Working from home is a dream for many and for some, the dream comes true. The transition from the usual 8 to 5 with given schedules and supervising supervisors to working alone home with a lot of distractions can be hard. But you sure want to get into a smooth workflow and be productive as soon as possible. Here is what I learned in 6+ years of working from home to help you jumpstart your work from home career.
Create a workspace that helps you focus
I know, lolling on the sofa in sweatpants with a laptop is one of the most popular clichés about working from home. And I’m sure there are lots of people actually doing it. However, my advice is that you craft a designated workspace. It has not to be anything fancy. Just a desk and your computer. Keep that desk organized and tidy. Make it easy to find things you need. When I started working from home I only needed my laptop. I started working from home for Textbroker and later as a freelance writer. I would just use the laptop, not even pen and paper.
Now, as a blogger and mom, things have changed. I need to learn a lot and organize my time wisely. That’s why I now use paper planners, apps on my phone, pens, lots of coffee, cheat sheets and other printed resources. My desk is in one corner of the family room and I need to keep it clean so hubby can use it after work and the little one can not create a major disaster by hiding important stuff. I have an accordion file that lets me pull out all the sheets I need when I start working and lets me put everything back organized with no fuzz in seconds when it’s time to clock off, leaving the desk clear.
You may want to put up motivational quotes, a progress chart or a pretty wall calendar. Create a workspace that inspires you and helps you be productive. It doesn’t have to be minimalistic and clean. Just make sure you find everything you need fast.
Also, get your equipment right. I remember when working for that well-known German cultural association that the printers were always broke. It kept everyone from getting work done because we all needed to print a lot. Don’t let your equipment become an obstacle. Invest in quality stuff if you need it often and maintain it regularly.
Get organized working from home
Use free apps like Evernote to help you organize your workload and everything else. Create a system to organize your resources, contacts, pitches or inquiries sent out, account information, etc. You can use Asana’s free plan to manage your tasks. Use Google drive sheets to collect any information. You can also connect files of Google drive to Asana, for example. Set up an organizational system that works for you. Whatever it is you choose just make sure you find everything you need when you need it. It may take some time to experiment and rule out what’s not working. Relax, it’s a learning curve. That is totally normal.
Manage your time
Each day focus on the important stuff that needs to be done. And then do it. You can use a productivity app to count down work sessions and track your time at the same time. If you need to charge clients you will have a place to easily look up how much time you invested in a project. Get a planner and plan out your week and day. You can start with a free printable planner (I’m totally in love with those of Eliza Ellis) or a fancy one from the store. (I additionally use the Conquer Your Year planner that lets me plan in 12-week sprints, is spiral-bound, looks great, and is only about 15 Dollar. I highly recommend it!) Whatever suits your need.
You may not get the planner thing right from the start. That’s ok. I had to experiment a bit until I found a system that works for me. However, I only get serious work done if I have an action plan aka to-do-list ready when I start my working day. Also, create action plans to grow your business and implement them whenever you find a short chunk of free time unexpectedly.
Sitting there by yourself with a computer and an internet connection may get tempting. I know that for sure! I even ended up online-shopping when I was supposed to write about online shopping! And the worst thing I can do is starting the working hours with browsing Facebook! Again, focus on the important stuff. If you get sucked into social media, streaming series or browsing online shops try to make a deal with yourself that you only navigate to those websites after the work is done. Or try an app that shuts down social media or the entire internet for a certain time period.
Try to keep your precious working hours free from other stuff to focus on work only.
Hold yourself accountable when working from home
Write down what you want or need to achieve and create a roadmap to get there. Create a to-do list for every day and start with the most important tasks that really need to get done to make progress. Check things off and re-schedule if necessary. Evaluate your work routine and progress on a weekly basis. To help you stay motivated, create accountability with a Facebook-group for work from home moms where you have to post weekly goals and progress or find an accountability buddy.
When I started working from home it was a pure necessity. We needed some extra cash to make ends meet and I just couldn’t find a job anywhere. When I earned money online for the first time I felt like I hit a goldmine. I felt so blessed that I just kept on writing for Textbroker and worked blinkered. All this time I didn’t explore other possibilities to make money from home and I didn’t even try to find other clients that pay better. I only knew little about making money online. Today, I see that I have missed a lot of opportunities.
Now I have a little girl to care for and way less time than at that time I started. I wish I could go back and tell myself to keep an open mind and learn as much as I can. I try to set time aside just for learning new things about online marketing. But as my time is limited I proceed slowly which can be frustrating.
Give yourself grace
Working from home IS great. I love it and you will, too, if you get results. However, you should NOT try to be perfect or do it all. If you are anything like me, you will notice that your home is not as organized and clean as it was before you focused on a big project. At times, I feel like the same five dishes are rotating on my meal plan. There is a season for everything. I work hard on this blog and I invest as much time as I can into making this project successful. I really, really cannot keep my home immaculate and cook amazing three-course dinners at the same time.
Try to streamline everything on your plate. Check out meal-planning or freezer-cooking, run errands after work or only once per week, etc. I use the weekly cleaning schedule of Becky, the Clean Mama, that comes with cute free printables. It lets me keep the house clean while putting in less than half an hour each day. After trying lots of cleaning schedules this one was the one that finally worked for me! I highly recommend it to any busy mom.
Reward yourself for your hard work
Without colleagues, bosses, competition, or objectives it can be easy to let things slide and put tasks aside that make you feel uncomfortable. This is why every one of your successes, big or little, is only more amazing because YOU and you alone made this happen. Give yourself a pat on the back. Not only that, reward yourself with some extra self-care or, depending on your budget, a nice goodie you have wanted for so long or a fancy dinner! Create a wishlist with things that you can reward yourself with if you reach a milestone. Pick things that make you feel excited and picture yourself getting them because you put in the work and got things done. How great will this feel!
Remind yourself of the progress you made. Keep a progress journal or if you work with clients keep a place where you collect compliments and thank you emails.
You can totally do this! Thrive as a work at home mom and love your new business! Now go and rock this working from home thing … and let me know where you struggle. I’ve probably been there, too!