This post has been in my drafts section for nearly 3 years. Crazy, I know. But every time I went to hit publish I would think to myself….well, you’ve only been working from home for X amount of time now, give it a little bit more time so you can really give sound advice.
Well, here we are 3 years later and I hit publish. I am by no means an expert on working from home, but in those 3 years I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to a home office.
First things first — what do I do?
I’m a freelance writer, webinar/virtual training host and columnist for the local newspaper. I also do PR for several companies and media consulting for start-ups. I love that my job has flexibility, that no day is the same and that I’m able to have my hands in all of the things that I love all at once. Did I think that this is what I’d be doing “when I grew up”? Hell no. But for now, I really love it and it works. The first year I transitioned into working at home, I was leaving a career with the NFL and I was mostly just throwing a lot of balls into the air at once and seeing which ones I could keep up there. Fun times, let me tell you.
Now that we have that out of the way. One of the worst things, in my mind, about working at home is avoiding distraction. But I want to play with my dogs! I need to exercise! How about a snack? It’s really sunny, I want to read outside. That’s all good and fine, but at the end of the day, my clients depend on me to finish my work, just like it would be if I were sitting in a cube farm all day.
These are my top 5 ways to avoid distraction if you’re building your career from a home office:
1. Set office hours. My clients are mostly on the mainland, with the exception of one in Australia. When I am initiating contracts, I tell them my time zone and office hours up front. Because they have this information, they expect me to be available during those hours if they need something. This means holding myself accountable for that time frame and not agreeing to extracurricular activities that might be more enticing (like the beach..).
2. Block out the noise. My dogs go absolutely apeshit between the hours of 11AM and 1PM. Do not ask me why, because I have no idea. When I see the witching hour approaching, I put them both outside my office and shut the door. Two hours doesn’t seem like much, but they are at such a critical part in my day, I don’t have time to be dealing with dogs whining and fighting over toys. If you have a known “noise”, plan for it and avoid the hassle.
3. Stay off social media. Social media is a huge part of my job, but I know that it’s also an incredible time suck. Sometimes I’m halfway through the Instagram account of my friend’s brother’s cousin’s new wife before I realize how much time has passed — it’s sick! If I need a mental break, I set my stopwatch for 10 minutes to leisurely browse social media channels. When it goes off — time is up! Get back to work, Kait!
4. Deadlines matter. If I’m working on a specific deadline, I am more motivated than ever to cross something off my list. I keep myself inspired to do this by keeping a running list of upcoming deadlines on the wall behind my desk. This way, they are always staring back at me and keeping me on task!
5. Take a (lunch) break. Working yourself to the bone is a great way to get burned out and frustrated – take it from someone who used to wake up at 3AM for East Coast conference calls. Know what caliber of work you can produce in a certain time frame and when that chunk of time is up — call it quits. I know that for me, staring at a computer screen for more than 5 hours is a great way for me to produce a low quality deliverable. I take multiple breaks throughout the day and when I feel myself start to slip or simply just staring aimlessly – I step away!
I know many of you also work from home, so I would love your tips! Like I said, it’s still a learning curve for me, but I hope this helped a little bit for anyone who might just be starting 🙂