I am writing this at 1PM, unshowered, barefoot and wearing jorts. Not exactly the poster child for working from home. But I can tell you this: I am not stressed, I have freshly baked zucchini bread in the kitchen, my boyfriend is working by my side, and I am happy.
So far in my working life I have only spent about two years full time in an office. You know that feeling you get when you are done with your work for the day but can’t leave? That is the reason I don’t think I could ever do it again. Now when I finish my work, I go to the gym. I clean the house, I cook, I have a beer. If I’m not feeling like working, I do something else and come back to it with a fresh brain.
It’s not all puppies and roses though. In fact, there are no puppies and no roses. Instead, there are a lot of time management issues and figuring out this thing people call “work-life balance.” I still have a long way to go, but here is what I have learned up until now:
1. Wake up at the same time every day.
This is especially important for me because I have the internal clock of a 16-year-old boy. If it wasn’t for an alarm, I would sleep until 11 every morning. We have our alarm set for 7:30 and try to be up, dressed, caffeinated, and working by 9, just like “normal” people.
2. Stop work at (roughly) the same time every day.
When we started this “work at home” thing, it meant working at home, all the time. It wasn’t that we were doing more work, but rather that we were doing the same work spread out over more hours. Gym break in the middle of the day, followed by a trip to Target that ends up taking 2 hours and then oh, we should probably get some frozen yogurt… this was us. Now it is wake up, work, eat some lunch, work, cook dinner and watch TV and don’t work! We try (and usually succeed) not to work on the weekends too.
3. Mandate deadlines.
I am one of those people that need deadlines to function. If you say to me “just whenever you get a chance,” I will likely be on my deathbed before I get around to it. So if people don’t give me deadlines, I give them deadlines. I often add in “I’ll get this back to you by 3PM/the end of the day/tomorrow/Friday.” Promising it someone makes me finish on time.
4. Communicate like you are in an office.
If I am sitting at my desk, I usually have Skype open. I am always on GChat and have my iPhone within about six inches of my hands. Short of a cataclysmic event, I am easy to reach. For team projects, I find it is incredibly helpful to have a morning check-in with someone else to lay out the tasks for the day. This not only helps with #3 above, but also with making you feel like you are less of a lone ranger, walking silently into darkness. How sad does that sound?
5. Create a workspace that feels like a space for work.
My boyfriend and I share a small one-bedroom house with a somewhat strange layout. It is split into quadrants; the front two are smaller (kitchen and bathroom), and the back two are equal-sized and larger (living room and bedroom). This means we have an average sized living room and a huge bedroom. When we first moved in, we thought “this is great, there is plenty of space in the bedroom to separate this area as a workspace.” Big mistake! I slept about 6 feet from my computer and often didn’t get dressed until after noon. So we moved to a corner of the living room. We made this move about four months ago and still talk about how much more productive we feel.
So there they are, my five. The biggest one of all though is: Don’t forget how lucky you are to be able to do this.