine, structure & routine! I schedule via my Outlook breaks and lunch and stick to it. Its too easy to be distracted by tossing in a load of laundry, then picking up the kitchen, then this, that, and the other....
Maybe we should consider a work-at-home lunch bunch who meet once a week?
Judging by the upcoming West Wing episodes, I shan't be getting much work done tomorrow or Wednesday.
Maybe the best advice for BikerChick is not to turn on Bravo between the hours of 8 and 10 am!
Lots of important points here!
I just moved (back!) to Ballard this last year. In my new home I'm just getting to the point of being able to effectively work from home.
It is so important to have a dedicted space, whether it's a small table, a room or a whole floor. Otherwise, if you're like me, everything will be a distraction. I'll find myself rearranging photo albums, watching HGTV, or some other non-work related activity otherwise.
It's also important to break away...just because you're working from home doesn't mean your even MORE bound to your work station. Part of the perk is that you can get your own coffee and food, play with the pets a bit, multi-task in a few chores. You just can't be flung in the midst of it all, or it's hard to get work accomplished.
Some people have a guilt factor about it, but your productivity will be the proof.
I can't do it all the time, but I'm grateful when I can.
Thanks everyone! I knew you would have great advice!
Especially appreciate the advice to shower and get dressed as I would with a regular job. I can see that making a big difference. I won't be joining the West Wing watchers - music is my motivator and background noise.
Gilman Girl - your description of your friend's tactic is laugh out loud funny - but it also makes perfect sense to me.
jj - great idea to get office furniture at Goodwill. I need to keep my start-up costs low.
Jules and Heeler Mom - I definitely need to get out regularly. It's so easy to become housebound and lose the ability to communicate normally (I know this too well after a year of being disabled).
wildernessbarbie - great idea on finding a mentor...
which leads me to m's comment - agreed - it would be nice to meet up with others who work from home. Is anyone else interested? If so, I'll post an email address and we can organize that way.
Funny, I work from home, and structure and routine were what I was glad to get away from! I love the idea of getting up when I want, taking a walk/nap when I want, etc. I don't have kids to distract me, though, and hubby is gone for the day. So the whole apartment is essentially my office. But it's true, you can blow an afternoon and then have to make up those hours in the evening. However, I love having that choice. (I work a 2/3 time job.) Today I was in my robe till 2 p.m., but I was doing work for the five hours previously (aside from getting up multiple times to get smoked salmon on crackers and tea). Then I took a shower, then a nap for an hour, and here I am sitting down again to finish some work.
I don't mind working in my pj's - getting shoes and clothes on is my motivator to say, "you've been too long at your desk, get the hell out of the house for a while!" This is my biggest trouble - getting chained to the computer.
Good for you Kyle - you must be better at getting things done than I am. I tagged this thread "lazy bones" because without structure and routine, I will pi** away hour after hour, day after day and get nothing done!
Staying motivated can be tough. Depending on your gig, you might find it useful to hook up with other freelancers in the same field. You can share contacts, tap each other for help or advice, even use each other as managers.
For that last bit, say you've got a three-week gig and your pal has a similar gig. You can inform each other about your respective projects, then schedule a 15-minute weekly progress report meeting or phone call. Knowing you've got someone waiting to hear about your workweek might help you stay on-task.
If you find someone you really click with, you can set up longer-term goals and benchmarks, and hold each other to it. Who knows--you might end up partnering with this person and forming a new business.
Also, +1 on wearing "work" clothes and heaving a separate & dedicated workspace.
The dedicated space for work is a great idea, not just to keep you working but to keep you from working when the work day is over.
I also have to agree with Kyle on the fact that for a lot of us the flexibility is half the point. I work my ass off for a couple months out of the year where I typically will work at least 16 hour days, a whole lot of all nighters, a lot of stress, but when it's done I've earned enough money to slack pretty heavily during the winter when I'd rather be snowboarding on a good powder day. That was the point for me to work for myself.
I work part of my job from home. I have an "office" in the basement and don't use that little corner for anything but work. I tried working at my dining room table at first and that was a fiasco - far too many distracting things like dishes that needed to be done and things that needed to be straightened.
When I'm working from home I usually don't "take a shower and get dressed" until I actually have to leave the house somewhere, but I do put clothes on. Ok, so they're usually sweats, but they are not my pajamas. I agree if you stay in your pajamas it is a great psychological de-motivator.
For me the thing that helps me the most is having a separate "office space". And a reminder that I will not get paid if I don't focus. I also write on my calendar when I'm going to work when I need to work from home - just like if I had a conference call or a meeting with a client, I actually write on my calendar the task I need to do and the time I'm going to sit down to work on it.
Also, going and walking around the block or going up the street for coffee or anything where I am in contact with the rest of the worlds mid-day helps me to focus better and not feel weird and surreal and cut off. That said, I'd be into a "meeting others who work from home" sort of thing.
One thing I've heard is to tell your friends and family not to call or drop by during the hours you work at home.
Always make sure that your co-workers can reach your. At my office we use Skype as the primary form for conversing, so we all use out Status message to show the best phone number to reach us. As old fashion as it sounds my boss knows I am working if he calls me on my hard-line and I pick up on the first ring. Be prompt about communication just like you would in the office. Also you NEED to stay productive. I avoid the internet as much as possible as it's huge distraction. I also set my browser to have a home page that is "blank" so I am not distracted everytime I need to look up something.
I also have a 2nd account of my Laptop and workstation specific for work. No games, nothing distracting. The key is to stay focused on work. Don't blur the concept of work from the concept of home life.
I also make sure that the family knows I am off-limits when working from home. I can still enjoy a wonderful breakfast with the family and a nice lunch with my wife, but after my lunch time has passed it's time to get back to the office. It's a house rule that if I am in my office no one can disrupt me unless its an emergency. It's very important to make sure that family members understand this rule.
I log my time when I start and stop working. It's very easy for distractions to enter your life when working from home. You often are unaware about the daily goings on at your home. The gas meter-reader, the post man, etc. They key is if you are distracted to get a system where you sit back down and make up that time. I always write down when I start and stop working to ensure that I have done my work. If anyone ever asks you where you were it's also good to know. I don't work in a common area of my house... I have a corner or an office.
Last of all, try to keep working from home on the down-low. There a lot of jobs or people that can't work from home. Don't gloat about your wonderful day sitting on the beach tying e-mails and enjoying Starbucks coffee.
Mmmm, good stuff there BTown!
I've worked from home for years and I'm with Kyle - love the freedom of a flexible schedule. The thing I do to signal the start of my work day is to walk to the coffee shop. This helps wake me up (even if I have not taken a shower)and provides face-to-face human interaction.
BTown: working from the beach - this is part of my cunning plan! :-) My job allows me to work from anywhere; we have an internet based phone system, and in March I will spend 2 weeks in Key West with my parents, but will do work each day. Any calls that come in I will see as an email, and then I call them back using a headset with microphone plugged into my laptop. (Or I can just use a regular phone.) It's the Packet8 system if you are curious.
For anyone interested in a free, very easy, good time tracking program, we found one called Freshbooks online. It has a desktop timer that you can start and stop, and code to any particular project you are working on; all kinds of billling options if you need to track that stuff, reports, a timesheet, etc. Check it out! www.freshbooks.com
these suggestions are awesome but the real question is how did you guys score a job where you work from home?!
at Snowbunnie: I'm the last rat on a sinking ship. The rest of my co-workers had the good sense to move on. So, perhaps you should look for a job where the company can't afford to rent office space. Lot's of others get laid off and can't find new work so the best option is to consult from home on spec.
I'm going to be responsible today and get my work done. I won't log on to MyBallard, I won't log on to MyBallard, I won't log on to MyBallard, I won't... oh the heck with it, I'll just take a short lunch.
Snowbunnie - I started my own business and it's cheaper to work from home than rent an office. That said, I don't recommend starting your own business unless you want to completely freak yourself out with visions of losing everything and being a complete failure. And that's not just when I first started out - I have huge periods of self-doubt every few months or so even when things are going well. It's a lot less stressful to work for an established company. Better benefits too!
I have to be honest here - I work from home...but I'm not actually employed as such. I had an idea for a book about 5 years ago, and since I have a lot of time on my hands right now - that's what I'm working on.
Ballardmama - May I ask what kind of business it is? I have been more and more open to the idea of starting my own business at some point. I have alot of respect for those who are brave enough to go out on their own, but I always wonder how they knew what kind of business to go into. There are so many possibilities that it is daunting!
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