Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working from home: Dream or reality?

Ever since the New Year, I feel like I’ve had this invisible clock ticking above my head, a clock that says “You only have X amount of weeks left before you have to go back to work…dun dun DUN”. While having this constant reminder is definitely scary, it’s also kind of exciting, because ‘going back to work’ for me means something completely different this year. If all goes well then I’ll be working from home (and for myself) this year and hopefully for years to come. 

The ultimate dream.

I know that if I’m going to turn this dream into a reality, however, then learning how to successfully and efficiently work at home is going to be key. I can be the best business person in the world, but if I don’t have a positive environment in which to work, I know I won’t make it.

I recently read this post from Ali Edwards, who has been working at home for 6-7 years, all while taking care of her family and staying positive. It really inspired me to think of what I need to do and how I need to prepare for my new role as a ‘work at home’ mom.

Here are a few things I’m thinking at the moment:

Childcare-This is going to be essential for me. I’m sure I could try working with Victor here, but I know for a fact that I would only get a fraction of the work done that I would if he weren’t here. I already have plans for him to stay with my friend Sara for 3-4 days a week, all day (the rest of my hours will be worked on evenings or weekends), starting in March. I’m really happy with this set up because Sara is excellent with children, I trust her completely, she’s flexible, and she loves Victor so I know he’ll be happy there. I also think that having this childcare set-up is only going to make my relationship with Victor better, because over the past little while I’ve just felt like it’s been too much, it’s too draining for me to be alone with him, all day, every day. I will work better and I will be a better mother when we are together, which brings me to my next point…

“Work time” vs. “Non-work time”-I know that this is going to be difficult, especially in the beginning when I’ll be setting up my business and will be excited about my work, but I’m determined to keep ‘work time’ separate from ‘family time’ (for the most part anyway). I’m going to set regular ‘working’ hours and stick to them as much as possible. I will let people know of these hours so that they don’t expect me to be available 24 hours a day. Of course I’ll have to be flexible (just the nature of the game), but I can’t be afraid to say ‘I’m not working right now.’ I won’t be with my family as much, so I need to treasure the time we have together when we get it.

“Work time”=Work-This is also going to be difficult, since I have the attention span of a goldfish (or worse), but I need to focus when I’m working and not get distracted by other things, whether they be online distractions or household ones. Having worked in government for 3 years, let’s just say I got real good at ‘appearing’ to work, when really I was just frigging around. I was there to put in the hours, that was it. This isn’t how I’m going to model my time working at home, however. I won’t be so concerned about working a certain amount of hours, but doing a certain amount of work in a day. If I get everything I want to do in a few hours done, then I can stop and feel ok about it, but if it takes me all day, then I need to work all day. A few tools that will help me keep on track include:

  • Lists-I love making lists, and having a list ready every morning with certain tasks that I want to accomplish, along with some ‘long term to-do’ lists to pick at, will help me stay focused.
  • Stopwatch-I tried The Pomodoro Technique a few times for household tasks and it worked really well, so I plan on using a stopwatch when I start working. Knowing that I need to work a certain amount of time before taking a break really helps me buckle down and work during that time, as opposed to flitting from one task to another, getting distracted a hundred times along the way.
  • Music-I always seem to work better with music, so I’ll need to come up with some good playlists, or find a good online radio station to listen to.

Flexibility/Motivation/Inspiration-The beauty of working for yourself and working from home is the huge amount of flexibility you have. Work doesn’t have to look like the traditional mould of going to an office, sitting at a computer and droning on for 8 hours straight. I think that if I limit myself to this method then I’ll be more tempted to slack off, so being flexible with my day to day work will be essential to staying productive and successful. Whether this means leaving the computer for a couple of hours for a location scouting drive, or taking a notepad and jotting down session ideas in the park, or taking a morning run as my break, keeping it flexible (and different) will be a great blessing. As far as staying motivated and inspired, I’m not quite sure what I will need to do in order to stay enthusiastic about my work, but I have a feeling that doing something I love will be enough most days. Perhaps having a poster or two in my workspace will give me that extra boost and keep me inspired.

Work Space-Last, but definitely not least (in fact it might be the most important), is having a clearly defined work area in my home. Preferably it would be separate from the other busy areas of the house, but whatever the case, I know that having a space where I can go and work without having any household distractions will be another key to my success. Just as my work hours need to be clearly defined, so does my work space. I won’t let my work stuff creep into the rest of the house, and I won’t let the house creep into my work stuff. I will also need it to be neat, tidy, efficient, and most importantly, pretty. I know myself and sitting at a drab desk and drab office=a drab me who won’t be motivated to work. I’m picturing a pretty inspiration board/wire for shoot ideas and ongoing design, lots of baskets to keep all my papers and equipment in, a large wall calendar to keep all my appointments in order, a comfortable chair, and lots of art/plants/pretties. Of course this will cost a bit of money but I think that if I do some DYI projects and shop at thrift stores, I should be able to come up with something that works for me without costing a fortune. I’ll be sure to share my space once it’s done! Here are a few pretty home offices that are inspiring me right now:

Well, that’s it for now. From what Ali said, it took her years to figure out what works and doesn’t work for her, and she also mentioned how what works often changes as situations in your life do, but that’s the beauty of working from home and working for yourself, you are allowed that chance to figure it out, to change what you need, to toss out what isn’t working and to create your own dream job. I really can’t wait to get started!

Maybe that clock could tick a little faster…

Be back soon with Victor’s 11-month update, oh my!

Until then, happy Saturday.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I work at home for over 10 years now and yes, it's crucial to think things over like you did before you start! I 'stepped into' the company that my beloved already had so it was a bit easier for me, not having to build a business from scratch - but still it took time to find the best ways that worked for me... good luck with it, you can do it!