Sunday, June 21, 2015

Working From Home

As I was having breakfast Saturday morning, I started thinking about the weekend, two whole days stretched out in front of me. One of the things working gives you is an appreciation for the weekend. But what about those of us who are self-employed? I mean let's face it, pretty much every day is like the weekend, right?

Well, yes. That's true. And therein lies the problem. When you work for yourself, especially when you work from home, every day is like the weekend. If you don't get out much (like me) you can even lose track of your days because they all blend into each other. What keeps me on track are Sunday dinners. Sunday I like to make a proper, sit-down dinner to sort of make up for all the fast and easy dinners we get the rest of the week.

It takes a lot of discipline and willpower (a lot more than most people, including me, possess) to get up in the morning and go into your workspace and work regular hours. It seems like such a little thing but slowly, as time passes and you get used to being home all day, even the best of schedules start to erode.

Say your self-imposed work hours are 9 to 5, just like a regular job. One morning you're running a little late and there's a sink full of dishes and you don't have time for breakfast. If you had a job outside of the home to go to, then you'd leave those dirty dishes to soak and grab something quick to eat on the run so you aren't late for work. But when you work for yourself you'll take a few minutes to do up those dishes, 'cause they'll only be on your mind all day if you don't, and you'll make yourself a proper breakfast because it's supposed to be the most important meal of the day. You're accountable to no one but yourself so you can afford that extra time.

And let's not forget that when you work from home people just assume you're not busy. It takes a lot of willpower to say no to going out for lunch, or even just for coffee, two and three times a week. Even a phone call can distract you for an hour or so, although I know some people who have this problem with friends/family phoning them at a regular job as well. But with a job outside the home you can justify cutting them off because "the boss is watching," whereas when you're your own boss they don't seem to understand that it's nothing personal, you really do need to get back to work.

I started to make out a pros and cons list of working from home, but most of the stuff I came up with was both a pro and a con:
You can make your own hours - but because of this, people who work from home tend to work longer hours.
You're accountable to no one but yourself - but how many of us actually listen to ourselves?
You don't have to dress up for work - but when you dress too comfortably you tend not to take yourself or your work as seriously.
You can be as flexible as you want - but you're at greater risk for burnout as you're probably juggling several jobs at once.
If you have kids, you don't have to worry about finding a babysitter for them if they come home sick from school - but you also won't get much work done when you're trying to take care of them.

Now. One of the things I promised myself with this blog is that I'd talk honestly about my writing, and here's where that promise comes back to bite me in the butt because I'm going to be honest here.

I have two jobs, really. Writing is not my main occupation. I have a home based-business that does editing, transcription, and several other related things, and I'm a writer. Sometimes these two jobs dovetail, sometimes they need to be kept separate, and when this occurs, the business takes priority. Someday I hope that I will be a full time writer, but until then I work at my business during the day and my writing during my off hours.

My two biggest issues with both writing and my business is motivation and focus, especially when business is slow. The more time I have to myself, the less I get done.

I'm fortunate, right now, because I have a big transcription project on the go. With a project like this it's easy to go into my office in the morning and get to work, breaking for lunch and then getting back to it until quitting time. The evenings are for writing and in one of those weird quirks of nature, I'm finding that with less time to waste during the day I'm motivated in the evenings to write.

I can't speak for anyone else who works from home, but here are the things I try to do to keep me on track:

I keep regular hours.
It's easier to do that with my business than my writing, but humans are creatures of habit and if you do something at the same time every day, eventually it'll become a habit. I'm hoping that once the transcription job is finished I will be in the habit of working in my office every day and perhaps I can get more writing done in there.

I get dressed in the morning.
It sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it? To be honest, staying in my pajamas all day has no appeal to me at all. I may dress more casually than if I was going outside of the home to work, but my clothes are clean and I never wear sweats.

I have my own office.
I think it's important that you have a room of your own to work in. I've never had to close the door to my office - it's usually just me and the cats and they sleep during the day - but the door is there if I need it. And my office has all my business "stuff" in it, which makes it easy to think of it as the place where I go to work.

I exercise.
I start and end my work day with exercise. The morning one is for health reasons because I'm diabetic, but the one at the end of the day is because it relaxes me after having sat in the chair all day. Sometimes I'll even work out with the hand weights at lunch time if my energy is flagging.

I take breaks.
I have lunch somewhere between 12 and 1 usually, and then I'll take a break mid-afternoon, even if it's only to get up and stretch or check the mail. Breaks are important, especially for your eyes if you're working in front of a computer all day.

And that's what works for me. At least right now. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

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