TOP 5 TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME // balancing life & business

working from home flatlay

I’ve been working from home for 12 years now, and wouldn’t change it for the world: no gruelling twice-daily commute, no boss breathing down your neck, eating when you want to, no clock-watching until you can go home. Freedom. 

But it does take some getting used to. I often have people say to me: ‘I could never work from home – I’d never get anything done!’

Sure, it’s weird to regulate yourself at first, and the urge to sleep in is pretty strong, but trust me when I say that knowing the bills are coming out, regardless of whether you’ve earned two pounds or two thousand, is a pretty big motivator.

Plus, there’s something really empowering about knowing you’re your own boss – creating your own income, and truly supporting yourself. I can safely say I will never work in an office – or under someone else – ever again.

So, here are my TOP 5 TIPS for working from home…

DRESS THE PART:

Some people reckon working in your jammies is the best part of a home office, but I totally disagree. You don’t have to be in a tailored suit and heels, but getting dressed helps switch your brain into work mode, and get you ready for the day.

Not only is a bit awkward to answer the door half dressed, but making that high-powered telephone call when you’re wearing a fluffy bunny onesie just feels weird. Although, I’ll make an exception for slippers; slippers are a BIG BONUS of working from home.

FIND YOUR RHYTHM:

There’s no such thing as ‘office hours’ when you work from home, so remember to make the most of this flexibility. It’s a fact that, according to circadian rhythms, some people work better in the morning and others work better at night.

Figure out when you’re most motivated and productive then plan your workday around these times. I find I can power through posts in the morning, but start to lose focus around lunchtime.

This is when I’m easily distracted and can end up spending hours staring at a blank screen. I’ve learned to close the laptop as soon my mind begins to wander and do the more hands-on jobs – sorting the laundry, unloading the dishwasher, or even photographing flat lays.

Once the school run/dinner/bath time routine is done and dusted, I find my mind sharpens up again, and that’s when I squeeze in another couple of hours before bedtime.

DRAW THE LINE:

Just as important as working the hours that suit you best, is knowing when to stop. When I first started freelancing I was so worried about getting enough work that I regularly volunteered to work evenings and weekends, just to show how keen and hardworking I was.

The trouble with this is, once you get known as ‘the girl who’ll work the crappy hours’ that’s all you’ll get offered – the jobs no one else will go near. People then come to expect you to be on call 24/7, and that’s a really hard hole to dig yourself out of when you decide you want some life back.

Nowadays, I make it clear I don’t work weekends. I still might choose to do some blogging or Instagramming, either to get ahead for the following week, or just because I’m in the mood, but choose is the operative word.

Alternatively, I might not open my laptop all weekend, and that’s OK too. Equally, make the most of this flexibility during the week – if it’s a stunning day, or you’re simply sick of staring at the same four walls, pack it up.

Nothing feels better than knowing you’re outside, smugly enjoying the sunshine, while most people are stuck inside a pokey office, praying for the day to end.

VALUE YOUR TIME:

This segues on from my previous point. Just because you don’t sit in an office or have a boss who conveniently pays you for 40 hours a week (regardless of how many how those you’re actually working), doesn’t mean your time doesn’t have a value.

Another common complaint I hear from freelancers is that, because they’re working from home, they’re lumped with a pile of additional chores. Partners ask them to pick up with dry cleaning, or take the dog to the vet. Or, they’re asked, ‘Why is the house so untidy when you’ve been home all day?’. Aarrgh!

It can be frustratingly difficult for people to comprehend that we are actually working, and don’t spend all day drinking tea and watching This Morning (well, not all the time…).

Do not get guilt-tripped into doing all those extra jobs – just because you’re physically closer to the washing machine doesn’t necessarily mean you have spare time to do the laundry. I work harder from home than I EVER did in an office, because if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Simple as that.

Equally, be firm with friends who think it’s fine to drop round whenever they like, because: ‘I knew you’d be home’. I’ve heard of freelancers literally dropping to the floor and hiding when uninvited guests knock on their door. Avoid awkwardness by making it clear when you’re busy working, and which days you have more flexibility. And don’t be afraid to say no to weekday invites – your desire not to offend anyone will only create lot more work and stress for you later.

MAKE A PLAN:

I’m not an organised person; structure and routine completely freak me out. But one thing I’ve learned to do is scribble a quick ‘To Do’ list at the end of each day so I don’t waste time in the morning trying to remember what it was that I was going to do.

There’s a smug satisfaction to crossing each task off the list, and visibly seeing my progress always spurs me on to become even more productive. Another trick I’ve learned is to carry out jobs (or write them down at least) as soon as you think of them: without a team of co-workers to back you up and jog your memory, it’s too easy to forget about them.

So, what are you waiting for? Start drafting that letter of resignation now!

• image ‘still life details‘ courtesy of Shutterstock

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7 Comments

  1. Honestmum - March 14, 2017

    Please can you move in and remind me of these amazing tips when I literally try and do everything and am always the last parent racing on the school run. We need to be strict with boundaries working from home, don’t we? We’re lucky to have the flexibility for sure but I need to learn to switch off earlier x
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  2. Francesca Squire - March 15, 2017

    This is s lovely post and is what I am currently trying to achieve. I get soooo much more done working from home. Like you I start with a flourish and then around midday start to fade. I usually take a break to hang the washing out of run the duster round the house. I need to get better with my lists though and make sure I’m doing everything on the list not just the bits I like best. There’s nothing more satisfying the completing a list of less appealing tasks, the ones that have been left undone for a while. I just need to get my balance right in terms of consistently bring at home rather than in my husband’s office

  3. Sarah - March 15, 2017

    Oh God yes. There was one local man who when they found out I was working from home, used to climb into my back garden and suddenly loomingly appear at my back window behind my desk and bang on it. Then ask for a brew. Then try and chat for hours about his girlfriend problems. Turned out he used to stalk her phone and laundry basket – all very disturbing stuff. Needless to say I found this very unnerving. And it took me a few years to stop him as he could get very nasty when offended by others. The amount of times I have hidden behind doors and then I had a fitted blind made just for that one window, so I could pull it down>

  4. Sarah Richards - March 16, 2017

    I’ve only just started working freelance and from home and these are really useful tips, thanks. I try not to answer emails past 6pm so people don’t think I’m constantly working (even if I am) but I don’t mind working on a Saturday if I’ve taken a day off in the week. At first I was saying yes to lots of meetings on different and spending too much time travelling, so now I try and schedule my meetings on the same day so I have more time at home to follow-up on the work. I live in a flat so I don’t have the problem of unwanted visitors but I have found it difficult to say no to seeing friends who are on mat leave. It is lovely to see them but I wasn’t getting anything done so I see one a week now. Seems a bit formal but I’ve found building in structure in my week is the only way it is going to work. I do work in my PJs and spend way too much time on Twitter! Please can you write a blog about getting social media addictions in check! Thanks

  5. Cal at Family Makes - May 3, 2017

    This is really helpful – I’ve been blogging sporadically, but feel like it is still all – consuming. Setting times to work on it and other times to be properly with my family would be really helpful (and I’m trying, but oh that mountain of laundry is staring at me!!) #TheListLinky

    • Jacqui - May 5, 2017

      Eurgh. The laundry mountain. The bane of my life!!! What I’ve found is that it really is a case of figuring out what works for you as an individual, then working out your routine around that. And don’t feel guilty for ignoring that laundry while you get things done! x

  6. Victoria - Lylia Rose - May 4, 2017

    I really need to learn to draw the line and take weekends off! At the moment I work 7 days a week, but it’s a necessity until I have some sort of regular/stable income (if that ever comes with being self employed!) #thelistlinky

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