Do you make these mistakes when working from home?
But it also takes some strategies and disciplines to make working from home – work.
Cos otherwise – well, you know the saying about giving someone too much rope – sometimes they hang themselves with it.
To help you avoid metaphorical noose-related injuries, here’s a list of mistakes you could be making when you’re working from home:
1. You stay at home:
Paradoxical, isn’t it? But working from home doesn’t mean always working from home. In fact, it means you can, if your work is mobile, work from almost anywhere you want. Go ahead. Take advantage of that. Work in cafes and other public spaces like art galleries and libraries. Make sure you stay connected with your culture and society. This will feed and enhance your work.
2. You don’t value your time:
As a freelance creative, your time equals money. But this becomes even more emphasised when you’re clocking up hours at the desk at home. Because you’re not accountable to anyone but yourself, it’s easy to lose track of time and get caught up looking at Oscars dresses on your Twitter feed. There are some simple ways of harnessing discipline and willpower. For instance, one key strategy is to simply write your goals. The act of writing goals has been shown to be an easy way of ensuring they are met.
3. You get grotty:
“Tell me about showers and changing my undies. Please. Because if you don’t tell me, I may just forget.” If this is you, you’re making one of the biggest work-from-home mistakes. Unless you’re set on impersonating the Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Castaway, shower, shave, cut your nails, get smelling good. These basic hygiene habits will serve as an embodied reminder that you are a responsible adult. Your work habits should follow.
4. You isolate yourself from your social network:
This is especially likely if you (like a lot of creatives) have a preference for being and working alone. Having to go to a place of work forces us into a situation of basic interpersonal communication and skill development. Working from home means there are fewer opportunities and needs for interaction with others. This is not good for us personally. It’s often through interpersonal interaction that we learn about ourselves and grow. But even if you’re not into growing ‘as a person’, truth is engagement from others frequently enhances our work through the discussion of hurdles and problems, shared visions and that oftentimes informal discussion about what’s possible. Present yourself with these opportunities. Join groups, panels, committees. Even getting together informally with friends can be useful. I know one freelancer, for instance, who blocks off one morning or evening a week, religiously, simply to catch up with a friend in his field for an informal tete-a-tete. He says he invariably returns from his chat with a fresh perspective and new ways of doing old things.
5. You forget to eat (or you eat too much):
There are so many social rules that regulate when you eat, and when you don’t. At home you’re rule-free, so the tendency for newbies is to either eat too much or too little. Remember: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should (insert eat a packet of Tim Tams/work through lunch morning tea, afternoon tea and dinner).
6. You don’t stop:
Last night, I was part-way through watching a movie, when an IM tinged on my screen. It was someone I’d interviewed recently. Their article was up and they’d noticed an error in it. Of course, I sprung out of bed to fix it. This is but one example of the many others where, because my work and my home life aren’t distinguished, I’m often find myself not cutting off from work. And with the example from last night, that was okay. It was a one-off thing and I saw it as part of the deal. I also get to be at my kid’s concerts and so on. But there are times when you really do have to draw the lines and consciously take time from work. You need to do this to replenish. As a general rule, I achieve this through taking Saturdays off. I stay away from my social networks and reading for work on that day. It takes a bit of willpower to stay away from the computer, but I can’t stress the importance of the one-day-a-week refusal. And that leads me to the next point…
7. You can’t say no:
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced in working from home has been the assumption by others that because I’m at home, I can simply duck out to run an errand for them, chat to them on the phone or be available during the day for coffee and lunches and such. And sometimes I am able to build enough flexibility into my workflow to do these things. But learning how to draw the boundaries on that can take some practice. If you’re assertive, though, people figure out pretty quickly when you mean business about your business. And actually, rather than resent you, they respect you for it.
8. You don’t have the right equipment:
Of course, you don’t need to go out and spend a stack on equipment you don’t need. But having a few decent essentials can enhance your productivity and the quality of your work. If you’ve come from a situation where you were employed, you are used to having your work equipment supplied. As a work-from-homer, it’s on you.
Here’s a list of my work-from-home essentials:
a quiet room
a decent headset
a door that closes
a comfy chair (I use a yoga ball)
timezone converter app
good internet connection
a computer with decent processing capabilities
a stove-top coffee maker (this is because you won’t be ducking out for coffee, but you’ll still want quality beans. An espresso machine can be costly, a stove-top coffee maker is cheap, lasts forever and makes really, really good coffee).
9. Your communication strategies suck:
As with any remote relationship, you have to work a bit harder on your communication when you’re working away from an office. Make sure you respond to emails and keep up with workflow protocols to save others from the anxiety and stress caused by not knowing where you’re at.
10. You don’t use a task manager tool:
As a work-from-home freelancer, I’m currently involved in five different projects. Each in a different capacity. Some of my tasks are deadline crucial, some aren’t. And as much as I think I have an outstanding capacity to multitask, it’s easy to forget something’s due and to get into a muddle. I use Remember The Milk as a project management and workflow tool. It’s free in its basic form and it helps me totally stay on top of what’s coming in and going out.
Working from home can be an economic, efficient and highly productive way to get your creative projects started – and see them to completion. Manage the pitfalls, and you’ll never have to face peak-hour commuting again.